I am pretty sure we all have moments in our lives we wish we could do over. Big or small, there are always those things you just can’t un-do. But sometimes we are given a chance. A chance to make it right, to do over that moment we wish had never happened.
As I’ve been contemplating my own do-over moments for this post, my mind first went to cooking. Like the first time I made brownies as a ten-year-old girl. I was melting butter and chocolate and wanted to ask my mom a question, ran upstairs, and came back to a burned mess. My mom was patient and kind, helping me clean the pan and pulling together new ingredients to start over. Or the time I made my first roast beef dinner. Roast beef and mashed potatoes felt like the quintessential home-cooked meal when I was young, so when I was first married, I decided to try my hand at this classic comfort meal. Of course I invited a few friends over to eat with us. I was excited about my new home (i.e. dark basement apartment) and being able to entertain (i.e. squeeze around a tiny, hand-me-down kitchen table). The meat AND potatoes were dry as bones. Everyone was kind. They ate their meal and politely praised my talents and it was a fun evening of food and friends. I can remember each person who was there (hi Maren, Celeste and Rob!) and think of that night with fondness. And while I couldn’t re-do the particular food I served that night, as with any recipe, I was able to make it again and again and now have no problem whipping up a tender roast and creamy, flavorful mashed potatoes.
As I continued thinking about these do-over moments, I realized that, as a parent, I have moments I wish I could do over all the time. More than in any other part of my life. Parenting is hard and I am far from the perfect parent. I would hazard to say that I have do-over moments every day with my children. Some are bigger, some are smaller, but I really don’t think a day goes by that I don’t have a time or two (or more) where I really wish I had handled things differently with my little ones. But the magical thing about parenting is that while there is ample opportunity for making mistakes, there is just as much opportunity to make it better and do it right.
My life as a mother is full of Daily Do Overs.
Take for example just this week…I was having a particularly busy day with work. The kids are home for the summer and trying to balance work with fun with household responsibilities is proving to be quite the balancing act. I had some work that I had to get done before we could head off to do errands, go to a playdate and then dance class. I was sitting at my computer completely focused on that work and not much else. The words “In a minute” escaped my mouth many times in a very rote way.
Anna asked for a cup of milk. “I can get that for you in a minute, sweetie.”
Type. Type. Type.
Owen piped in with, “Waaaaahhh…I want my binky and someone to cuddle with me!” (Can you believe he’s using full sentences already? Wink wink.)
Type. Binky in mouth. Type. DVD cases to play with. Type.
Then Cate walked in. She asked if the shirt she had picked out matched her denim shorts. I quickly glanced at what she had chosen, told her anything matches denim shorts, and she left the room saying, “Okay!” She returned a few minutes later saying something about her zipper. Cate likes us to do everything for her, so I just assumed this was another case of her wanting me to do something that she could do herself. Without listening or paying attention, I just turned to Cate and said, “Honey, you can zip up your own pants.” She quietly left my side.
With no time to spare, I finished up what I had to do and told the kids to hop in the car. Anna started asking/whining about her milk and I impatiently told her she would be fine. She started crying and then both girls obediently went out to the car. A pang of guilt hit and I realized how SIMPLE it is to just get a cup of milk. So, I poured a sippy cup of milk and took it with me to the car. She was delighted. Daily Do Over #1.
At some point I looked back in the car and noticed Cate was wearing black leggings. I was perplexed, she had thought so hard about her cute outfit for the day. “Honey, why are you wearing your black leggings”
Cate replied with, “My zipper was stuck on the shorts so I had to change.”
She couldn’t get the zipper up. She was asking me for help because she needed it. And I had been too busy and focused on my to-do list to even hear what she was asking me. When I didn’t give her the help she sought, she quietly found a solution. Which is sweet and I’m proud of her, but, man, did I feel like a crummy mom.
“I’m sorry I didn’t help you fix your zipper, Cate. I didn’t realize it was stuck.”
“It’s okay, Mom.”
That’s the amazing thing about kids. They are so forgiving. And so good at forgetting. And moving on. Which is the saving grace of parenting. And the reason why it’s so important to just say sorry when we screw up and jump at any chance at a do over.
When we got home, I went and found her shorts in the drawer (that she had put away like a good girl!) and got that zipper unstuck. Daily Do Over #2. Sure, I was a little late to the game, but at least I had arrived.
A friend of mine named Rachel is a teacher. She was telling me about an experience she had once where she got to sit in on parent-teacher conferences with another teacher, one who was an amazing educator and a great mentor for her. Rachel worked at a private school for talented, over-the-top-smart children who have to go through a battery of tests to attend the school. In one parent-teacher conference, a set of particularly over-achieving, Silicon Valley parents asked Rachel’s mentor, “What is the number one thing we can do to help our child’s development and to help them succeed in school?”
“Apologize to your kids.”
Rachel said they were surprised, puzzled. I think they maybe even pushed the issue a bit. But the teacher held her ground. The best thing you can do for your child’s success is to say sorry when you make a mistake.
I can’t tell you how relieved that advice made me feel. I may not be perfect, but I do always say sorry to my children when those “do-over moments” happen. And, when I can, I really do try to do the moment over.
Like I said, it’s a daily struggle for me and, I believe, for all parents. But it’s a forgiving struggle. And I am so grateful for those Daily Do Overs. I don’t know what I would do without them.
This post was sponsored by Frigidaire. When you share your own do-over moment at www.facebook.com/Frigidaire, Frigidaire will donate $1 to Save the Children’s U.S. programs. Plus, Frigidaire® will help cover the costs for one lucky visitor to win the ultimate do-over.