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“Please tell me I did the right thing.” I whisper into the phone. “I can’t speak too loudly because he’s right here, but you know what I’m talking about?”

“I do,” my cousin answers. “And you did. It’ll be fine.” And then she tells me a story about something similar that happened to one of her children, and then follows it up with something that is happening now, now that they’re almost teenagers.

When I talk with her, and with a few other friends who have children who are either right in the next stage or even into middle school, I see what families look like five years from now. I look up from the haze of infants, toddlers, and young school age to see what a family looks like when they mature. That what was once a sea of diaper changes, evening baths, and imaginary play slowly turns into evening soccer practices, a dining room table filled with homework, and kids who play alone in their rooms instead of in a play room.

When my friends with older kids talk about issues with friends, issues with school, issues with extra curricular activities, I see that I’m still in the JV stages of parenting; sharing, temper tantrums, small household responsibilities. We are right at the very beginning. And it will be gone so soon. Soon, we won’t be able to cuddle away the nightmares and put magic stones in our kids pockets to scare away the fears.

I need to look up. I need to view my friends with older kids as advisors; those who have traveled this path before I have and who have learned that things usually turn out okay. And by talking with them, by seeing these older children, I see what middle childhood looks like. Looking at this crystal ball really gives me a chance to reevaluate my choices, to realize that not everything is critical, that not every decision will scar them for life. Parenthood is about balance, about painting in broad strokes, not tiny details. Two days of tv when they’re sick? Relax. It’s okay. A few days of peanut butter sandwiches for dinner? It happens. Take a look around every so often. This is a gift, this brief season of early childhood. Don’t get so caught up in the details.

We all need friends who’ve walked this path before us, who have traveled and thrived. We need to let them help us when we can’t see the road for the fog.

Maybe I wrote this post just for me.

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photo credit: Kite Festival Kid & Mom via photopin (license)