I don’t like to spend a lot of time bemoaning choices I made in the past. It is, for the most part, a waste of mental energy - it’s not like my regret can propel me back in time so that I can do things differently. Furthermore, I believe that each day presents an opportunity to make new choices; it’s never too late to create the life you want, blah blah blah. However, as my kids get older (my oldest is going to be in junior high), I do find that there are some parenting choices I regret, choices that aren’t always easy to undo in the here and now.
If I could go back in time, there are three things I’d do differently as a parent.
1. I’d look into unschooling before sending my kids off to preschool.
When my kids were born, I had absolute faith in the public school system, of which both my husband and I are products. I was convinced that a child could thrive in just about any learning environment and that attentive parents could make up for any shortcomings at home. I think I was partly right.
My kids have no problem navigating the current landscape of public education in our country. They pass from grade to grade, make high marks, and keep their teachers happy. They are not, however, developing a love of learning. In fact, they have both come to dread the get-it-done-at-all-costs atmosphere of today’s school systems. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I have what it takes to completely change their education plan at this late stage.
2. I’d have paid more attention to how I spoke in front of them.
I knew intellectually that my kids were always watching and listening, and I have always been pretty mindful of how I talk to my children. I didn’t, however, consider how my witty sarcasm would sound coming out of the mouth of a pre-teen. It’s not pretty.
I also hear echoes of how my husband and I used to talk to each other (before marriage counseling) in the way my kids talk to one another. It breaks my heart and fills me with guilt and regret. I’m trying to set better examples now, but I it’s hard to unteach habits they’ve already learned.
3. I wouldn’t have had cable TV.
I don’t hate television and have no problem letting a child be entertained by a movie. My beef is with the marketing that happens during the constant commercials on children’s cable channels. My daughter was in tears the other day because we told her she couldn’t spend $45 on a light-up pillow. “But no one wants to be afraid of the dark!” she cried, repeating words from the Dream Lites commercial that loops between her favorite Disney shows.
I don’t blame the marketers (although I confess to wanting to strangle a few ad execs that day.) The responsibility to shield my daughter from those influences is mine, and I fell down on the job. I assumed it would be easy to just keep saying no (which we do.) I didn’t anticipate that the same tactics used to convince adults we need stuff to be happy would work on my children.
What would you do differently?