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When 'good enough' is simply good enough

Melissa Schmalenberger, Ms Simplicity columnist

My mantra of late has been "good enough."

I am struggling with facing my empty nest. I wish I would have done so much more with my kids. Did I teach them everything they will need in life? Do they even know how to fold a T-shirt? What about when they get a ketchup stain on their shirt. Will they know how to get it out?

Yes, I do sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a minor anxiety attack. And I repeat the phrase that it is all "good enough."

But as I near my youngest child's high school graduation, I realize I did in fact learn a few things along the way that may help other parents as they navigate the waters of parenting kids in high school.

1. Show up to school conferences. Many parents skip conferences at the high school level because they either assume their kids are doing fine or they don't want to hear the dreadful things about their child. No matter what kind of student your child is, you need to go to the conference and visit with the teacher. In our case, a brief conversation with a teacher has changed our son's major from science-based to business-based, all because we went to conferences and that was good enough.

2. Only buy the letterman's jacket if your child is going to wear it as their jacket in high school. I will guarantee that they will never wear it after they graduate. I have two hanging in my closet as proof. With my youngest child, he has a letter without a jacket. The actual letter is easier to store than a bulky jacket, and that is good enough!

3. If you have a son, buy them a nice suit once they stop growing. We have gotten so much use out of good suit. From formal dinners to school award events to prom. Buying each son one nice suit usually costs about $75 more than a prom tux rental. Spend the extra money, and when prom season comes around the next year you simply need to purchase a coordinating tie, and that is good enough.

4. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I can't control a lot of what my child eats once he walks out the door, but at least if I can get a good breakfast in him I feel like I am kind of winning. But then there was those couple of mornings where I rationalized that a Snickers was a well-balanced meal. Oh well. That's good enough.

5. Don't care how others are parenting. We can get stuck in the trap of comparisons. I really am very hands off with my youngest compared to my oldest. My youngest will tell me at breakfast that he has a school event that day that I was not aware of. I probably should know all of the dates of his activities but I have dropped the ball. This year I missed prom because I was at a friend's wedding. I took care of all the details before I left. My husband was there to make sure that we had good photos. And guess what, we both survived. and that was good enough!

I realize I cannot show my sadness around my son as he is very excited to be graduating. I told him this weekend to try not to be SO excited about starting college and try to miss us a little bit. And for now, that's good enough.

Ms. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger is a professional organizer based out of Fargo and author of "Organizing in Simplicity: Kitchens." Email her at