There was a saying my dad used quite often that I now find myself using as well. He loved to say it when I had made a mistake, recognized that mistake, and begged for leniency from whatever punishment he was getting ready to dole out. Near the end of his life, an end that was cruel and torturous as his body was ravaged with emphysema, brought on by years of smoking cigarettes, he would look back at decisions he made and, once again, his mouth would utter the words:
I understood the saying, even as a kid. I knew what it meant to look back and see something clearly that at one time wasn’t so clear. Unfortunately, decisions have to be made in the here and now. Sometimes those decisions turn out to be correct. Other times, they prove to be detrimental if not disastrous.
As a teenager, I wanted desperately to try alcohol. My dad was a borderline alcoholic at one time so my parents never kept it in the house. When I started working at my dad’s business, a gas and service station, I made friends with many people older than me. I was 15 at the time. A few years later, as my desire to experience what all the older friends I had made were experiencing, I talked a coworker into buying some alcohol for me. In hindsight, that was a very poor decision on my part. It didn’t take me long to get used to the taste, nor did it take me long to desire harder liquor and more of it. After several years of being able to control my alcoholic intake, I found that I was losing that control. Long story short, I ended up in a hospital detox program and was sent home with a prescription for a drug that would make me violently ill if any alcohol entered my system.
Hindsight’s twenty-twenty. I should have recognized my addictive personality and stopped drinking…or never started in the first place.
Nowhere do I see the truth more of this hindsight saying than parenting. The last several years, especially, have opened my eyes to the twenty-twenty vision of the past. Maybe it’s because as I have grown older, and my children have grown up and moved out, I have much more time on my hands. I also wonder if maybe because I have more years to look back on than I do years to look forward to (most likely) that hindsight comes to taunt me on a daily basis. The frustrating thing about it, though, is I only seem to remember all the times I screwed up or lost my patience or jumped to conclusions.
Case in point…last night, my husband offered to treat me to ice cream. We have been following a healthy lifestyle and diet for the past two months so ice cream was indeed a special treat. We stopped at an ice cream place near where we had been doing some shopping. This particular place is a chain and has been around quite a while. We used to take our kids there when we had extra money. I ordered my usual–chocolate with caramel–and sat down. A family came in with a few little kids, and I started thinking about when we were a young family going out for a special treat. I remembered a time when we had taken our four kids to this very ice cream place. Our son, an ice cream fanatic, wanted the largest size they had. I told him he could only get a small. Then he asked for a medium. I again repeated that he could only get a small–all of us were getting the small size. He had a major meltdown in the store and ended up not getting anything–his choice. I literally fought back tears as I sat and ate my ice cream. What would have been the harm in letting him get a bigger size? I am convinced if one looks up the word “guilt” in a dictionary, one would find a picture of a mom and her kid(s). Motherhood is filled with things to feel guilty over. And all those things are seen so clearly in hindsight.
This week, a Facebook friend posted the following graphic:
I cried as I read it. It resonated deep within me. I know there is no such thing as a perfect parent, but hindsight has allowed me to see that not only was I far from perfect, at times I was lazy, selfish, angry, apathetic…you get the idea. I used to say that I did the best I could. The truth is, I know I didn’t always do that.