Life seems like a whirlwind. It feels like just years ago, we were on the opposite side of the parenting equation.
Not so long ago, we were the eager children looking to play with our parents, sneak a peek at the presents under the Christmas tree, and enroll in our first day of school.
I remember how exciting summer was and how we played until the last speck of daylight lit the sky. I remember how peaceful the evenings were after rushing through dinner and haphazardly cleaning the dishes only to rush running out the door one final time.
I remember making up games to play with my siblings and neighbors, performing Broadway-Esque plays for anybody that would watch. There were made up costumes with random things we could find around the house. Lines would be made up and rehearsed for hours until somebody was willing to give us a few minutes of their time to enjoy our hard work and performance.
I remember having lemonade stands outside anxiously awaiting our first sale. We'd sit there joyfully drinking all of the inventory imagining all the cars that would stop. We'd dream of making a few dollars so we could ride our bikes down to the convenient store and load up on our favorite candies. The hope alone was worth it.
I remember playing kickball and baseball games in the cul-de-sac all day long until our parents demanded we come inside. We'd play with anybody that would join us and we played hard. Beaty red faces and sweat-soaked clothing were common, but we loved it. We didn't need much, just a ball and a few friends wanting to play.
Life was so good.
At that point in time, I remember thinking I didn't ever want to be a grown-up. Much less a parent. Work, dishes, laundry, bills, and the seemingly boring life of parents didn't seem to compare to this life. It's not that they seemed unhappy, it's just that nothing seemed to be able to top the excitement of being a kid.
I didn't want it to end.
Fast forward thirty years later. Life looks different now. The world is different, responsibilities are different, we are different.
Life evolves and quickly changes, for all of us. Those childhood days of playing without a care in the world are fond memories of the past.
Parenting brings a whole new dimension to life. It changes your view on love and leaves you vulnerable. It teaches you patience if you're not a patient person. It shows you kindness, forgiveness, and acceptance.
It is without a doubt hardest, yet most fulfilling job ever.
Although there is no real manual for parenting, we can learn from those that already were in our shoes. Parents and grandparents chimed in to share their biggest regrets from their 'active' parenting years. If anything, it gives us a slight nudge and reminder that the good stuff, is right in front of us.
Here are their five biggest regrets from when their kids were little:
1. Not spending enough QT with them
This is probably no surprise, but the greatest regret of parents is not spending enough quality time with their kids. There are so many demands on our time and attention nowadays and it's a never-ending struggle. It's suffocating thinking about the demanding 'todo list', will it ever end?
Kids thrive off attention. Those goofy, naggy, loud, or expressive things they do that may bug the ever-loving shit out of you, that's them loving you and craving your attention. They don't need new toys, the latest and greatest shoes, or an iPad in their face all day. They need YOU. They need your laugh, your smile, your appreciation, your love, your response, your guidance. Everything else is just a distraction and things parents often opt for to detract from feeling guilty about the lack of time together.
'Today, there are over 6,000 languages spoken in the world. In Papua New Guinea alone, over 800 languages are spoken'
Life is demanding. It was in the past, it is today, it will be in the future. You will not become less busy. It's a conscious effort, understanding and choice to be present with your minis.
And it's tricky.
My kids are sitting beside me as I type this and the red lights are flashing in my mind. Is this quality time because I'm sitting beside them? I don't actually want to spend every moment gazing into my children's eyes and snuggling the baby fat off of them. I do want to feel good at the end of the day thinking we had a great day together. I want them to feel loved and supported and that nothing is too important for them. Unless Friends comes on ;)
2. Trying to mold them
When I was growing up, my grandma had a quote on her wall that I would always read. It said, 'Children are not things to be molded, but persons to be unfolded.'
I didn't really even understand the meaning back then, but I get it now.
That quote stuck with me. Now I'm an adult that catches myself 'molding' my kids sometimes. It can be simple things like changing their clothes and not allowing them to express themselves. It could be forcing them into sports or activities that were my favorite. It could be raising multiple kids and demanding everything is the same for each person when in fact they are all unique.
This is not to say let them run the show all day long. It's more of a recognition and a conscious effort to let them 'unfold' into the person they are becoming.
Kids are beautiful little humans that are genius in their own right. They don't need molding. I think if you guide them well and let them go in the direction of their interest, they'll have a happy and fulfilling life.
Ahh, just my two cents.
3. Not talking to them enough
Connect. Just like newborn babies being placed on their mom immediately after birth, our kids need connection. We live in a world that is growing and adapting at record speed. Things change quickly and our little minions are learning how to navigate it all. It's tough, messy, complicated, and sometimes confusing. They need to know they have somebody in their corner always, through the good and bad.
We really try to be calm and open with our kids and it is tough. Our oldest, he's eleven and the conversations he needs are much different than our five-year-old. Sometimes he wants to talk about things that make me cringe or are uncomfortable to talk about. I'm trying to be open, honest, and helpful with the life questions that are popping up so he has awareness and confidence.
A few months ago his birthday was coming up. One day, we were sitting in the kitchen just him and I. He looked at me with a giant smile and blurted, "So mom, tell me about my birthday!"
I laughed and said "Wow you've never asked me about that before! Well, it was about 18 hours from start to finish and you came out of my..."
"Oh my gosh stop mom! Not THAT birthday, stop talking right now! he yelled disgustedly.
I laughed hysterically. I thought this might be our intro to the 'birds and the bees' - I'm ready if you are kid. I was a smidge wrong and he really did mean he wanted to discuss party plans for his upcoming birthday. Of course, I knew that 🙊
To this day we are poking along with this communication thing but I think the real message is just to hear them. Listen, and offer them a safe place to come and ask questions. Validate their feelings and allow them to say what's on their mind without interrupting or trying to change the way they see it.
4. Stressing out
If there is something that can be dropped into the 'absolutely worthless' bucket forever and eternity, it's stress. WTF are you here for? You are a fun sponge and leave trails of desperation everywhere you go.
Now that we got that out of the way.
'Frequent stress decreases your immune system'
Did you ever stress yourself out and feel better about it after? No, right? That doesn't mean life is always sunshine and rainbows, it's not. I think it means keeping things in perspective and reacting with a solution vs. being nervous about every potential possibility.
A few months ago, I was at a conference and took away something magical that fits right into this topic. One of the speakers discussed problems in life and business. He said instead of worrying about what might happen, ask yourself 'is this useful?'
If your brain is worried, it's not creating solutions. So try to stay focused on solutions and facts as they come because most of the things you worry about don't even end up happening.
5. Not laughing more together
Laughter is not only the best medicine, but it brings people closer together. Did you know that the average adult laughs 13 times daily? Did you know laughing reduces stress and increases energy?
When asking moms what their biggest regrets were, many said they took life too seriously. There's a lot of 'stuff' packed into the day to do that always has demands over our time and. During those times, sit back and ask yourself, what matters more?
I like to take it a step further into a more morbid approach asking myself if I die tomorrow, what matters the most?
Kids crave your attention. Laughing with them will create a stronger bond and also enable them to have humility and resilience when they're adults. Plus, life just feels good when you laugh.
Don't waste a single day without laughing with your child, you'll both feel good about it after.
'Some studies have reported that laughing for at least fifteen minutes can add around 2 days to your overall lifespan. Live long and…laugh!'
Your daily dose of mama is served. We hope this gives you a little space to breathe easy today and realize that the best part of life is right in front of you. What are your biggest regrets from parenting? How do you stay focused on the good stuff? Let us know below in the comments!
Cheering you on always, we're in this together.