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Parenting a toddler dictates that you constantly think of “what’s next,” because if you don’t plan for the future, you’ll be screwed, quite literally, and by screwed I mean that you’ll be stuck in traffic heading over the Bay Bridge with no snacks, no milk, no “appa” (water) and a child who desperately and understandably just wants to get the freak “DOWN.” I’ve never been much of a planner (or a very good one; ask my husband!) but now I’d at least give myself a B+ when it comes to thinking ahead. I’m not stupid enough to leave my abode without at least one diaper, one wipe (a whole pack is even better) and a sippy cup that can be filled with any manner of beverage. If I’m really on a roll, I’ll have car-appropriate toys, cheddar bunnies in a grab-able snack cup, three different types of sweater hoodies (you never know) and the car DVD player cued up to Cake’s “Mahna Mahna.” (As an aside, I don’t drive over any bridges when it’s just me and my kiddo. I’m ambitious, but I’m not suicidal).

Some people enjoy planning and being organized and excel at it and that’s their art form and they’re awesome. I wish I did and was, but I don’t and am not. Which means that planning, for me, is another chore to check off the to-do list. And that means that my wheels are always somewhat stressfully turning: Kid is napping now. What happens when he wakes up? Is the diaper bag packed? Where will we go? What clothes will he need? What will he eat for dinner? Will I be able to sneak in a glass of wine between then and his bedtime? (Priorities, people.) Having a kid means planning your OWN life down to the last millisecond (you have an hour to write a chapter of your book. GO GO GO!) and carefully anticipating your whole family’s needs so you can carve out some work-life balance.

My point? (I have one. I swear!) It can be hard to live in the RIGHT-THIS-SECOND-NOW. It can be hard to let go and completely surrender to the tickles and the hugs and the slides and the swings and the JOY when your mind is racing about where you need to be when and how you’ll get home before a meltdown happens (your child’s or your own). The irony is, I don’t want time to speed up. One of my favorite bloggers often talks on her blog about the heartbreaking beauty of time’s passage and how, as parents, we want our children to grow and thrive, but we often wish time would stand still. I can’t wait for the life events I anticipate in my own future: having another child. Reaching my career goals. Meeting up with JK Rowling at Harry Potter World (don’t crush my dreams). But I know those times will come all too fast, and so I try to live in the now. Only the now is often filled with “What do I need to do next?”

Enjoying every second of your small child’s life is such a Catch-22. You often feel so much pressure from like, everybody on the planet to “carpe diem” that you feel guilty when all you secretly want to do is put your kid to bed so you can drink, I mean eat dinner. In fact, bedtime is such a perfect metaphor for the paradox of living with with little ones — it’s many parents’ favorite time of day (for obvious reasons), and yet most of those frazzled, bone-tired parents sneak back into their kids’ rooms after dark to stare at their sleeping forms, wishing they could wake them up for a hug (they don’t). I’ve mentioned before that I find it annoyingly dishonest when parents say they enjoy every single second of being a mom/dad. Um, give me a second to call bullshit on that one. Yes, you love your child and YES, he has the cutest smile anyone’s ever seen. But parenting has its difficult moments even if your kid is Elmo. Trust me.

How do you find the balance in the “right now” and the “what’s next”? How do you plan for the future while still enjoying the little moments? xox