I’ve been doing some deep thinking lately. I’m getting older and four of my seven children have left home. I’ve been pondering some what-ifs and reminiscing. I know that it is normal for people to have regrets and wish they could do some things differently when they look back at their lives. I definitely would make a few different choices on a few different days from my past, especially from my teen years. I think most of those kinds of things are completely normal.
I am really proud of the way my children have turned out so far and do not have regrets there. However, there are a very few things I would do differently concerning the raising of my children. I am motivated to write this blog post because I would love for young mothers to listen and learn from the things I wish I had done a little differently.
The following may seem like a small thing but it is not. One of the things I would do differently is Christmas. I let it get out of control. When the first couple of children were small I set the precedent and did not look to the future. I over-bought for the kids and didn’t know how to stop it once it was started. I love the new idea I have heard from several young mothers. They limit their gift giving to four things and ask grandparents to limit their gifts as well. The idea I have heard is that kids only receive “something you wear, something you read, something you want, and something you need.” My kids are not necessarily greedy but they expect things that they should not have been taught (by me) to expect. Teach your children about giving more than receiving at Christmas time. I wish I had done that.
I hesitate to share some things for fear that people might think I am boasting. That is not my intent here. Here goes: I have been stopped by complete strangers many times over the years and complimented on the behavior of my children, in restaurants, in department stores, while grocery shopping, at church services… Of course, the first question was usually, “Are they all yours?” There are two things I’d like to say about this. The first is that I was probably way too hard on the oldest children, especially the firstborn. From the time he was a toddler he had to tow the line. There was not any compromise. He was expected to obey and to obey immediately without question. He was loved, and played with, and read to, and rocked, but he was never allowed to let the terrible-twos rear their ugly head. He never threw a tantrum that was ignored or sassed his mother unless it was addressed. I’m NOT saying that parents should allow their children to be unruly or rebellious. I am saying that I now know some things I did not know then. Kids should be able to express themselves once in a while without fear of a spanking, and an occasional tantrum from a small child is only “normal.” I wish I had been a little more understanding and given a few less spankings. My younger children were given a little more leniencies when they misbehaved.
The second thing I’d like to say on this topic of well-behaved children is that I now fully understand that some children are much easier to train and mold than others. Some kids are even easier to love than others. My first five kids were typically developing, easy-going, fun kids. I had no idea that there were kids out there who were unable to follow directions because of a disability. I had never heard of “sensory” issues or many of the things I have dealt with since Tate was born. My regret here would be because I was judgmental of many others whose children did NOT obey them. I felt superior because my children were well behaved. I regret my thoughts and attitude! Don’t make my mistake and look at another mother and judge her harshly.
I do not "regret" adopting our high-maintenence, special needs child. I wish her birth mother would not have been drinking alcohol during her pregnancy but there is nothing I can do about that. I have already written a blog post in the past called "Would I do it over again?" I am inserting a portion of it below. Then I will continue with my BIGGEST regret concerning the rearing of my children.
Once in a while people ask me if I would do it all over again. Would I still adopt Sydney? Honestly, I think I would, but perhaps it depends on what day I was being asked. I think I would because I love her with all my heart. I think I would because I cannot bear to think about where she would be or what she would be doing if she was still in Russia. I think I would because she has a soul and I want her to go to Heaven. I fear that someday my answer will change. *Thirty percent of people in prison had birth mothers who drank. That scares me. If a person has brain damage that keeps them from being able to make good decisions, how are they to obey laws? If a person has little or no impulse control, how can they be kept safe?
No one has ever asked me the same question about Tate, perhaps because he is not adopted. If I could turn back the clock, would I still have planned one more baby, the year before Tate was born? I would not have. There, I said it. I would not have conceived a baby, knowing he would have autism. I think anyone who is being honest would say the same (however, I could be wrong.) Autism has drained me emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially. Having said that... I adore Tate. My world revolves around Tate. I am not a patient person, but I almost never lose my patience with Tate. He brings me a lot of happiness and he has taught me a lot of things. Although I have been drained in many ways, Tate and autism have helped me to grow spiritually. I see things much differently than I used to and I am a much better person than I was before Tate was born. The main reason I would not have purposely conceived a baby knowing he would have autism doesn’t have as much to do about what autism has done to me as it has to do with what autism has done to Tate. I see him struggle to fit in and know he will never be able to understand the world around him.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: The phrase “Everything happens for a reason” is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. God does not give people autism and God does not cause women to drink so their babies will be born with a lifelong handicap. That whole idea is absurd. It is true that we can make the best of a bad situation and grow stronger because of it but there is no divine reason a child is born with a handicap.
None of the above thoughts or feelings really matter in the end. Both kids are here. Both kids are mine. Both kids are handicapped. Both kids are loved. Both kids bring me and others so much joy. I really do love my life.
*I have since read that the percentage of people in prison with FAS is actually much higher than thirty percent.
Here it is. THE BIGGEST REGRET I HAVE WHEN I THINK BACK: I wish I’d had a regularly scheduled (daily or weekly) Bible study at home with my kids. I was their Bible class teacher on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights for much of their childhood and we did often discuss religious topics at home so I am sure they were taught the truth. We had many people in our homes for Bible studies over the years but we never had a scheduled time to study with our own kids. We often sing hymns in the car and we have ALWAYS prayed before meals but I regret the lack of a regular in-home study with my kids. THAT is my biggest regret. If your kids are small establish a time now and make it so important that you schedule other things around it. If your husband is often gone like mine then do it without him. When he is home then he can lead and when he is not home then you can lead the study, but do not neglect this and regret it later like I do!