Thursday, July 15, 2010


If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing.  My daughters are perfect just the way they are. I mean that.  They're almost grown up now, and they are turning out well in spite of my many parenting mistakes.  If I had done things a lot differently when they were little, they may not be the amazing young women they are today.  Who knows?

But on the other hand,  I am aware that I did a lot of stupid things back then.  I know I was doing the best I could do at the time, but looking back at those years sometimes I sort of shake my head and wonder what I was thinking.  For example,  I always tried so hard to get them to dress in matching sister-dresses for special occasions. They weren't thrilled with this and let me know it, but I was so into silly things like this that I sometimes bribed them to get them to dress up in cute outfits so I could take pictures.  Now I am pretty sure I would let go of things like that, and realize that all little kids are gorgeous no matter how they're dressed.

I have learned a whole lot of things about kids in the last 20 years or so. Here are a few other things that I think I would do differently if I could rewind the clock to 1987:

-No TV.  My kids didn't watch a lot of TV.  Even back then I realized it wasn't the best thing for them.  But still, I let them watch a lot more than they needed. Now I know that screen time is a vacation from brain development.  And I also understand a lot more about the brainwashing that happens through  advertising, even on kids' channels.  (Especially on kids' channels!)

-Let go.  Now I think I understand a little better how to let go of things that used to make me crazy and stressed:  like what other parents thought of me, what my house looked like,  and other things that really don't matter very much.

-Take care of myself.  From this vantage point, I can now see that the stress I felt when the girls were little was mostly self-induced.  I didn't know enough to realize that not taking mommy-breaks when I needed them was hurting my kids even more than myself.  I really didn't need a lot back then:  I wouldn't have wanted spa weekends or anything extravagant.  But I definitely needed short daily breaks to read a book or go for a walk.  I usually just ignored my rising blood pressure and increasingly short fuse,  and kept trudging through my days.  Of course,  the result of this was that my kids had to deal with a mom who was cranky and "on her last nerve" a lot.  Sorry, girls.

-No guilt.  Take it from the Queen Of Mom Guilt:  indulging in this feeling gets you nowhere, and it's all too easy to pass it on to the next generation.

-Lower my standards.  Or at least figure out which parts of parenting are really worth putting lots of effort into.

-Raise my standards.  I would re-prioritize laughter, down-time, and fun and make sure they're much higher on the to-do list every day.

-Read.  I read to my kids a lot, as all good moms do.  But during those years I let go of my own love for reading.  When I did read books, they were, naturally, parenting books.  I now know that in order to be sane, functional, and fully present for those around me, I need to be in the middle of at least one good book at all times.  (Preferably a book that is not particularly good for me. )  I made a rule about 10 years ago that I would NOT read anything just because I thought I SHOULD read it.  I've pretty much stuck to that rule, and I'm a happier and more relaxed person. Paradoxically, I'm more productive as well.  (Konne taught me this, and I thank her for that.)

-Get a dog.  Now that my two little mutts rule the house, I realize that this family has been needing a dog the whole time!

I'm sure there are a few more changes I would make, but that's all water under the bridge now.  But oh well, I can always test my ideas when I become a Nana in a few years!


  1. Thanks for this. In the last month I've read Pillars of the Earth and Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife. It felt very indulgent...but a must needed vacation from the parenting books and the rest of my life.

  2. Hi, this is Bin. I was touched by reading the reflections and I believe your girls will as well. I think here's the place that I'll check often:)

  3. Thanks for writing this - It's good to hear as I'm often in the thick of mommy guilt ;) I'm taking your advice on reading books that are not necessarily parenting books. It's hard to find the time!

  4. I'm glad I found this post. This is great advice. Thanks Annie!

  5. Tiffany, Bin, Amy, and Kim- thanks for reading and commenting. I re-read this post just now, and realized a couple of things: A. I could add many more items to the list of things I would like to do over. and B. It wouldn't matter. Kids need imperfect parents for so many reasons. Most of all they need us with all our imperfections so that we can model "trying" for them. If you're already doing everything right, there's nothing to strive for, and our kids wouldn't learn about trying hard to be better. And, like I said, I love the way my kids have grown into young adults, in spite of and because of me and my husband and our successes and failures as parents!


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