How to Become a Regret-Free Parent

How to Become a Regret-Free Parent

Parents magazine March 2012When you raise young children, the days are long but the years fly by. This month, Parents magazine gives perspective on how to savor those fleeting moments.

“Listen to this,” I said to my husband as I read the latest issue of Parents magazine. “This article says that there are only 940 Saturdays between a child’s birth and her leaving for college. And if your child is five years old, 260 Saturdays are gone,” I told him. Only 940 Saturdays? That’s nothing when you think about it. And it made me wonder: Am I really making the most of our short time together?

The article in the March 2012 issue was an excerpt from a new book, “No Regrets Parenting,” which carries the enticing subtitle “Turning Long Days and Short Years into Cherished Moments with Your Kids.” The book highlighted a trend I’m seeing in lots of parenting magazines, books and blogs about how we need to unplug and slow down and really engage with our children.

I’m fortunate that my freelance job allows me to be home all day with my kids. But how often do I sit down and play with the dollhouse? I might be there physically, but am I there in spirit as well?

Recently, several of my Facebook friends posted a link to an article by a mom who was tired of everyone telling her to enjoy every moment of her young children’s lives. Her point was that you don’t have to enjoy every moment of the world’s most challenging job–and I agree completely. But I loved that the Parents article talked about optimizing the time you do have. “Not every day with your kids will be perfect,” writes the book’s author Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a pediatrician of almost 30 years, “but hopefully one day you will greet their departure with a profound sense of satisfaction because you’ve given them what they need to succeed and also given yourself what you need to feel like a successful parent.”

How do we do that? How do we parent successfully when sometimes all we want is for everyone to stop talking for just five minutes?The article gave some great tips that we’re going to implement in our house:

Take pajama walks: After everyone is completely ready for bed–bathed, teeth brushed and pajamas on–take a walk around the neighborhood (weather permitting) in the stroller or on their tricycle. There doesn’t have to be lots of conversation; just quietly enjoy the final moments of the day together. Dr. Rotbart promises that when you return home your kids will be “in a fresh-air trance and ready for bed.”

Have a taco night: Dinner at home is important, but creating traditions makes it even more special for kids. Maybe you have Taco Tuesdays or Pancake Wednesdays or whatever. Having a set menu one night a week helps you get dinner on the table faster because everyone knows his or her job–leaving time for conversations about what happened at school that day.

Don’t drive everywhere: It’s much faster to hop in the car, but if you live in a place where you can walk sometimes, take advantage of that. It offers a way to slow down and engage with your children. If you’d normally drop them off at an activity and run errands during the tennis lesson, play date or karate class, take along some work or reading and find a quiet place to relax yourself. Hold hands on the walk home and savor a simple afternoon.

As much as I enjoyed the article, I don’t have unrealistic expectations. I know that by tomorrow evening, I’ll feel stressed about my messy house, my whining toddler and the two emails that needed responses hours ago. But when that feeling creeps in, I’m going to remember this advice from the article:

“Imagine your biological parenthood clock wound forward to the time when your children have grown and left home. Picture their tousled bedrooms as clean and empty. See the backseat of the car vacuumed and without a carseat or crumbs. Playroom shelves neatly stacked with dusty toys. Laundry under control. Then rewind the imaginary clock back to now, and see today’s minutes of mayhem for what they are: finite and fleeting.”

  • Rosario Thole

    She is totally right,if you don’t enjoy your kids when they are litlle,later on when they are teenagers they won’t want to spend as much time with you and you will regret as much as I do now that my daughter has turned 18 and wants nothing to say or do with me. I do regret not paying as much attention as I should to her and playing with her as much as I should alsoand I wish I could turn time back,I asure you I would give anything and everything to have her put her little arms around me,telling me “I love you Mommy” like she used to do and wanting to play with me,and all I did was to pay more attention to work and other stupid things and people that weren’t even worth it,so please!!! all mothers out there don’t make the same mistakes i made,because your precious kids lifes and time are to short and besides once they’re gone you will have enough time to keep working,relaxing or keeping your house straightened and clean,but you won’t have those precious moments with your kids again,besides when we die,we leave everything behind,clean or dirty and the only things we carry with us are,the good memories and the love for our families.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks so much for your comments Rosario. A good reminder to us all.