If I could do it all again — raise a family — I would, in a heartbeat. But I’d do it a little differently, because hindsight, it turns out, really is 20/20.
I realized this not long after my kids left for college, when I had the chance to focus on myself — to reflect upon the ways parenting had changed me, and the things I learned. I think you can only really accomplish this properly when you’ve achieved some distance from the role. I’d raise my family differently, not because of the mistakes I made — though I certainly made my share — but because time means so much more to me now. I understand it better, and its importance . . . and the way parents use it, lose track of it, and wish it away. It’s all about the time we spend together as a family, the time parents spend making decisions and avoiding decisions; doing the right thing and the wrong thing; and consoling, teaching, talking, playing, working, dreaming. It all boils down to time.
If I could do it all again, I’d:
1. Give myself permission to not be on call 24/7. By permission, I don’t mean disappearing, or for long, drawn-out periods. But I do mean handing over the reins of parenting more often, so I keep in touch with who I am in addition to being a parent.
2. Let the laundry pile up. Because, let’s be honest, nobody is going to fire me.
3. Enjoy a regular date night with my husband. Away from home if possible, but if we can’t, at least pretend we are.
4. Swing on the swings with the kids. Fun is more fun when your mother is having it too.
5. Make fewer to-do lists. Though I might feel as if I’m accomplishing something, I’m only writing down what I already know.
6. Sleep more, better, longer.
7. Worry less, better, shorter.
8. Be less grumpy about the state of my kids’ rooms. They’ll be empty far too soon.
9. Take time for tea. The entire process of making and drinking it — slowly — is an art. Zen. Brilliant.
10. Dance. Regardless of how silly I look doing it. Knees don’t stay young forever.
11. Write down the bedtime stories I make up for my kids. And even better, the ones they make up for me. We don’t think so at the moment, but memory fades. The written word lives on.
12. Travel more. Regardless of the obstacles. It’s an education in itself.
13. Step out of my comfort zone more often. I’m a role model, after all, for making dreams come true.
14. Drink more milk. Strong bones mean I can lift my kids, and run with them — and one day, with their kids.
15. Be less polite to people who are unpleasant. I can’t fix them.
16. Knit. Somebody always needs a sweater, blanket, scarf, hat, or mittens. Plus, it’s oddly soothing.
17. Repeat number 8.