My garden is sprouting right now. I get so excited every year at this time when I see the leaves poking up through the soil. As they start to grow, though, I notice that some of the plants are too close together. It’s a strategy in gardening to sow extra seeds to make sure that you have enough to succeed, knowing that you’ll pull out the extra seedlings after you can see how many are growing well.
But I have a problem. It always makes me sad to to uproot those thriving little plants that are doing just fine; they are growing and stretching in the sunshine just as well as the plants next to them, after all. My husband says I over-personify inanimate objects, and I suppose he’s right, I just hate to ruin the potential of these perfectly good little plants.
But, the other day as I looked at my seedlings, knowing that the time had come to thin them out, a little voice whispered in my mind, “If you don’t get rid of the unessential, you are going to hamper the potential of the main plants. If you leave them all, they will all grow, but for how long, and how big? You have to choose.”
And it struck me, those seedlings are a lot like life. There are SO many things that I could do in life, but if I try to do all of them, then the most important things will be neglected. If I spread myself too thin, refusing to pluck out and discard the good, then I will never be able to develop the best things to their full potential. There simply isn’t room in the garden to grow everything.
So I’m learning to choose.
I think of all that life has to offer, and I feel a little pang of regret at not being able to do everything I want to be doing right now because I’m focusing so much time raising my family, but then I ask myself, “What regrets can I live with?”
I loved my career as an English teacher, and part of me wishes I could be a full-time mom and a full-time teacher. But I can’t. There isn’t room in my garden for both. So I chose to stay home with my boys. Because, while I miss teaching, it’s a regret I can live with.
I can live with spending money on diapers instead of cute new shoes.
I can live with watching Daniel Tiger instead of Fixer Upper as I cook dinner each day.
I can live with giving up reading my own books as often as I’d like because I’m reading Go Dog Go for the fiftieth time to my toddler.
I can live with these small sacrifices because, in fifty years, I don’t want to regret the more important things.
I’m pretty sure that when I’m old, I won’t wish I’d spent more time on Facebook and less time playing with my kids. I won’t regret the hours spent reading stories, making paper plate crafts, going on adventures, doing the teeter-totter so many times that my legs feel like jello, or any of the other loving, playing, and teaching that goes into motherhood.
It’s easy to forget that perspective, but sometimes as I snuggle my boys at night, I realize that they fill my lap more than they did a few months ago. They’re getting bigger so fast that I can hardly keep up.
I gave up a lot to become a stay-at-home mom…good goals and dreams that made me happy. But I’m grateful for the opportunity to trade those things for something better. For dirty diapers and sleepless nights? Yes. But also for slobbery kisses, and backyard soccer games, and a chance to help shape the life of another human being.
I know my choices aren’t what’s best for everyone. I don’t pretend have the right answers for what YOU can live with, or what you NEED to do for yourself and your family. I only know that as I have tried to simplify my own life down to the most essential (a constant struggle), I am able to make more time for the things that matter most. It’s hard to let go of some of the things I’d like to do that are good, but I’m happiest when I focus on family, faith, and serving others.
I know I won’t regret it.
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