How to Identify Your Future Parenting Regrets

How to Identify Your Future Parenting Regrets | Christian Mom ThoughtsI decided this week that it was time to sort through the vast numbers of stuffed animals my kids have. Many haven’t moved a stuffed paw from the toy chest in more than a year. I explained to the kids that we would give away some that are “less special” and everyone happily agreed it was time. I was thrilled to finish the project with three full bags of animals to give away.

Content with our achievement, we moved on to getting the kids ready for bed. When I leaned down to give Kenna a good night hug, she stopped me with an announcement. “Mommy, I really don’t need the rest of these either. You can take them all now, OK?”

I agreed, gathered an armload of bunnies, and went downstairs.

Then I burst into tears.

I was certainly ready to get rid of some stuffed animals, but I was nowhere near ready to close the door on a whole chapter of early childhood! Sure, we were “just” talking about stuffed animals, but I realized that those animals might represent a bigger milestone I hadn’t otherwise noticed.

What if my twins’ early childhood years really are over? What if the line between small kid and big kid crept up so fast, I didn’t have a chance to be everything I wanted to be to my kids during that time?

What if…what if…what if…

It’s the chorus from a song of regret I’m terrified to sing when my kids leave home someday. This little stuffed animal event made me consider what I’m doing that I don’t want to regret in years from now, since we so quickly get to the point where the opportunity to change lies forever behind us.

It can be hard to weed through the messiness of daily parenting to see that big picture, however. Many times we feel like parental failures because we don’t live up to our own perfecting standards. But what if we could more objectively evaluate our parenting from a long-term perspective and identify the problems now that will mean the most later? The problems that, unresolved, will leave us with truly lasting regret?

I believe the parenting issues which meet the three criteria of 1) persistent, 2) consequential and 3) correctable are the ones which we’ll most deeply regret down the road.

 

Persistent

We all have isolated regrets. Yesterday I got absolutely furious at my 2-year-old for making a mess out of potty water in the bathroom. I was filled with regret for getting so mad. But someday when I look back on my parenting, will my heart ache over that incident? Probably not. There is no perfect parent, and I think we’ll all be able to give ourselves grace eventually for the low points. It’s the things that we allow to happen persistently, however, that pave the way for future regret.

 

Consequential

Not all things that are persistent are highly consequential (i.e., have a tangible negative impact) for our kids. I’m really bothered that I can’t stop biting my nails, for example. It’s a persistent problem that I don’t like because I wish my kids didn’t have a mom who is so visibly anxious. (Yes, I actually worry about looking worried!) That said, it will probably be of limited consequence to my kids in the long run.

 

Correctable

I have a friend who is highly concerned about the impact working full time will have on her kids’ childhood, but she’s not in a financial position to quit. That’s something persistent that she feels is consequential to her kids, but it’s not realistically correctable right now. As a parent, we have to realize that not everything is in our control. There are things we don’t like about our circumstances and abilities that we have a limited capacity to change. Conversely, if we know we can correct something but don’t make the effort, regret will eventually be a natural result.

 

When I personally consider these three criteria, I see two problems that most urgently need my attention: 1) Impatience with my kids and 2) Mental preoccupation when I’m with them (i.e., always thinking about something other than what’s immediately going on). Both of these things are persistent, consequential, and correctable.

I didn’t say they are easily correctable, but with self-control, prayer, and reliance on the Spirit, they are things that can improve with time. Future regret is in our control.

How about you? What do you feel convicted of that most urgently needs your attention?

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Comments

  1. Terry Anderson says:

    This was a fantastic blog…must reading for parents! You must be a good mother, Natasha, because you reflect on what you do and say to your children, and reflecting on actions and words helps us to be the best we can be and changing what can, rather than trying to be perfect. In our busy society where we parents rush around working and caring for kids, I think reflecting on what I do can make a difference. Thanks for giving me food for thought!

    • Hi Terry, Thank you so much for the comment and compliment! My hope is to continually improve, with the understanding I will never be where I want to be. It can be frustrating to keep failing in the areas I struggle with most (like patience!), but I can imagine nothing worse than waving bye to my kids someday and realizing I didn’t give it my all.

      I’m so glad this gave you food for thought. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Amen, mama! This is exactly why I call this thing – motherhood – a journey. We can always strive to be better tomorrow than we were today. However, I do think it’s valuable for our children to witness our brokenness, because they aren’t perfect either, nor will they ever be. So seeing that mom and dad are broken too will remove some of the pressure from their shoulders to think they need to be perfect. It will help reinforce that ALL of us are sinful.

    We are struggling with the stuffed animal issue in our home too. Lately, my girls are wanting to give up the two animals they have slept with since they were babies. This.is.hard! They’re reasoning? They’re worried the kids at school will tease them if they find out they still sleep with a favorite teddy. So that’s a whole other topic of parenting… Lol! Every day is something new.

    • Hi Rosann, Absolutely! I have lots of opportunities for them to see how imperfect I am. :) My son has one very precious stuffed animal, and the day that he doesn’t care about him anymore is a day I’ll need to shed some tears. I totally understand what you mean. The peer factor is going to be hard! We just have to keep adjusting.

  3. Excellent piece.

  4. I really do need God’s help and wisdom in controlling my impatience with my kids. I also want to be all there for my children, even if I am blessed to be a stay-at-home-mom, I sometimes get distracted with anxieties and the need to earn extra income. I also hope to lead my children to Jesus, and I probably would regret it if they wouldn’t want to believe or go to church.

    • Hi ceemee, Thanks for your comment! Impatience is probably my absolutely worst trait. I know I’ll look back on it with terrible regret if I don’t get it under control. I think the key about future regret over our kids’ spiritual decisions is this question: “Am I doing everything I can to help my kids love the Lord with all their hearts and minds?” That covers so much. We can’t make our kids Christians, but if we can look back and know we did everything we could to guide their faith, I don’t think we’ll feel regret about their decisions. Disappointment and sadness, but not regret. For me, that means to focus on the process and not the outcome.

  5. I’m with you on the problem of being preoccupied when I am with my daughter…especially since she tends to chatter non-stop about things like the Chipmunks. When I do take the time to listen to her and connect with her, she often has really interesting things to say. I need to make that choice to listen. Thanks for this post.

    • Thanks Julie! It’s amazing how, when you start paying attention to “being present,” it can be such a battle. Yesterday at my kids’ swim lessons I had to repeatedly fight the urge to look at my email on my phone and JUST enjoy watching them in the water. It’s crazy to get to that point. I’m desperately working to retrain my mind right now!

  6. I soo needed this! Great post! My biggest fear about motherhood is that I’ll be filled with many regrets one day. You inspired me to make some corrections in my persistent behaviors that may one day leave me with “I should haves”, and also to be more forgiving with myself while becoming more reliant on God’s help. I loved the way you broke it down into categories. It made so much sense! Thank you!!

  7. I wish I’d been challenged like this when I was a young parent. Now that I have a 20 and 15 yo, my deepest regret is my preoccupation when I was with them (I homeschooled, but don’t know how “present” I was). When my oldest was 14 he just stopped talking and hasn’t started again despite our best efforts. I would give anything to go back and be more attentive when he was talking; maybe it would have made a difference. When I see parents ignoring or taking their kids chattiness for granted, my heart aches.

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