When the path forward is unclear

the path forward is unclear

Sometimes I long for the days when I was little, when the path forward was clear, when there were right and wrong answers on my fill-in-the- blank tests. I knew that after 3rd grade was 4th grade and after middle school came high school. Now that I’m an adult things that don’t feel like exams are my real tests. There isn’t a set path to follow, and many times I feel like I’m suffering from decision fatigue. I just don’t know anymore, people! 

One of my friends whose son is in Avery’s class called me this morning to ask if I’d like to go in together on an end-of-the-year present for their teachers. Here was my response (in a nutshell): I’ll give you whatever you tell me to give you as long as I don’t have to decide what, when or how we do it. The end.

I am in general a pretty decisive person, but at this moment in my life I am tired of choosing. What schools should my kids go to? What activities should they be involved in? Where should we live? How much money should we give to this or that? How much time should I spend at home and how much time should I spend working?

As I write this, I realize that none of these are life-altering decisions (and we are so fortunate to even have these choices), but in the moment that you’re making them don’t they feel big? I have these two little people whose lives are shaped by the decisions that I make, and I want to do right by them. But, man oh man! Sometimes I feel like a little girl dressed in grown-up clothes pretending to have all the answers and hoping no one notices that I have no idea what I’m doing. 

Perhaps the biggest thing contributing to this feeling at this moment is Everett’s school. I chose a preschool for him and signed him up months ago. And then I decided that two mornings a week of childcare wasn’t nearly enough time for me to get all of my work done. So I looked around again at other preschools that offer more days per week. I found one that I liked, and they are full. So I looked around again and found another one that I liked. 

I have always felt that there is never one perfect place for your child to be. There are lots and lots of great preschools, and my child would likely thrive at any of them. However, there was one thing about this preschool that gave me pause: shared snack time. This means that once a month each parent is responsible for bringing in a snack for all of the kids and they share the same snack. 

My kid has a severe food allergy. Shared snack time makes me nervous even though I try really hard not to be nervous about this. I was sort of concerned but decided to get over it. I want him to be able to do what all of the other kids do, and I don’t want to be that helicopter mom making him feel fragile and unsafe. It’s not a big deal, I reassured myself; there are lots of snacks he can eat that are no problem. I planned to bring in my deposit and sign him up for the preschool, except the day I planned to do that I forgot my checkbook. 

That same afternoon, we went to a friend’s birthday party at the park. My kids were running around happy and sweaty and loving every minute of it. We sat down to sing “Happy Birthday” and eat cupcakes, and Everett shoved his face into a cupcake like a champion. I took a bunch of pictures of him with icing smeared all over his face and thought it was adorable. 

Until it wasn’t. When I wiped his face, I could see that where icing once was his face had turned bright red. I realized he was having an allergic reaction. Now, let it be known that if an emergency happens to anyone else in my presence, I am on it. Cool, collected, full of good, common sense advice. It is, after all, my job to know about these kinds of things, right? But when something happens to my kid? Forget it. My brain turns to mush in two seconds flat. 

I panicked. Many curse words came out of my mouth as I raced to figure out what to do. I thought I could see his mouth swelling up. I carried him to the car and prepared to stick him with the Epi-Pen. And I am well aware that after the Epi-Pen comes the obligatory trip to the emergency room. Many more curse words came out of my mouth. I hate this, I thought. I don’t freaking know the right thing to do and there’s no one here that can help me. I have to decide. 

It was 4:30 p.m. Our doctor’s office was still open. I called them and they saved me once again. As they talked me through it, I realized that his face wasn’t actually swelling. In fact, he was still blowing his football whistle that he got as a party favor, so that convinced me that if he can blow a whistle he’s certainly able to breathe. I gave him some Benadryl and after a few minutes, he was back on the playground running around, unaware that anything was wrong. (He may have learned some new dirty words, but c’est la vie). 

He recovered just fine. Mommy, on the other hand? Not so much. I felt guilty that I had failed. I let him have something that could hurt him. I made the wrong decision. And later that night I started to wonder if perhaps this was a sign. With all of the education I have and as vigilant as I am about his food, if I can mess up like this, how can I expect teachers or other parents to safeguard him against an allergic reaction? 

I changed my mind about the preschool with shared snack time. We’re going to wait and hope that a spot opens up somewhere else. Is that the right thing to do? I have no idea. Where I have landed is that I just don’t know how to make all the right decisions for my kids all of the time. I’ve had to let go a little bit and remember that God loves these two little kiddos even more than I do. He’s going to have to fill in the gaps for me because I have so many gaps and shortcomings. I’m just not capable of making all of the right decisions all of the time. 

I am going to (try to) rest in the knowledge that they’ve got someone bigger and better holding their hands right alongside me. He’s the one that is going to be there with them in every moment throughout their lives, even when I can’t. He is ultimately the mother and father to them that Michael and I could never be. When I fail them, I have to remember that he never will. 


  1. Heather says

    Courtney – You’ve once again taken the words out of my brain. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve felt this complete lack of direction in terms of “what’s next.” Your reference to school and how as a kid, you know that you go to this grade, then this school, then there is high school and then college. Everything has its clearly defined set of time and then there is another thing that is defined. Until it’s not. And that’s called being an adult. And for someone like me who likes structure and knowing what’s next, I struggle with that every single day. I ask myself so many times “What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” “Should I find a way to be with my kids more?” “Am I doing the job that I’m supposed to be doing?” In the end, I think you nailed it – we’ve got to keep on doing the best we can and trust that He has a plan for us that we may not know, yet. Thanks, as always, for your honesty – it’s refreshing to read and connect with other moms and 30-somethings who are struggling in a similar way as I am.

    - Heather

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