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?
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.
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)