As I mentioned, 2020 is the final year for The Art of Simple. With that in mind, this year I’m writing a monthly series as a sort of slow farewell to this space that’s meant so much to me… AoS started as a fledgling in 2008, but really found its legs a few years later, in 2010. AoS ultimately became what it is today because of the ideas and work I put in at the start of the last decade.
So, I’m writing a monthly letter to myself in 2010, ten years ago. I’ll angle each of my letters with one of the different categories we usually talk about here: relationships, community, home, work, travel, and self-care. Though these are to myself, my hope is that you find a smidge of truth, beauty, and goodness you can apply to your own life — and perhaps this exercise will inspire you to write your own letters to yourself, ten years younger.
Dear Me in 2010,
At the start of this new year — and new decade — you’re still living in Turkey. It won’t be long until you’re suddenly brought back to the United States, completely upending the plans and expectations you’ve long had for raising your gaggle of kids cross-culturally and overseas. It’ll be because of the kids, actually (well, one of them), and it’ll be for the greater good …even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment.
I want to tell you that it will all be okay.
Right now, your kids are tiny: five, two, and not-yet-born, the youngest still percolating. If you’re honest with yourself (which is still a new practice for you; you’re working on it but it feels foreign), you’d admit that this isn’t your favorite stage of life. Raising little kids feels like germinating plants from another planet — you can do it, but it takes every ounce of your energy and know-how. And that’s fine. It doesn’t need to be your favorite for you to still be an excellent mom.
Rest assured that it gets better, this parenting thing.
Now, notice I didn’t say easier. It actually gets harder. Parenting teens isn’t for the faint of heart: those late-night bursts of emotions (why oh why is it always right when I’m about to turn out my nightstand light?), the door slams, the saying no when it makes no sense to their ears, the weird things they say that mimic a foreign language (okay, so maybe there are some similarities between raising teens and toddlers).
But there’s so much great stuff you’ll get ten years from now that you’re not currently getting. The kids’ sense of humor ends up off the charts — yes, Virginia, there is hope that one day, those tinies will phase out of that cringe-worthy small person humor, and they’ll actually be genuinely funny. They’ll be the ones to show you hilarious internet videos. They’ll be the ones to fill you in on modern verbiage and trends that are actually delightful and not dumb. You can watch shows together you actually want to watch — you don’t have to settle for the same episode of whatever-preschool-cartoon-is-the-latest-obsession.
The conversations are also so much richer now. Yes, they’re fraught with more uncertainty than ever (the answers to most questions are far more gray than black-and-white), but they’re meaningful. They’re about things. They’re a peek into the heart and soul of your kids, of what matters to them. They feel weightier, like they matter. In the best way.
And guess what? They can stay home by themselves. And they love it! Right now you’re in a season of going on dates because it’s worth the preservation of your marriage, not because it’s cheap (man, babysitters are expensive). This is good; keep doing it. But know that you’ll blink, and then you’ll be able to leave the kids with their own dinner and movie and instructions for chores, and you and Kyle will be able to walk to dinner at a neighborhood restaurant, have a leisurely conversation, and rest assured that the kids will text you if they need anything. And they almost never do (beyond, “Can I make popcorn?”). It’s a DELIGHT.
I’m still in the thick of it, so I don’t yet know how they’ll “turn out.” But I’ve also learned that while yes, one of your main parenting goals is for them to leave the nest as fully mature birds, able to fly on their own by making their own dinner and not falling prey to credit card offerings on the tables in the university square — parenting these guys is more than being able to answer the question, “But did they turn out okay?”
It’s about the process, about enjoying them become fully themselves and being an active participant with the best seats in the house. It’s also about what parenting does to you — it makes you more of who you were made to be. While that hurts, just like a good workout, it’s not without purpose. It makes you stronger, sturdier, wiser. Your own self is becoming more of who she is through the act of motherhood.
But to give a partial answer to the question, “Did they turn out okay?” — yes, so far, they’re turning out just fine. Still loud, not quite as sticky, definitely enjoyable. Sometimes because of you, often in spite of you, all by the sheer grace of God. Right now is one of your favorite parenting seasons, and I know, you weren’t sure you would ever have a favorite season.
This is a sweet stage of raising these fledglings. It’ll get better, I promise.
You in 2020