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The Durban kids

Durban kids (from left) Sara, Brady, Zachary and Luke at Platte River State Park last summer.

My name is Lauren, and I carry the entirety of recorded human information in my pocket or purse at all times. Chances are, so do you (nearly 80 percent of American adults have a smartphone).

There’s an untold amount that’s been written on why that’s a good or bad thing, and I’m not going to pontificate on that here. What I do want to talk about is a realization I had during a recent Facebook-scrolling session. I came across a parenting article with a title something to the effect of “You only get 18 summers with your child.” It was a column about making the most of those summers, having lots of adventures, not wasting time – you know the drill. It was supposed to be inspirational, and I’m sure for lots of people it was.

It was not inspirational for me. Instead, I instantly started feeling guilty that my summers with my children haven’t been meaningful enough. I calculated how many summers I have left with each of my children before they leave for college. Through no fault of the author, I was left anxious and sad.

That’s when I had my realization. Simply put, that article was not for me. For someone, that message was exactly what they needed to see that day. But not me. And here’s the crazy part – it was totally within my rights to just disregard it and move on with my day. I didn’t need to ruminate on it, or comment on it, or argue with anyone about it. Maybe on another day, in another mood, it would have moved me in a positive way. But on that day, in that moment, that message was not meant for me.

More than ever before, we contend with thousands of people’s opinions every single day. There is no shortage of advice out there, and you’ll most likely get it whether you want it or not. Survival in a world of social media is dependent on your ability to recognize what is and is not for you. If you don’t mind my getting all Marie Kondo on you for a minute, you have to be willing to get rid of what does not spark joy. Just like it’s healthy and liberating to give up physical items that no longer serve us, we have to clear out the opinions and advice that just take up space.

This posts a particular challenge for parents, in that parenting is perhaps the most important job you can do that does not come with any kind of a training manual. Deep down (not so deep for some of us), we’re all just winging it and figuring it out as we go along – and that can make all advice and opinions seem equally valid and worthwhile. If you’re not careful, you can drown in them. But there’s beauty in the realization that we get to choose what we let into our hearts. We get to decide what is there for us, and what is meant for someone else. At the end of the day, we have been given the particular tiny humans that we call our own for a reason, and we have to trust that we’ll recognize the pieces of wisdom that are meant for us, and them, when they come along.

Of course, this column might not be meant for you. If it does not spark joy, please move along!

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L Magazine editor

Mark Schwaninger is L magazine and Neighborhood Extra editor.

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