#44 - I have regrets

I didn't want to have any regrets when I looked back on raising my kids. I've heard people refer to their oldest child as their "practice baby" or something like that, and it made me so sad! I wanted to be a great mom to all my kids.

So I read tons of books and talked to people and prepared myself in every way I could. But I look back now and I have so many regrets! I tried to do my best with what I knew at the time, but the truth is, I didn't do as well as I could have, even after taking the fact that I didn't know as much as I do now into consideration.

My oldest child is so afraid of the water. She's also afraid of a lot of other things, like sliding down slides, and forget about ever getting her to go on a roller-coaster. Yeah, that'll never happen. Maybe when she's fully grown, but I even have my doubts about that.

Okay, so I have my baby in the mommy-baby swimming class at the local rec center. The first few days, she was so scared to go under water. She's only 2 1/2 and when my oldest was that age, I never in a million years would have pushed her to do something she was scared to do. But the teacher seemed confident that it would be good for them to practice going under even if they were scared about it. So I tried a couple of times, and she came up sputtering and crying, and I was so sad. But then she would wipe her face off and be okay. She clung to me and said she didn't want to do it again, but when her older siblings asked her if she had fun at swimming lessons, she said yes.

On the fourth day, she actually said yes when I asked if she was ready to dive under water. So I did it and she cried and sputtered a little and didn't want to do it again, but a minute later when I asked if she would do it one more time, she said okay.

Fast-forward to today (which was only the 5th day, by the way) and she was jumping into the water off the side of the pool over and over, begging to do it again "just one more time" every time she jumped in. We would practice kicking our feet and she'd do it for one minute and then beg to jump off the side again. Every time she jumped in, I caught her, but I'd let her face go under. And she kept begging to do it again.

So now I feel terrible about my oldest child. If I'd pushed her just a little bit and told her she was okay instead of acting just as scared as she was, would she be scared of the water now? I did take her to the pool a lot when she was 2 and 3, etc. so I thought I'd done everything I could. I thought if I let her go at her own pace, she'd get better at it as time went on.

But, I'm a logical person and I like to look at things from all sides. So I have to ask myself, if I had done what I'm doing with my baby and she was still afraid now, would I regret pushing her just as I regret not pushing her now? Would I think her fears were my fault?

Maybe there's no way to get out of regretting our parenting and second-guessing our methods. There are probably some people whose kids are just awesome and they don't really have any problems, and those people probably think it was all because of their awesome parenting, instead of thinking it was just dumb luck, which is what it probably was. :D

I just look at my sweet big girl, who's still more afraid of the water than my baby after only 5 days of swimming lessons, and I feel so terrible. I don't want her to be so fearful. But it's easy to see things differently in retrospect. There are probably things I'm doing even now that "seem like a good idea at the time" but that I'll look back on with regrets in the future.

How do you get around regrets? How do you deal with knowing that you could have done better? How do you look at any problems and challenges your kids are going through, knowing that you could have helped if you'd only done things differently?


  1. Hindsight is wonderful, right? We can only do what we think is best at the moment. If it doesn't work out, you can at least think back and know that you did as well as you could at the time.

    Also keep in mind that some things may not have changed even if you did do something different. You could have done the exact same class with Emily and she might still be afraid.

    Lily was fine with water last summer but has been scared to death of anything deeper than a bath tub this summer. And she is the one that is scared of rides. Aaron loves them.

  2. This was really interesting to read - you have such great insights. I read a TON before I had my little guy so I'd do everything right and have no regrets, but there's no avoiding it. I regret worrying so much and maybe sheltering too much that first year or so. I learned a lot from what you had to say - about nudging our children out of their comfort zones - it's always so nice to learn things from those who have "been there and done that."

    And I laughed out loud about the part about parents with great kids thinking it's because of their awesome parenting - totally my aunt and uncle. They have one super-behaved, smart little girl and sometimes they look at my parents with all my rowdy brothers (now grown up,but still rowdy), thinking they're superior, when really, they only had one and they mostly lucked out. But anyway...

    I don't think there's anyway around regrets. I've found when I try to live in a way so I won't have them, I find that I regret some things I missed because of that extra-caution or whatever. You can either have regrets for things you've done or things you haven't (the latter would be me)...I guess it's all part of the human (sometimes frustrating!) experience

  3. I've been thinking about this today and I think I was just having a "moment" when I wrote it. I still think the substance of the post is true, but the part about my oldest daughter isn't.

    After a lot of thought, I realized that my other children did exactly the same things my oldest did and they're all fine in the water. My last child is the only one I've done anything different with.

    I'm sure there are still things I could have done to help her that I didn't do, but kids are different inherently, and I have to remember that more.

  4. Jen -

    I think it's one of those cases of every child is different. It wasn't necessarily your parenting, just part of her own quirkiness. So she's afraid of water? That's okay. Maybe later she'll experiment more and like it better.

    After having my first and dealing with autism, I learned very early that each of my kids would learn differently and have different milestones. And how true that has been during the last nine years of my parenting saga.

    Just remember - you love your daughter and you are an awesome mom!


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