Last year my oldest child left for college, which happened about 24 hours after he was born. Or at least that’s how it felt to me. I can look back and think of a few things that I regret as his mom; nothing too serious, just a thing or two that I might change. I do, however, have a list of things that I refuse to regret even if some might consider me a bad mom. I plan on holding on to these same non-regrets (and maybe a few more) with my other two children.
Here they are:
1) Physical affection until they can’t take it anymore. I was a serious baby nibbler when my kids were infants. Cheeks, necks, chunky legs, and feet were all subject to kisses every chance I got. Even when they got too old for belly raspberries I still insisted on good night and good-bye kisses. My oldest and I compromised with him presenting me with the top of his head for those mandatory kisses. I just really believe in showing your kids love as well as telling them. They are going to need therapy either way, so why not enjoy a cuddle or two while you can get it?
2) Allowing dirty, even horrifying bedrooms. When I was a kid, I had to keep my room spotless and it was never clean enough for my clean crazy mom. She and I argued horribly every single morning before I left for school. I would yell something terrible at her and slam the door while I picked up my girlfriend Cheryl with tears in my eyes. When I became an adult, my mom told me that she really regretted that. I do too. You only get to live with your children for a very short time. Why not make that time pleasant? Trust me, their rooms will be spotlessly clean when they leave for college and you will be wishing for the big mess that means they are home again.
3) Pulling them out of school for family vacations or something really cool and fun. I’m a big proponent of education, but sometimes being with your family to do something amazing is even more important. I pulled my kids for a week in Disney World. They have yet to flunk out of school and my oldest even got accepted to a nice college. I pulled them again for a once in a lifetime trip to Israel. No amount of education will replace what they learned as they scurried up Masada and then learned the story of what the Jews did to honor themselves on that mountain. A day in school will never teach my children what visiting an Israeli army base taught them about devotion to your country and your people. Sometimes life’s lessons happen outside of school.
4) Let them eat junk food once in a while. I really respect moms who don’t allow preservatives or sugar into their homes -- but I’m not that mom. Some of my favorite memories as a kid revolve around junk food even though my mom was all about healthy eating. I think some of you may go into shock from the following sentences so read on with care. Sometimes my family eats movie theatre popcorn and candy for a meal! Seriously, a whole meal. We’ve been known to pick up Dunkin Donuts for a particularly lazy Sunday morning and, in my humble opinion, life isn’t worth living without the periodic Dairy Queen Blizzard. We eat lots of fruits and vegetables but we aren’t McDonald’s virgins and we aren’t ashamed of it.
Life is fragile and we only get a short time to live with our children full time. I urge you to think ahead about the day they leave for some version of adulthood and what you will regret doing or not doing while you had them at home. Pick your battles and pick your adventures with your children. Will a clean room really matter down the road or will having a home filled with love, kindness, and the periodic donut be what all of you remember?
Lisa Kaplin is a psychologist and life coach at www.smartwomeninspiredlives.com
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credit: janicecullivan.
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