Recently it was my son’s 11th birthday and it really got me thinking about life and regrets.
He is with his father over 200 miles away as I’m ill at the moment and cannot drive. This is ok though, we FaceTime every day and he adores his father so it’s all good.
I created a slideshow of photos ranging from baby to present day and put some music to it. I then sent it to my ex for my son to see later on. Of course my son cringed and squirmed with embarrassment, as any hormonal 10 year old would do, while my ex laughed loudly at the funny photos I had chosen.
I cried as I chose the photos. I cried as I struggled to find the right song to put on the slideshow. I cried while watching the slideshow. Yes I cry at everything!!! But now in reflection, I am thinking about the past 11 years and I never thought I would be so accepting of my past and so comfortable with who I was and who I have grown into.
You see, I realise now that the past is like watching a Netflix film. We can rewind it and watch it again and again but nothing changes. What happened has happened. We can’t edit it or delete scenes so we just have to move on.
I have many regrets as a parent. Regrets of being too strict. Regrets of being too shouty at 8am, running out the door for school when my then 6 year old was having a meltdown about his socks not “feeling right. Regrets of being moody when my ex failed to be a human being towards us causing our son to get extremely upset and confused. Regrets of not being confident enough as a single parent so f***ing up decisions on parenting issues. Most of all I deeply regret not being a good enough parent to recognise his OCD and anxiety issues early on in his life and wishing I’d been calmer and not extremely irritated at his “special” routines or “special habits”. I mis-read all the signs and just didn’t understand my son at all.
I do however, congratulate myself immensely for all the wonderful things I did for and with him though, as a single parent. All the parties I threw him every year growing up, finding magicians and venues and staying up until 1am organising party bags and wrapping presents alone. Organising piano, judo and gymnastic lessons, play dates, trips to Legoland or safari parks, turning my living room into a hell hole with duvet covers, blankets, cushions and mop handles to build a massive den or even letting him paint his entire naked body in the garden on hot sunny days. I fondly remember allowing him to wear my dresses and jewellery as he played at being a girl, putting MTV on and we both danced in our pj’s like maniacs to some ear-bleeding dance music together, allowing him to slide down the stairs on the top of a duvet with cushions and pillows at the bottom. Also hilarious memories of discovering him and his best friends had put coloured pen all over their faces and ran around the house screaming like zombies or while a tradesman was giving me a quote and had his hand on the stair bannister my son decided to tie his hand to it with string so he couldn’t move! Epic parenting fail / embarrassment at that one! We had to get the scissors and the tradesmen was not amused!!!!!
The thing is Parenthood is hard work and I never imagined it would be this exhausting. I’ve made so many mistakes and I admit that now, quite happily. When my son was 3 I went through a two year divorce and during it I had to find schools, potty train, deal with tantrums, drive up and down the motorway to do tense, aggrieved handovers with my ex, go to court countless times, deal with reams and reams of legal papers, building works at home, deal with school issues as well as stuff going on in my own life like family issues, my own personal emotional issues etc. I had a great support network around me but essentially I was alone and dealing with everything alone. I admit I broke down and cracked under it all at one point. Additionally, I let the stress from all of this affect my relationships to their detriment.
When I was growing up, it was not an idyllic childhood. I have some fantastic memories of great times and adventures but mainly it was a childhood of stress, upset, abuse and fear. So becoming a parent for the first time I just panicked and got immensely upset that my father could not meet his grandson to share the joy and my mother who, unfortunately, was just not someone I could turn to for babysitting or a shoulder. I spiralled into post-natal depression, much to the exasperation of my ex husband and the overbearing responsibility for this beautiful, funny little human petrified me.
When I look back now on the past 11 years, I finally feel ok about it all and I never thought I would. I used to hate myself for my parenting skills and wished so hard that I could turn the clock back but you can’t.
What I’ve learnt over the years is that all life experiences make us and teach us. Making mistakes I’ve learnt an incredible amount. Making mistakes during my divorce. I’ve learnt. Making mistakes with my relationships I’ve learnt. And that’s what is essential here: Learning. And then moving on.
You don’t learn from successes; you don’t learn from awards; you don’t learn from celebrity; you only learn from wounds and scars and mistakes and failures. And that’s the truth.Jane Fonda
I realise I made certain decisions back then because I believed I was doing what was right. I was doing the very best I could under the circumstances & with what I had learned so far about parenting – very little indeed! I had no parental role models I could turn to and ask “what do I do?!” I just had to blindly figure it out alone or with the help of close friends, distant family or the internet and thankfully everyone got me through it!
So, when you look back at the mistakes you’ve made in life, specifically those as a parent, be kind to yourself. Tell yourself, “I did the best I could at the time without the knowledge or the experience I have now” and that’s ok. What matters is the present from here on. Whoever you are and whatever your circumstances, you are ok and you are doing a great job.
Parenting can be shit and soul-destroying at times, especially if you’re alone but you got through it and you’re getting through it every day. So box up those regrets and don’t label them sadness, label them “life experiences” and put them in the attic with the Christmas decorations. Now, get your pjs on, dance like a loon at MTV with your child and shout out “I AM DOING OK!”