I’ve been thinking a lot about change this past week and how sometimes it seems equally difficult for adults as it does for children.
Yet, as parents we have a responsibility to lead our children through change to the best possible outcome even when that change may be difficult at times.
For example, after 13 years sitting at one desk in our newsroom, I recently moved to a new desk on the complete opposite side of the room. This may sound like it’s not a big deal, but for someone who is used to the comfort that comes along with routine, it’s been an adjustment. I reach for my stapler and find my TV remote. I reach for my phone and find my water bottle.
Plus, my computer screen now faces in a different direction. Don’t get me wrong — it is a good move. I unloaded years of tapes and files that I was holding onto for some unknown reason. I love my cubicle mates, and most importantly, I’m closer to the door at the end of the day. But overall, any major, and sometimes even minor, change in our lives can cause a level of distress.
So, when my youngest daughter was grappling with a choice this past week that involved a big change in her extracurricular activities, I found myself feeling that familiar tug-of-war in my stomach, wrestling with her decision as if it were my own.
For years, she has been a dancer. She loves dancing, and she’s good at it. But this past summer at our local swim club, she caught the swimming bug and decided she wanted to try year-round swimming. The first few times she mentioned it I ignored her pleas, saying she simply couldn’t do everything, and it wasn’t going to work with her schedule.
Finally, I started listening. She told me that swimming made her feel good, “calm” was the word she used, that it relieved stress, and made her feel strong and healthy. In my heart, I knew we needed to give it a try, but I also knew with the demanding schedules of both activities, something would have to give.
Intellectually, I know that she is just 10, and that she should try as many things as possible so that she can define what she is truly passionate about.
My goal as we talked through the situation was to spare her regret, but then it occurred to me that regret is almost always part of change. It is a useful tool that helps us learn from our mistakes, and helps us to make better choices the next time. So, maybe the goal is not to eliminate regret for our children completely, but to minimize it by making the best possible contingency plans when our original ones fail.
“Mom, stop confusing me, and let me make my own choice,” she said to me the other night as I weighed the pros and cons of different scheduling options. I suddenly realized that maybe she was teaching me something about how to handle change.
“OK, you’re right. I will. I just want you to be happy.” And I do.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.