As I was purging, sorting and organizing our basement clutter I saw my kids’ first five years in the form of artwork, journals and keepsakes. It slowed me down for a bit. It actually grabbed me by the guts and knocked me on my seat. It was as if the hand turkeys and laminated lists of favorite things were whispering, “Stop, Momma. Stay awhile. Remember when I made this for you?” I had no desire to rush to the next task on my to do list. All I wanted to do, all I could do, was slow down and take it all in.
I fondly replayed moments like holding, feeding and bathing my babies for the first time, doing Caroline’s hair for her kindergarten pictures, dropping Julia off for her first day of preschool, taking George for his first big boy haircut. As my mind danced with fond memories of lullabies and patticake, warm fuzzies tickeled my belly. Pure bliss. This dreamy experience was boldly and ever-so-rudely interrupted when I caught a glimpse of my middle one practically drooling while scrolling through her Ipad. I could also very clearly hear my youngest murdering people on Call of Duty.
Insert vinyl record scratch
Seriously? Is it too late for a do-over?
So if you can relate, let’s hold hands and take a quick dip in the chilly waters of parental regret. If you can’t relate, please just don’t tell me. And no, the water isn’t fine. It’s cold and miserable. You’ll feel like you can’t get out fast enough. Let’s just jump in anyway, clear our lungs and commit to not returning for a very long time.
So you wish you had eaten better while pregnant? Regret secretly stuffing your face with Oreos and not drinking enough water except on the days you visited the doctor? You rarely ate salad and couldn’t choke down the prenatal vitamins so you gave up and switched to gummy bears? Yep.
Wish you had never introduced your precious baby to the idiot box, or if you did, that you had policed your offspring’s time in front of it and only allowed shows like National Geographic and Little House on the Prairie? Did you start there and then one day find your child hypnotized by Hannah Montana and Sponge Bob? Ouch. Me, too.
Oh, you regret not teaching your children another language? Wish you had only fed them organic food and never let sugar enter their bloodstream? Wish you had never lost your temper, never let electronics babysit them, wish you’d exposed them to classical music, taken them to museums over malls? You woke up one day to find out that they actually crave and love McDonald’s, scream at each other using words you thought you invented, prefer an ipad to interaction with a human, can sing along with Katy Perry but have no idea who Mozart is, and consider a trip to a museum to be a form of punishment? Okay, no worries. I’ve got you beat. My teenager confused Hitler with one of our first presidents.
To those who cannot relate to this level of regret, I commend you. You did what I said I would do. You stayed strong. Your kids play an instrument or two (on top of being bilingual), eat vegan without complaint and can be found volunteering at the soup kitchen every week. Your offspring read instead of watching Vine. They are calm, centered and have no idea what Cotton Candy tastes like…and certainly not before noon. Life lessons are being absorbed like my kids absorb their Instagram feed. It’s inspiring, really. At times nauseating, yet inspiring for sure.
For the rest of us, let’s grab a towel and know we never have to go back unless it’s needed again next year. We can let go of regret and know that we do not suck. What matters most is that our kids know they are loved and they see our faces light up when they enter a room. They know they matter. They know their gifts.
Our kids are awesome and they can learn to appreciate Mozart and sushi when they can pay their own rent.