What would you change?

My youngest daughter is quite a deep thinker. She often asks questions, which stop me in my tracks.
Answering them sometimes means asking myself even more questions.

The other day she asked, “Would you change anything you did in your life?”

Initially I smiled and flippantly said, “Oh course not, if I did I may not have finished up here, with you.” However now the dust has settled, I’m asking myself that same question?

Would I not change anything? Really? Nothing at all?photo credit: Character Question Mark via photopin (license)

What about that time I recklessly took off on my brother’s racer? It was all of one hour old, a bike he saved for months for. Moments later I crashed it at speed into a wall, putting it out of action. Surely that was a regret? My resultant broken nose certainly was. What about the hours I didn’t spend studying, resulting in a Leaving Cert that was good, but not good enough?

As I opened dusty doors in my mind, memories flooded back and in truth many were things I would change. Friendships I’d let slip. Thank you’s, I never said. Mistakes I didn’t learn from. Inevitably my thoughts moved on to parenting. After all it’s something I’ve been doing for nearly twenty five years. Given my life to live over again, what would I change?

Hanging above me as I type are two large collages of photos from twenty five years of parenting. Just a moment’s glance towards them transports me back to a time, that although past, feels like yesterday. I take a few minutes to scan those photos. There’s one of a fresh faced me beaming, holding my eldest daughter as a new born. One of my dark haired husband, looking ridiculously young, cradling his son. First and last days at school, holidays, summer days and birthdays all represented. But there are also photos of many ordinary days featuring tiny moments, long forgotten save for those photographs. I’m struck by how happy everyone looks, but do those photos speak the truth?

Were we always happy? Was it perfect?

Those photos don’t tell the story of the young girl newly married who left Dublin for a life elsewhere. They speak nothing of the loneliness she felt as a new mother, nor do they record the many years she struggled to understand, that as a stay at home mother, she had worth. As I look at that young, smiling me, in my early days of parenting, I do of course have regrets.

For many years I lost myself in motherhood. My friends slipped away and the vibrant, outgoing, feisty, me drowned in breast feeding, sleepless nights and endless days of staying at home. The independent me I had known for twenty five years was wiped out. Replaced by the label ‘mother.’

Looking back I would wish I knew then what a wonderful life of mothering lay ahead.photo credit: JonathanCohen via photopin cc
I would not wish away the days and months waiting for my child to achieve milestones.  I would just celebrate them as they happened.
I would not rush my children into playschool, just because they were a certain age.
I would leave for school collections early, so a young toddler would have all the time in the world to dawdle.
I would have trusted my instincts more, and books less.
I would have expected less of my first child, in everything she did.

If I had my time all over again, I would parent my children more like my last. Child number four has grown up with a very different mother, one who has evolved over time, learning many lessons along the way.

Now it is time for me to learn a whole host of new lessons, as the mother of older children, facing a new set of challenges and probably a whole new set of future regrets.

But what is a life if it’s lived without regrets?

photo credit: JonathanCohen via photopin cc
photo credit: Character Question Mark via photopin (license)

26 thoughts on “What would you change?

    1. Thank you. Yes I agree, some regrets are difficult to live with, yet how boring and sheltered would our lives have been if we never risked anything or learned from our regrets?

  1. i think that we all have regrets, when we look back after living a bit of life, but if we hadn’t tried and failed and succeeded, then we would have been safe and static, and that would be a regret indeed-

    1. Thank you. You are right, without the ability to love and experience regret we would be much lesser people, and our lives less rich too.

  2. There are always regrets, even if we stick to the answer you came across at first thought. But there are always regrets, in every life. It doesn’t mean we aren’t happy or that we don’t appreciate everything we have had and have now. It just means that we might appreciate our life as it is now, a lot more because of those regrets.

    1. I think your point, ‘it doesn’t mean we aren’t happy or appreciative of our lives if we have regrets’ is so true. Sometimes they can overwhelm us, but we need to remember we all have them.

  3. I don’t have time for regrets any more – only for deciding to do things differently. I’m a great believer in things happening for a reason – and in improving with age, like a good bottle of Bordeaux. I hope my kids will remember me for my imperfections in parenting, as well as the good bits – after all, a perfect parent must be boring, particularly for a teenager. Nothing to whine about? Sounds like hell. 🙂

    1. Haha. I don’t think my gang will have any problem remembering me as less than perfect. I love your idea that we are like wine, aging and becoming more perfect as we do.

  4. Wow – such words of wisdom and much that I could identify with. Except for the Leaving Cert bit – I was a swot ha ha!
    You definitely speak for me when you write:

    ‘If I had my time all over again, I would parent my children more like my last. Child number four has grown up with a very different mother, one who has evolved over time, learning many lessons along the way.’

    However, despite my unfortunate imperfections my older children have turned out wonderfully well.

    1. Thanks Victoria. Good to know I’m not alone. I never appreciated how lucky I was to be almost the youngest of five until I see how differently I’ve parented the last one.
      Funny thing is I’m happier I wasn’t a swot as I got older.

  5. I’ve watched my own parents with my children in the past few years, and I’ve learned that the ability to take that time to just “be” with the children can be the true gift of
    Grandparenting. When you’re in the middle of it, as the mother or father, it’s often too hard to find that appreciation for the moment, because you’re too busy trying to survive it! 🙂

    1. I too saw that over the years and while I’m not hoping to be a grandparent any time soon I must say now I’m almost out the gap, I can’t wait. What a thrill to get all the pleasure and little of the ‘pain’ attached to rearing little ones.

  6. Your daughter’s question is certainly one to grapple with. I think there are things I’d change about my life if I could. I absolutely agree with you about parenting, by the way. I’m afraid my elder son got every stupid parenting mistake going. My younger son had a far easier time.

    1. Ah we live and learn Bun unfortunately it’s our eldest we learn through.
      Mind you my eldest is twenty five next week and she’s turned out pretty amazing. Maybe I was right with her and wrong with the last wild one!

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