Once Your Kids Are Grown, Don’t Do This

Every parent screws up.

Every parent makes big mistakes, little errors, bad choices and uses poor judgment. Every mother has yelled at her kids in the grocery store, and every dad has lost his temper when his children talk back. Every family focuses on the wrong things sometimes, ignoring the good when the bad overwhelms. Every child is affected by their parents’ personality quirks and flaws, and every parent looks at their children and wonders, “Where the heck did he/she come from?” No one gets out of parenting without making bad decisions or acting inappropriately.

Anyone who tells you they did is either lying or crazy.

Once our kids are grown, we get the time to reflect on our experience raising them and then comes the worst thing of all.


There isn’t much in life that is a bigger waste of time than regret. I mean, I regret the entire year of 1985 and most of 1986 and a good chunk of 1987, but I don’t dwell on it. Even though I made big, huge, life-changing stupid mistakes – even though that all happened, I have put it behind me. Because, in fact, those years ARE behind me. As are the years of raising my children.

As a parent, I (along with my husband) made some whopper mistakes. The thing is, though, I was doing the very best I could, under the circumstances – those being that I had never been a mother before to the two children I was fortunate enough to bring into this world and raise. I didn’t know anything about being a mom to my children, in particular, or to children in general, so I followed my instincts, watched other moms with their kids, and remembered how my parents raised my brother and me. I’d guess that about 75% of the time I got it right. The other 25 percent? Well, that’s where regret could come in. Now that my kids are grown-ups, and my job raising them is done, I can clearly see what I might have done differently for each of them to make them better, shinier, more perfect people than they are – and it’s a complete and utter waste of time for me to give that any thought.

There is no point in regretting the mistakes I made or the things I didn’t do that I should have. Even if your grown kid is a disaster – if he has no job, if he drinks too much, if she never finished school, if she doesn’t talk to you anymore – regret is not going to change what happened while they were growing up. Unless you walked out on your kids or something equally as damaging, I bet you were as good a parent as you could have been. And if you weren’t, then maybe there are things you can do now to change that. Either way, bemoaning what you did wrong won’t help you – and it definitely won’t help your adult kids. If an apology is in order, then apologize, but after that, let go of regret. Leave it behind like I left 1985 in the dustbin of history. And 1986. And part of 1987. Because there’s no sense in carrying that with me.

One important thing I’ve learned about my kids is they are basically the same as they were when they were little tiny people. They came out of the womb with distinct and strong personalities that made my relationship with each of them unique. What worked with one child definitely didn’t work with the other. What one required of me the other one had no use for. And that is where mistakes were made, I think. Because there is not much I could have done to adjust my personality to meet every need my two very interesting and vastly different children had. Some of me worked with each of them, and some of me didn’t. There’s no point in regretting who I am, any more than there is in regretting who they are. We got through it ok.

Do I wish I had done some things differently? Absolutely. Do my kids wish I’d done some things differently? For sure. But in spite of my mistakes, my kids are pretty decent grown-ups. In fact, I like them both a lot, in addition to loving them as fiercely as I did the day they were born. And I don’t regret one minute of being their mother.

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  • susan bonifant

    I have found that the more open you are to examining the things you’ve talked about here, the less you probably screwed up and the more your kids would likely look at you if you told them a regret and say, “Wait are you sure that was me?”

    You are so conscientious and respectful of your children, it’s hard to imagine you strayed off the path any more than we all did, and your words here about the uselessness of recalling things out of context are very, very wise.

    Wherever I can do it, I am leaving one of my favorite expressions of last year: “Forgive yourself for not having the foresight to know what is so obvious in hindsight.”

    And this: when I fall into pockets of melancholy/mistake-regret, I now ask myself: Did I know better? And, would I do that today? If the answer is no and no , it just means I grew and learned like we’re s’posed ta.

    Nice piece, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

  • Judy Williamson

    Well, darling Sharon…..you are MY child. Of course, I made mistakes BUT I think what has “worked” for us is that we have always focused on the positive and when we were in doubt, we sang;…..A LOT. (or shopped).

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