If I could do it all again -- raise a family -- I would, in an instant.
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 or wish for more. 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, reading, talking, dancing, playing, working, dreaming, laughing. It all comes down to time.
If I had the time to do it all again, I'd:
- Give myself permission to not be on call 24/7. By permission, I don't mean disappearing without a trace, 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.
- Enjoy a regular date night with my husband, at least twice a month. Away from home if possible, but if we can't, at least pretend we are.
- Let the laundry pile up. Because, let's be honest, nobody is going to fire me.
- Swing on the swings with the kids. Fun is more fun when your mother is having it too.
- Make fewer to-do lists. They only beget more to-do lists, and though I might feel as if I'm accomplishing something, I'm only writing down what I already know.
- Have more "backwards days," where dinner is for breakfast and breakfast is for dinner.
- Sleep more, better, longer.
- Worry less, better, shorter.
- Take time for tea. The entire process of making and drinking it -- slowly -- is an art. Zen. Brilliant.
- Be less grumpy about the state of my kids' rooms. They'll be empty far too soon.
- Dance. Regardless of how dumb or goofy I look doing it. Knees don't stay young forever.
- 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.
- Step out of my comfort zone more often. I'm a role model, after all, for making dreams come true.
- Be less polite to people who are unpleasant. I'm not going to change them.
- Drink more milk. Strong bones mean I can lift my kids, and run with them -- and one day, with their kids.
- Knit. Somebody always needs a sweater, blanket, scarf, hat, mittens, and socks. Plus, it's strangely soothing.
- Travel more. Regardless of the obstacles. It's an education in itself.
- Repeat number 8.