Reflections of a Mom: My Top 10 Mom Do-Over List
I have said several things over and over to my two boys throughout the years:
“Hopefully I won’t mess up so badly you are driven to one of those daytime talk shows,” (think Maury Povich, Wendy Williams, and Karamo Brown) seems to be one that I said a lot.
I also said, “Every parent, mine included, does the absolute best that they can, and we fall short.
The hope is that each generation gets that much better. My mom is twice the mom hers was, I am five times the mom mine is, you guys will be ten times the parent I am-heck my grandkids are going to have the best lives ever-possibly because of the corrected generational screw ups of the parents before them!”
That being said, knowing I could not get it all right, I agonized over decisions I made in the moment that I now see could have made a big difference if I had done things differently.
For this year, I have been in reflection mode. I have been looking back at a lot of my decisions. This year, I am going to share 10 things on my mom do-over list.
My reflections have not all been critical; next January, I am going to share the things I really did right as a mom, because those should definitely have a list too!
- Raising healthy-well adjusted adult men is serious!
I took “momming” very seriously. I wanted to get it right. I wanted to raise boys who could go out into the world, happily and independently. This took a lot of decision making and deliberation, about seemingly every single thing. I nearly obsessed about learning styles and teaching style match ups to help my children better grow, food choices to give their growing bodies the best chance possible (while still falling in our budget), behavior expectations, how to interact with others, etc. It seemed to me there was a minefield at every turn trying to blast my efforts to give my boys the best chance I could.
This was probably the biggest mom do-over; I took life too seriously.
I would play more!
I did not laugh enough, play enough, simply enjoy the moment with my amazing boys…enough.
I was trying so hard to help them navigate the “now” so they could be prepared for the “later” that I woke up one day and they were gone. My boys were men.
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2. I worried all of the time about everything.
This goes with #1, but I could get really “worked up.” Unfortunately, today, school shootings seem to occur so often, many are almost numb when the news announces another one.
I would hear of a shooting, which were much more rare when my boys were in school, or a campus lockdown, or even something imagined in my mind, and I could start crying with such an intense worry for these little men I loved with every ounce of my soul.
When they met with obstacles in school they should not have faced (bullying, lies, etc) I would put on a brave and fierce front for them, but I could be found at home, almost unable to function with sadness and worry for what I could do.
For some reason, I took every situation on as something I needed to do or fix. Much of these, I could do absolutely nothing, some were fabricated fears in my head.
Now, I am older and wiser, if not completely able to change my “worrying ways.” I love this quote by Erma Bombeck:
“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.”
If I could have a mom do-over alleviating worry would be at the top, for sure!
I would try to find a more practical way to feel, communicate my love, and expend my energy.
3. We did every sport/activity the boys were interested in.
My generation was one of the first that had “open enrollment.” This concept means that you can go to any school in your district. While this seems like a great idea, it causes a lot of ripples you would not expect.
All of a sudden, my boys had friends who were not in the neighborhood, they were across town. Much of the time, my boys did not even know the children in our near vicinity because they were attending other schools.
We, as parents, thought the best thing was to put our children into after school activities and sports. This gave the boys things to do that they liked, kept them engaged with other kids, and kept them from being “bored.”
Well, we went overboard in my “now” brain. Every single thing those boys wanted to do and try, we said, “go for it!” This meant I was running like crazy, as were the boys. Every single second was scheduled with an activity. I was stressed because of the schedule and my need to do everything “right” (see #1) so trying to get a healthy meal on the table around all of these activities made me “crazy mom.”
I would limit the activities.
I would like a mom do-over and instead I would have each boy try various activities throughout the years (not every single year). While keeping one that they love, they could add just one more that year. So, for each child, no more than two activities. I got caught up in the “they have to start young” for a variety of reasons. Each kid does not have to start with T-ball, they can start with little league.
