I had bought into a lie. Subconsciously, but fully. Maybe you have too. It has to do with motherhood and regrets, how those two things shouldn’t be paired together. Somehow at some point I believed (without recognizing I believed it), that if I were a good enough mom, I wouldn’t/couldn’t/shouldn’t/ have regrets. Wishful thinking but untrue. Ridiculous, in fact. You can’t trudge through life—let alone parenthood—without a few internal scrapes and bruises, without a handful (or more) of moments you look back on and think, Huh. Wish I would have handled that differently.
Regrets come in all forms but parental regrets seem to bully the heart the most. At least for me. Regret over how we as moms fell short, missed the mark, regret over missed opportunities and tempers lost. And it’s not like all lingering mom regrets are the kind that will launch your kid into a psychologist’s office when he’s twenty-one. (I hope not anyway.) Like when my son was four and came downstairs from his bedroom in the middle of the night to say he wasn’t feeling well and in my deep, brain-dead state of sleep I said, “Just lay on the floor.” On the wood floor by our bed. The cold, wood floor. Don’t think I even handed him a pillow. Morning dawned and my brain cells regenerated and I had this brilliant idea to feel his forehead only to find that the poor child was burning with fever.
Or the time when my two-year-old daughter threw a tantrum while I was trying to strap her into an old-fashioned child’s bike seat and as she flung herself around like a noodle I grabbed for her and my fingernail cut into her chest and it bled and she screamed and sobbed and looked at me in utter betrayal. One small scar for her, more than a little regret for me.
There are other regrets, too. Deeper ones that require more energy (and a counselor maybe) to bring to the light. Not remembering the first three months of my sweet son’s life because of the thick fog of postpartum depression. Not experiencing anything, anything, of my daughter’s first ten and a half months of life, and yes I know that was way beyond my control. Sometimes, even now with a preteen and teenager, I’ll see a newborn and I want to burst into tears. I missed that, I think. Twice.
And there are other regrets. There are others.
We all have them. And Mother’s Day can be a doozy of a holiday for many people for many different reasons: Infertility. Death. Estrangement. Singleness. Miscarriage. Abortion. Prodigals. Physical distance. Emotional distance. Unmet expectations. Many may be walking around in their Sunday best, choking on emotion—perhaps good, perhaps bad, probably a mixture of both— all smoothed over by glittery cards and brunch and long-stemmed roses.
So happy Mother’s Day from Debbie Downer who’s now going to turn this sad little ship around. Can we start by being extra kind to one another this weekend, mother or not?But back to this regret thing. What can a mom to do when she’s slammed with regrets?
Ask for truth. It’s easy to lose perspective, blow things out of proportion, and we need to ask God to speak truth into any given situation. Sometimes, when my mind is stuck on a specific regret, I ask God to bring to my mind something I did right, to bring me a sweet memory. Other times God may be letting our regrets prompt and even convict us to make some changes.
Ask for forgiveness, if need be. Maybe from your child, maybe from God, maybe from someone else. Instead of rationalizing the things we did or didn’t do that led to parental regret, we could own them and ask for forgiveness and then, maybe, regret’s power will dry up a little.
Ask for today. Don’t let those little beastly regrets rob you of right now. Regrets can easily snowball into “I can’t do anything right ever!” circles of thought. So we messed up yesterday. Now is today. Maybe we messed up five minutes ago. Here comes another five. We have now and only now, and to be gifted with one more day, one more hour, one more moment, is something to celebrate.