If I could do it all again — raise my daughter — I would do it in an instant. While I am still stubborn enough to stand by many of my choices as a mother, there are a few things I would do a little differently. Hindsight, as it turns out, really is 20/20.
As a mom of a now twenty-two-year old prepping for college graduation, there are literally a million things I wish I had known “way back when” I was trying to figure out what to do. The Lord had blessed me with this pink, angelic, and severely frustrating little creature – without instructions, and I was too stubborn to solicit help from the matriarchs in my family. After all, she was mine, and I knew best (not better – best.)
When I was a windshield mom, my vision was set on the horizon, and making plans to see to it that my child succeeds, and accomplishes her every wish (read my every wish for her). I was paralyzed with fear of failure but driven by the image of perfection I had created. Eyes on the prize, with the end goal in sight, I painstakingly read book after book, seeking that affirmation that I knew best. Not better. (See a theme?)
Glancing back, rearview-mirror mom would tell windshield mom a thing or two.
For starters – small stuff; don’t sweat it!
My daughter’s accidental haircut from a fellow classmate when she was three was totally not a big deal. Really. It was only an inconvenience for the standard family photos that really weren’t that necessary. Impromptu moments of my child’s earlier years were best (not better).
Next up – failure. Let it happen, and let them figure it out. Rushing to the rescue, in Super-Mom cape every time there was an issue did not do my daughter any favors. Rearview mom recognizes that the bullies on the playground just grow up, and may later become our bosses and supervisors. Figuring out early how to deal with personalities and upsets, is truly beneficial.
Which leads me to guilt trips. You don’t have to pack your bags every time you feel a failure. No matter how great of a mother you are, you will – WILL – have at least one thing (if you’re lucky) to feel guilty about.
Like that time my eight-year-old convinced me she had “lost” her eyeglasses at school, only to find out the missing spectacles were the hidden object in a hide-n-seek, Scooby-Doo Mystery Squad game she and two other friends were playing. Her shenanigans forced this windshield mom’s hand – and encouraged her to release some discipline. In the form of restricted recess, and a handwritten apology to the entire third grade, which she read over the intercom, through tears, confessing her sorrow for their loss of recess while helping her “look” for the missing readers.
Yikes. I was hard-core. That one still hits me in the feels, yet, I refuse to get out the suitcase and go on a guilt trip. Although I felt terrible for her, I felt even MORE terrible for the four classes, four teachers and six aides who spent their recess helping her look for something that she knew was not missing.
This leads me to advice. I received a ton of advice from my family on how I could have handled that better. At times, even random strangers will think they know more about parenting your child than you do – in some cases, they may be right. But ultimately, this is your opportunity to learn the best way to parent your child, and it is NOT the same as it is for others because the variables are quite different. In hindsight, I would gently ask my former self to be gracious whenever it was given, and take it with a grain of salt (slice of lime, and a shot of tequila)!
My final tip is to recognize the power of your words – and your silence. Sometimes, the best thing I could have said as a parent was absolutely nothing. Your words count, and there are moments those words have lasting repercussions on a child’s sense of self-esteem, and self-worth. My drive and desire for perfection created an individual who is unable to truly celebrate successes. Instead, she examines every moment to see what she could have been done better, instead of just accepting it as her best.
It is easy to criticize yourself when you are not “in the trenches”. The truth is I probably would have made the same mistakes, in spite of what my future-self had advised. My husband and I were determined to parent our child differently than we were parented. In many ways, we did. In many ways, we relied on the familiar, known philosophies that had molded and shaped us.
Yes, the rearview mom I have become would like a chat with the windshield mom I was. But, would my former-self have listened? Likely not.
Do I beat myself up over it now? Absolutely not.
Bio: Beth Worth is a third generation public servant, currently working in public and employee relations in her hometown. She is happily married to her best friend, Joe, and together, they are the proud parents of an “adulting” daughter, Baylee, who is about to embark upon her own career. Beth resides in Rustburg, with three mouthy beagles, where she occasionally wears pants.
Photo provided by Beth Worth.