Thursday, October 6, 2016

5 things I wish I'd done differently as a parent

Mom2MomEd Blog: 5 things I wish I had done differently as a parent

Being a mom is HARD WORK.

And, honestly, it doesn’t get easier as kids get older—it just gets different. I am a single mom to an only child, and I don’t know who has it easier: myself or my mom friends, like McKenzie, who are married with multiple children.

I just don’t know.

What I do know, however, is that while I love the idea of living life without regrets, there are a few things I wish I had done differently as a parent. Some are directly related to parenting decisions and others are more related to how I conducted myself as an adult and how that has impacted my son.

Regardless, I hope I’ve done a good enough job and that my son will go into his 18th year and beyond with confidence, love of himself and the world, and curiosity.

That said, here are five things I wish I had done differently as a mother:
1.       Not gone back to his dad the first time I left.
My son’s dad was mentally, emotionally, and verbally abusive. I also think he had started to physically abuse my son, but I’m not 100% sure—there were some signs, but his dad always had a rational explanation for everything. I left for good, after three prior attempts, when my son was 4 years old, and I haven’t looked back. I wonder how much those first four years with his dad have impacted my son. I see some of the effects in my son’s behaviors and wonder how much damage could have been avoided.

2.       Managed my money better.
To be totally honest, before my son was born, I was terrible with money. When I was with his dad, I worked hard to be frugal, save, and make headway on debt and improving our financial situation. His dad always managed to undermine my efforts and would say things like “I’d rather live for today than worry about tomorrow” and then go on to spend the money I'd set aside for things like groceries and the utility bills. After I left for good, I was so stressed, anxious, and traumatized by those four years that starting over financially was exhausting and at times more than I could comprehend. I made poor money choices and often, even when I made exactly the right choices, I simply didn’t have enough money coming in. This year, my son and I have been tackling money issues Dave Ramsey style and I’m finally seeing some progress. I wish I’d started sooner.

3.       Made my son stay in karate.
I definitely do not regret allowing my son to quit soccer or any number of other activities, but I do wish I’d made him stick with karate. He loved karate until we ran into a frenemy situation. Eventually the frenemy situation not only included conflict between JP and his former best friend, but also between myself and the other boy’s mom. We also encountered issues with an instructor at the school. Despite resolving the instructor situation, we couldn’t get past the frenemy problem. Eventually, I let JP quit. I have regretted it ever since. He has had a lot of stress in his life, more than any child should have to deal with, but he had seemed so happy in karate prior to the fremey problem. Karate was a great outlet for his stress and anxiety and was a physical activity that helped keep him both mentally and physically healthy. It also tied in well to his very rules-bound personality and his personal commitment to issues of respect and honesty.

4.       Homeschooled him from day one.
I wanted to homeschool my children before I ever became a parent. I remember the constraints of school so well when I was curious about the world around me and really wanted to dive into different topics. I had a few amazing teachers, but I still felt stifled and didn't want my son to feel the same way. I wanted him to be free to learn and explore and soak up as much knowledge as he could about any topic that interested him. However, his dad and many others in our lives were against homeschooling (although I left his dad in 2002, we had a shared custody agreement for many years until his dad broke some major laws, went to prison, and lost all parenting rights, and until that point I was legally obligated to seek his input in educational decisions regarding JP). We didn’t begin homeschooling until halfway through fourth grade, and at that time had amazing support in place. I truly wish we’d started sooner!

5.       Spent more time listening and playing.
If you are a parent, you know how exhausting it can be to constantly be engaged with your kids (and I’m not sure you should be 100% focused on them all the time anyhow), but I wish I had been more present more often. I wish I had mustered up the energy to get down on the floor and build Lego houses or draw or go outside to kick a ball more frequently. I wish I had realized how fast those childhood years would fly by and how soon my son would want more independence and freedom and how uncool it would become to spend time with his mom. We are still super close, and I love him entirely and completely, but I wonder how many special moments were lost over the years? My guess is that most parents struggle with this one, am I right?

Despite all of this, I do know a few things for sure. I know I did a lot right.
I know I am a good mom.
I know my son is a wonderful young man.
I know we both have done the best we could.

But, if you read THIS post, you’ll know we’ve been struggling lately, and along with personal struggle comes reflection. What struggles or regrets have you experienced as a parent? How did you make peace with them?

In a future post, I'll focus on the positives and what I think I have done right as a parent!
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