4. I rested and rejuvenated on the weekends.
I was tired and on survival much of the time. By the time Friday night came, I was ready for “down time.” Much of this was due to that crazy schedule in #3.
Both of my boys were in club baseball, which also took enormous chunks out of the weekend. So, I just ended up having a view of sliding from one thing to another. This was our life.
We should have camped together.
I do wish I had insisted on being a “camping” family. A lot can be learned by going out into nature and just “being.” We could have slowed down and just “hung out” together with no schedule dictating our next move.
The caveat to this is, while I really wish I had done this, I have deliberated over this one again and again, and I really do not see how we could have made this work. My husband travels for work, usually he is not home on weekends. The boys had no school on weekends. Both boys loved baseball and did very well in it. All of their club ball events were on the weekends, year round.
So, this shows that while I wish I had a mom do-over in this sense, I do not think I could have changed it.
5. There were no little trips.
While we could not easily have become a “camping family,” I could have done more little trips.
We had full days at our disposal. Days where I was pooped! And, of course, I am not mentioning all of the “normal” stuff that has to get done, like laundry, meal planning, cooking, and cleaning.
I took “advantage” of those days we had to ourselves to get stuff done and relax. It never occurred to me that one day, I would not have the boys around to play with.
I would have taken fun, short, spontaneous trips.
We live in a lovely area. Within 2 hours, we have a lot of things to do and see. My realistic mom do over is I would have maximized those days we did have and incorporated more spontaneous trips to create more memories together.
6. My boys were so busy they had very little time to be bored.
We live on a hill in a neighborhood with primarily retired people. The boys could not just go to the neighbors and play all day, which was a large reason for #3.
My younger son, Alec, had a horrible time with empty time. He was a child who knew what an ipad or computer games were. My older child, Andrew, grew up as all of those things were just coming out and we were able to say “no” to any of them in our home.
Andrew had a great imagination and could play on his own and be “bored;” he would just find something to do.
I needed to teach creative and imaginative play.
Alec had a very hard time with this. I would do that time over and actually create more times of “boredom.” What I would do differently, however, is that I would actively teach Alec ways to use that time. I would try to teach creativity and imaginative play. This entire computer age happened so quickly to us all, that I did not realize play and imagination were a talent and skill that needed to be expressly taught and communicated.
7. We were an island.
This was probably my “fault.” I think I operated from “lizard brain” much of the time.
*My husband was gone at least half of the week, every week.
*I was striving for perfection, in everything (basically, I was obsessing).
*I worried, everyday about everything
*We were running, all of the time.
*I was exhausted, mentally and physically, but wanted to give more to the boys.
*As an aside, we lived on our own, no family or other support system in the state.
It never occurred to me that I could find ways to make life easier or richer.
I would have connected with other moms.
Now, I know about mom groups.
Now, I know that moms help each other with carpooling.
Now, I know that these friendships with other moms who have kiddos the same ages as your kiddos forge amazing friendships for your children.
If #1 was my biggest mom do-over, this is definitely a close second. I did not realize the depth of the relationships that are forged for the kids when you connect with other moms. There are social lessons learned in, usually, a supportive environment, from friends.
There is also a supportive environment for moms. There is help. This would have been a way to stop the crazy. My boys and I would have lead much different lives, I think, if I had just been able to stop…and think… and notice what others were doing.
8. I thought my boys did not listen and chose to not do what I asked.
This area embarrasses me. However, a list of what I would do differently should be vulnerable and revealing.
There were “chores” or stuff, each of the boys were responsible for. I was a teacher, I should have seen this so much earlier. Instead there was a lot of heartache, anger and frustration.
I knew my boys were different. However, for some reason, it never occurred to me that they learned differently or interpreted the world differently.
My oldest could get stuff done with very little input from me.
However, my younger child, would do great with the first thing I asked but never got to the second or third. I assumed he chose to just not do what I asked. For years, I assumed this. He never communicated otherwise, he was young, how could he?
