Only a Fool Lives His Future in the Past

I know I’ve left off writing for too long when people start to get concerned about our family due to my lack of updates. Thank you all for your concern and I’m sorry I haven’t been keeping you posted. It’s hard for me to write when I’m not doing well emotionally, and this has been a hard month for many reasons. In a nutshell, here are a few of the things contributing to my emotional difficulties: homeschool mom guilt over essentially allowing my son to be academically latent for this entire school year so far, anxiety over the looming life-change of putting my child in public school, constantly struggling with my son’s attitude and defiance which is being made worse due to me implementing new behavioral strategies, Christmas (need I say more?), and painful friction with a key family member over my parenting style. I’m ok, so don’t worry about me, but just like you, I struggle with my emotions more sometimes than others.

I’ve started writing a few times over the past month, but nothing seemed worth publishing. Maybe I’ll go back and flesh out those posts more when I’m ready. Maybe not. But this morning, as I sat in zombie mode drinking my coffee and scrolling through Facebook while I listened with half an ear to an episode of Dragons: Race to the Edge that my son was watching, a quote jumped out of the television and screamed itself into my inner ear, and I knew I had to write about it. The quote was spoken by Tuffnut, my second least favorite Dragons character after his twin sister Ruffnut. In this episode, Tuffnut believes that he’s been bitten by a venomous snake (I think. Again, zombie mode.) and behaves as though he’s experiencing a drug-like high. He begins conversing with his pet chicken, who converses right back, just as he’s always longed for her to do. He realizes that this artificial connection is an effect of being poisoned, and laments with a sigh, “If only this could last forever.” He then squares his shoulders and declares, “But only a fool lives his future in the past.” And then he moves on with purpose.

How often do I do that? Live my future now? Try to predict my son’s future? Ironically, I think I’m so prone to doing this in part because his future is so unpredictable. He straddles the line of functioning. In some areas, he’s so high functioning that it’s laughable to think of him as having a disability at all; in other areas, he’s so low functioning that it’s difficult to imagine a future where he can be independent and happy. I don’t have the benefit that so many others do of being sure (unless some unimaginable tragedy falls) that my child will be able to navigate this world. And I don’t have the benefit of being sure that he won’t. Hear me: I’m not saying it’s a benefit to have a child who will never be able to navigate the world on their own. I’m saying it’s a benefit to know how to plan for your child’s future with some certainty. I crave certainty. And it illudes me. But I’m learning slowly to accept life without it.

So, if a fool lives his future in his past, what does a wise person do? He lives his present. I’m not saying never think on the future. I’m not saying don’t make plans for the future. That would also be foolish. I’m saying, to myself and to you, do those things and then move on. Move on living fully in the present. Move on with purpose. What my son will need in the future is important, but it isn’t nearly as important as what he needs now. And what he needs now is so much easier to see and give when I’m not always guessing how my decisions for him now will manifest themselves in his future.

Take my anxiety about putting him in public school, for example. If I focus on his uncertain future, as I am want to do, my anxiety is amplified exponentially. Will completing his schooling in public school give him enough benefits to offset the loss of benefits that homeschooling him provides?  What if the special educators at the next campus aren’t as phenomenal as the ladies we’re working with at this campus? What if he gets bullied because he is an easy target? What if, what if, what if?

The truth is, just like anyone else, I can’t know the answer to what if. What I can know and base my decisions on is what’s best for now. Right now, homeschooling isn’t working for us. Right now, there’s an amazing group of experienced women at his current campus who are willing to go to great lengths to ensure the best learning environment for him. Right now, there’s a room ready for him there where he will be protected from bullying, where his differences will be understood and even celebrated. If those things change in the future, then I can reassess and make a plan based on my new “right now.”

I have little certainty regarding my child’s future. I may never have that. What I will always have is now. And I will try to give him my very best during every now we ever have.

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