Launch lab: Date your dreams

painting by Eugenio Viti

painting by Eugenio Viti

In this mid-stage parenting zone, many of us are watching our kids get ready to launch in the coming years--sometimes one after the next after the next. Sometimes it feels like we just regroup and reorient as a family (minus one) and then it's time for the next child to go! I know their departures match the intervals of their arrivals but somehow the time on this end seems clipped and the launches feel more sudden--despite the fact that we ready ourselves for them far longer than nine months. 

Right now I have one child away volunteering on a mission, one graduating in December (since it's Australia, where the school year matches the calendar year) and one home for another couple of years. Beyond here there be dragons, as the old map makers used to say. I try to resist leaping ahead and indulging in too much anticipatory nostalgia but I find it challenging not to start missing this stage of life before it's over. Truly, though, it's the looming scarcity of these days that makes them so sweet as we count down to take-off.

At the same time there's a kind of parallel pre-launch countdown taking place for ourselves, yes? No matter what our lives look like as parents of teens--whether you work at an outside career part time or full time, whether you work at home full time, or any other combination of school/work/home/hobby life--when the nest empties, there will be some adjusting. Though G frequently asks quizzically, "why do they call it an empty nest? I mean, we'll still be here, right?"

Yes, exactly. We'll still be here. This week I'm thinking about anticipatory launching, not of our kids but of ourselves. We don't really talk about it much, do we? This major transition from full-time, resident parenting to distant-but-supportive parenting invites a reconsideration of what the next chapters will look like for me, for each of us. It's what-do-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up, version 3.0. With a bit more time and fewer daily care giving commitments will I follow my curiosities into new hobbies? Will I dive deeper into current pursuits? What can I do now to start preparing for the next 50ish (pretty please, knock on wood) years of my life?

I love what Whitney Johnson, the author of Dare, Dream, Do suggests. She says "go ahead and date dreams, lots of them--you don't need to commit to every dream you date." In one of the guest posts on Whitney's blog (and there are many excellent ones there), Emily Olson adds "Finding your passion is a lot like finding a husband. Who wants to evaluate every first date, asking yourself if he is the one? It's far easier to ask yourself if you simply want one more date with this dude. So my advice? Go on dates with ideas, until you realize there's this one you just can't stop hanging out with...when you've found that, you've likely found your passion." 

So that's my launch lab for the next two weeks--and my challenge to you. Go date some dreams. Start exploring and figuring out what captures your thoughts, flies your kite, floats your boat. You don't have to marry those dreams just yet. Just date them.