Crisis today, anecdote tomorrow

I still remember the consternation my wife and I felt when her maternity leave was coming to an end and our firstborn still wouldn’t take a bottle. She shared her worries with her own mother about how we’d tried every bottle size and shape, but he wouldn’t take any of them.

I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. What if this doesn’t change? What are we going to do? What if he won’t eat and I have to quit my job and I’m chained to this kid forever just to make sure he doesn’t starve?

As only a wise grandmother who’s successfully raised two kids of her own could do, my mother-in-law just shrugged her shoulders and said, “Someday, this will just be an anecdote.”

It didn’t feel particularly helpful at the time. But she was exactly right. As my wife describes it, what two new parents saw as a crisis situation is now a story that goes like this when we talk about it:

Remember how he wouldn’t take the bottle, and then he did?

Not dramatic at all in hindsight.

Grandma knew that this is pretty much what happens with kids. You love them, you do your best, and things eventually work out. Everything in between is just a future anecdote that appears when you’re looking back and no longer in the middle of it.

Parenting a teen through the college admissions process can feel like parenting a fragile newborn all over again. Every decision, every outcome, feels so magnified, like it’s charting an irreversible course. No mistakes allowed. Better get everything perfect the first time or he’ll never recover!

But those experiences that feel like crises today will be just another anecdote tomorrow.

Remember when you didn’t make the football team and then found wrestling?

Remember when you didn’t do well on the SAT and still got into lots of colleges?

Remember how you were sure you could never be as happy as you would have been at Stanford, and today you can’t stop talking about how much you love Colorado College?

When you feel the anxiety and pressure and complexity getting to you, try to remember that there are almost no college admissions-related crises today that won’t transform into anecdotes tomorrow.