Dear 2010 Sara,

Hello from 2020! Just wanted to assure you that you’re doing fine ten years in the future. Things right now are . . . well. I won’t say too much. I’ll let 2020 be a fun surprise for you.

But I did want to write to you about your children.

In your world, the kids are ages 8, 7, 3, and 1. You’re homeschooling the older two, constantly attending to the emotional needs of the preschooler, and you’re pretty sure you’re going to lose your mind for good during this last toddlerhood.

And during your frazzled days, you keep remembering what some older mom said to you once (not that you asked): “Put a 1 in front of your child’s age, and you know how they’ll act when they’re teenagers.” You feel like you should just give up right now.

Well, I’m writing to tell you that it doesn’t turn out like you think it will.

In my world of 2020, the kids are ages 18, 17, 13, and 11. The sheer physical demands of motherhood have slacked off. The kids can get their own food, help clean up (reluctantly), and even help cook supper. School is different, too. I no longer have to sit next to each child and work through every lesson with them. Ten years makes a big difference.

There’s some grain of truth in what that lady said to you. It’s not that “teenagers are just big toddlers.” Instead, think of it this way: when your child is a toddler, you are laying the foundation for your relationship when your child is a teenager.

In your stage of life, you pour yourself into these little people. You strive to remain calm and peaceable in the face of emotional storms. You stay firm when they challenge the rules. You get to know each child and try to understand the best way to relate to each one.

And sometimes you lose it. You get angry, you yell, you have to retreat to your room before cleaning up the entire box of cereal that the toddler dumped out on the floor again. You’re tired of talking about Minecraft, or arguing over whether 8 times 7 is 56 and the math book isn’t lying. You learn to apologize to someone half your size. You need a break. More than that, you need to know that all this is worth the effort.

Well, 2010 Sara, that’s why I’m here.

Now that we’ve added a “1” to all their ages, . . . well, meltdowns do still happen. But now it’s not whether she can have another cheese stick, it’s anxiety over a summer class. Kids still “forget” to do schoolwork, but they can’t just do an extra page of Algebra II to catch up. Instead of dreaming of being a dragon when she grows up, your now-legal-adult has to figure out a real path in life. Your youngest still tries to do things that are too hard for him, and you don’t find out until it’s already a Stage 2 disaster. Stakes are higher now.

But you poured yourself into these relationships ten years ago, and that serves me well today. I’m still staying calm in the face of panic. Still understanding what kind of routine works best for each child. Still keeping the lines of communication open so that they can confide in me, ask for help, or admit a mistake they need help with.

I still lose it sometimes. I’m not always approachable, I get sick and tired of excuses instead of action, and I can be blind to what a child is trying to communicate. I’m pretty practiced at apologizing by now.

So yes, 2010 Sara, it’s worth everything you did ten years ago. I’m writing to say thanks. I really appreciate all the work you put in.

Gratefully, 2020 Sara.

P.S. 2030 Sara, I sure wouldn’t mind some reassurance if you wanted to drop me a line, thanks.

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