Okay. So the truth is, I am a horribly flawed parent. I get exasperated by my youngest’s unwillingness to wear anything other than brown or….darker brown, and down right angry at her nightly resistance to going to bed. I frequently guilt-trip my middle kid about the cost of violin lessons vs the amount of practice time I judge to be lacking, and I’ve been known to tell my eldest that he’s acting like an ass when his choices don’t meet my approval.
In our humanness and varying degrees of personal evolution, and for those of us who are parents – where so much is trial and error – a certain amount of “small stuff” remorse is inevitable. But here’s the crucial piece: Regrets are not the result of a “shit happens” experience like leukemia. Regrets are the progeny of choices poorly made that cannot be undone.
Wait. What? True this: Many regrets are in fact, the result of choices.
Examples of serious, real life and harmful parenting choices include: deliberately and knowingly using one’s child as a pawn in a failing marriage; teaching your children to be fearful or intolerant of those who are different than or don’t agree with you; fostering judgment and meanness by example; teaching children to act like and become victims rather than embrace and practice honesty; modeling running away rather than accepting responsibility; teaching your child to throw away relationships like broken cars rather than invest in the healing process. The list goes on.
So how as parents, can we make decisions that will reduce potential long-range damage to our kids caused by regret? We can try to keep one particular phrase of Hippocrates’s famous oath in our hearts and minds at all times – even and perhaps most especially when – we, the parents, may be the very perpetrators of the injury. The phrase is:“I will keep them from harm and injustice.”
As a parent who has learned the hard way what it feels like when the power to keep your child safe from harm has been taken out of your hands, trust me on this one. If you have the opportunity, intelligence, compassion, good sense, love and CHOICE to keep your child as safe, whole and happy as you possibly can, do it. Don’t be selfish; don’t wait. Do it. Now. There’s no excuse not to, and you won’t regret it.