Regrets, I’ve Had a Few
By Jen Holman
Rearing children to be responsible and healthy human beings is hard. No matter how many parenting books we read or how much advice we get, in the end the decisions we make as parents are ours alone. And, good or bad, we’re the ones who have to live with them.
Do I wish I’d made some different choices over the years? Yes. Was I working with all the information—and patience—I had at the time when I made those choices? Also yes. But if I had it to do over again, what changes would I make? I can think of a few.
My kids are 11, 7 and 5 now, and we cannot get through a home-cooked meal without complaint. Well, unless I make the younger two plain spaghetti noodles or nuggets. Whose kids are these? I swore I’d never make two meals. I’m not a short order cook! Yet, here we are. If I want to make something even remotely delicious, I have to throw a couple of turkey dogs in the microwave or hear complaints throughout the entire meal. And, sometimes, I just want to enjoy a nice dinner, ya know? I regret not insisting on a healthier variety of foods for my kids earlier. I wish I hadn’t relied on “baby food,” and had fed them from my plate. Maybe they wouldn’t be so picky.
There’s a photo app I love that sends me my past social media posts. There are a lot of photos of the kids over the years. A lot. A few with their dad. Hardly any with me. I wish I’d grabbed a stranger to take the picture and gotten in front of the camera more. Just little reminders for posterity that I probably drove them wherever the photo was taken and we had fun together.
I’d always heard the phrase “pick your battles,” but I didn’t know what it really meant until marriage and parenting. I’m all for schedules, don’t get me wrong, but with our first child I took it too far. I thought if I didn’t win every single battle of wills, I was losing the parenting war. All I was really losing was my mind. Part of that was enforcing a rigid sleep schedule that only worked to make me miserable. I wish I’d have bent a little more. It’s preferable to breaking.
I wish I’d slowed down more, too, because it’s the soft moments in the morning or playdates at the park I remember. It’s snuggles on the couch and a thousand curious questions that matter most.
I regret throwing good money after new shoes the kids grew out of in three months’ time, and I wish I hadn’t bought the fancy pack and play. I regret not reading to the kids more, though that is something I’m working to rectify.
I wish I had learned sooner how to leave mistakes in the rear-view and focus on the positive. And on that note, the things I don’t regret? I’m glad I didn’t go back to work full time after my daughter was born, even though it cost me years of income and work experience. I don’t regret letting my children see my imperfections and seeing me apologize. I don’t regret letting the kids sleep in our bed as babies or the lasting bonds it created. I’m glad we got a dog, though he’s one more thing I have to take care of. Road trips to visit out-of-town family are hard to find time for, but the memories are precious. And I don’t regret putting myself out there to get to know the parents at school who’ve become my community.
Regrets, I’ve had a few, as the song goes. But feeling regret indicates a desire to do better. It pushes us to be better parents and gives us a chance to learn something, to try again. Balance comes when we also consider the things we’re doing right. And considering how hard this parenting gig is, those are weighted.