I’ve been accused of many things in my 48 years on this planet, but being laid-back has never been one of them. I worry. I obsess. I’m uptight. But one day a few years ago, I had what could only have been a divinely inspired revelation: Will it matter in five years?
Just think about the power contained in that simple question, and the permission it bestows on us to not give a crap. Those six little words changed my life by putting the things I worried about in clear perspective. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. That birthday-party Popsicle? The one that’s fully loaded with sugar and artificial dyes? I get it. We all know how important a healthy, nutritious diet is. But unless your child has allergies, that one popsicle isn’t going to hurt her. Stick to 100 percent organic juice pops at home if that’s the decision you’ve made for your family, but realize that this one unhealthy popsicle will not affect her life five years from now—not even a tiny bit.
2. That night when your 10-year-old is begging you to let him stay up and watch the rest of the big game? I know—you’re worried he’ll be tired in school tomorrow. And he probably will be. Just remember that we’re talking about a 10-year-old, not a high school junior heading out to take the SAT. Spending one day yawning his way through school won’t make a difference five years from now.
3. That scary moment when your child begs you to take off his training wheels? Yes, accidents happen. And sometimes little things unexpectedly turn into big things, like the time my husband got a splinter in his finger and,12 hours later, underwent emergency surgery to stop a raging infection. But, assuming that we’re talking about the typical scraped knee, your child will be no worse for wear in five years. That scraped knee will be long forgotten.
I’m not advocating that anyone abandon their deeply held parenting beliefs. I’m certainly not suggesting that you throw out all of that organic food and stock up on sugary, salty snacks loaded with trans fats. And I don’t need to check with the American Academy of Pediatrics about the importance of a good night’s sleep on a child’s well being.
What I am suggesting is that you take a deep breath and let yourself relax a little bit. I’m saying that parenting isn’t this fragile house of cards that’s going to come crashing down on our heads just because we let our guard down once in a while. In fact, I would find it both sad and frightening to think that one Popsicle or one late night could undo all the love and effort we put into raising these children we’ve been blessed with. So next time you’re faced with one of those “Should I or shouldn’t I” questions, ask yourself this: Will it matter in five years?