Monday, September 23, 2013

No Regrets

We just returned from a lazy weekend at my parents'- the Lil' Dude's Grandparents of the North. A long few days spent hunting for leaves and caterpillars, running hills with the dogs, building pink Legos, drinking copious amounts of coffee, having free reign over the candy drawer, and sleeping in. Best. Days. Ever. It's one of the few places in my orbit that recharges my batteries no matter how long I'm docked there.

Yesterday, we were all seated around the dining room table eating our Sunday Supper departure meal- roast beef, gravy, mashed potatoes, white dinner rolls, corn, and garden-fresh tomatoes and peppers. My Mom had already remarked that she didn't cook any kid food all weekend- no Velveeta Shells & Cheese, no pickle roll-ups, no crustless jam sandwiches, no turkey dogs. The Lil' Dude ate Chicken Fricassee, Last Turn Chili, smoked salmon from Alaska, and extra-sharp cheddar cheese from Green Bay just like the grownups. It was monumental.

But as we sat down yesterday, she began to whine about her roast beef ... It's too tough. I can't do it. I don't like it. When in reality, it was fork-tender. Buttery. Perfect. So my Dad said, "Eat your potatoes and everything else," and let his only grandbaby off the hook.

When I was a kid, I refused to eat meat. I declared everything as too tough, I don't like tough meat, and that became my mantra. I wrote about it in school; my teachers mentioned it at conferences, my friends' parents and extended families commented on it and harassed me about it endlessly.

So, 30 years later, it's only natural my child would utter the same mantra.
Only this time, she gets a free pass.

My Dad mentioned yesterday, "It's true. Children's teeth and palates cannot tolerate meat. They lack the jaw strength. I know that now. In fact, that's my only regret in parenting- that I made you sit at the dinner table and eat everything off your plate, meal after meal, night after night. My only regret."

I questioned his claim. His only regret in parenting? And he confirmed it. With vigor.

And that- that right there, is why I hold him in the highest regard, truly idol-status category of parenthood. That something as inconsequential as dinnertime rules would be his only do-over. Especially when I take into consideration the other stuff I thought was bigger, and more regrettable.

He made me learn how to change my own oil, and tires.
He made me take Calc.
And gun safety.
He bought me a brand new car for Sweet Sixteen.
(that I totaled 4 months later)
He also bought my baby brother a brand new car for his Sweet Sixteen even though his experiment with that was ill-fated.
He let my high school boyfriend come over All. The. Time.
He made me save 75% of each paycheck I earned ... in my savings account.
He was brutally honest about my hair. Shoes. Tattoos. Piercings; the gamut.
And still loved me.
He paid for my entire college education.
And made me graduate in four years.
He never took me to Disney World.
He let me move in with my college boyfriend.
And paid off my credit card debt.
He let me travel to far-off places, and gave me souvenir money.
He let me take his truck to country music festivals as a minor.
He made us sit down to dinner as a family as many night of the weeks as possible.
He made me own my mistakes and failures and lies and shame.
And still loved me.
He still corrects me. And educates me. And holds me accountable.
And has me proof-read his business communication, and program his new Smartphones.

I know when I go to sleep each night, I have regrets on the day regarding my daughter. Something I did. Or didn't. Or mishandled. Or ignored. Or fell short, overreacted, failed, botched, denied. Every single day, my heart pumps diesel into every chamber of her life, and I do it wrong. But that's OK. That's incredibly human. And very Mama. It's what we do ... it's doing it without regrets that truly matters.

And I hope, with every feather I have, that 30 years from now I can sit at the dining room table in my life and pick out something very, very small that spanned a few years of time, as my only regret in parenting. I have a good example to follow.

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