Friday, December 28, 2012

Focus on the first steps to get to the big picture

From today's Briefing:

More than 11 years of parenting on my résumé, and I still make rookie mistakes.

Katie recently lost her two front bottom teeth, revealing two adult teeth that could hardly wait for their big debut. One night, just as she was tucked in and minutes from slumber, I peered into her mouth and realized the awkward angles of those new teeth.

“Oh, you’re definitely going to need braces, sister,” I said carelessly.

“What?” she half cried, half wailed. “Braces hurt!” (She’s been a keen observer of big brother’s orthodontia since 2010.)

I had ruined bedtime.

I spent the next five minutes consoling and backpedaling (“I’m not actually an orthodontist. What do I know?”), trying to reverse the damage.

I had broken a key rule of parenting: no distressing news after 7 p.m. I had also ignored a key rule of life: Take little steps on the big journey.

If my mom filter had been fully functional, I would have spied Katie’s crowded teeth and said, “Your teeth are coming in strong!” Then, I would have let Katie see the crookedness over time, let her draw her own conclusions for dental work that is at least a year away, and let her dentist describe the lack of room for her adult teeth.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the big picture.

One of our sitters is a semester away from graduation. She’s slightly panicked over the idea of adulthood and the nonacademic “real world.”

My observation: She’s fully prepared for the next step in her life, which will lead her to the next. She might not be ready for mid-May today, but she’s ready for today.

I’m working on adopting that attitude for 2013. As I’m making plans for my family and the new year, I’m continuing to balance focusing on the big picture and the first steps.

My goals for the year include organizing the upstairs bonus room, currently a haphazard collection of stuff that overwhelms me.

I can picture the end result — a cozy reading nook, a table for Lego projects, the closet neatly filled with art supplies. What I can’t imagine is how I’ll get there, which could lead to project paralysis, which means I won’t even begin.

Instead, I’m trying to focus only on the first step. Maybe I’ll sort through piles for 30 minutes?

Another goal: reintroduce exercise into my routine. Since returning to full-time work outside the house in March, I’ve been unable to fit regular exercise into my schedule.

I don’t exactly miss running, but I do miss how healthy I feel after running. I can picture the end result of my goal — three 30-minute runs a week. What I can’t imagine is how I’ll get there. What will I give up — sleep, chores, time with the kids?

Instead, I need to focus on the first step. Maybe lace up my running shoes and run for 10 minutes?

I may not be ready today to host company in the upstairs room or to run a 5K, but I’m ready to take the first steps.

Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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