This mom do over breaks my heart. I hope I did not do irreversible damage with Alec with the years of my anger and frustration of why he just could not do the three things I asked him to do?
I would have created “to-do” lists, early!
Alec’s results changed overnight as soon as I figured out that nagging was not doing any good. All I had to do was write down what I needed him to do.
He loved having it all written down on a whiteboard and being able to draw a line through each item was his style.
Alec has short term memory issues. He could not remember what I asked after completing the first task. Once he had a list, he completed a task, drew a line through it, and moved onto the next one.
I would then go over each one and erase the ones that were done with the expectations. For example, if I asked him to empty all of the trash cans, but he did not get the one in the office, I would write “office”. He would complete it.
No nagging. No feelings of inadequacy. No conflict.
9. I communicate my love through cooking.
I think my boys are going to put on my gravestone, “She made the best waffles,” or some such thing!
Seriously, one of the reasons #1 taking things so seriously is my biggest mom do-over is because it leaks into so many other aspects of how I presented as a mom.
I loved on my boys, a lot. One of my less obvious ways of showing my love was through my cooking. I made a good dinner, almost every night.
When Andrew was only 12 years old, I was rushing, like usual, and could not make a lovely dinner, so I stopped at Costco and got the chicken alfredo that they make.
We sat down for dinner, Andrew takes one bite, and says, “Mom, is this a cheater meal?”
I was stunned. Cheater meal? What the heck?
I sputtered, “What do you mean?”
“Well, it doesn’t taste right-did you cheat somehow?” the uncannily smart kid replied.
My dinners were commonly 1.5 hours to prepare, usually 4 nights a week.
The good news is that they were healthy and well liked.
The bad news is this was another thing that made me feel rushed and panicky.
Time to learn to cook.
I would have started preparing my boys for living on their own and cooking on their own at home better. I “dabbled” in this, but did not really do it well.
In 5 WAYS TO HELP YOUR CHILD BECOME INDEPENDENT I start with how to help with cooking. There are 9 steps that children can help with. I wish I had used these.
In QUICK AND EASY MEALS YOUR KIDS CAN COOK, I talk about the different meals your children can “cook” from no stove or no knife levels to more advanced levels.
My life would have been much easier, my boys would have been better prepared, and the meals still would have gotten done, just with less anxiety, if I had my boys help in the kitchen from a very early age.
10. We wanted our boys to have everything they needed.
We, as parents, do not want our children to want or need for anything. Our boys had what they needed plus some “extras.”
My husband and I did not communicate the struggles and obstacles we faced to get to where we are now. Who likes to focus on the negative or the “hard?”
By not telling our story, in its entirety, our boys did not see the whole picture; they saw the results of hard work, the results of sacrifice. We never told them about that hard work or sacrifice that gave us those rewards.
So, my boys had an incomplete picture. We also did not require our boys to work in high school; we required them to do well in school.
What this created was two children who did not understand the true value of the dollar. I knew I had to work X amount of hours babysitting to buy a pair of designer jeans by the time I was 12 years old.
I needed to teach the value of the dollar.
As a mom, I did not realize the importance in being able to understand your work/time/value. I was not “taught” this in school or as a specific lesson; it was never discussed. So, I flat out missed it as a mom.
A big mom do-over and area where I may have “failed” to prepare my boys adequately is in simply giving them too much. I would definitely teach my kids to be more financially literate and aware.
In the end, there is no perfect way to be a mom. Each family is different and each child is an individual with their own needs. We, as moms, are all “winning” when we are trying, each and every day to be the best we can be and when we show up for our kids. Sometimes, just showing up, can make all of the difference. I have talked to my boys about my reflections and my list mom do-overs. My boys don’t see these things like I do. My boys remember me being their biggest fan. They remember me being tough, but consistent and always loving them.
In the end, I did okay. I have two adult children whom I love and am so proud of, who amaze me with their goodness and ability to navigate today’s world.