As I climbed out of bed yesterday morning, carefully moving little legs that were tangled with mine–legs that appeared between me and Brett at some point in the middle of the night–I thought about our little family bed and how much I’m glad it’s a part of my kids’ childhood story. I know some parents have strong feelings against it, but I do know one thing–whether kids do or don’t shuffle their way into their parents’ bedroom in the night, the family bed decision isn’t one that’s going to send a 30-year-old into therapy someday. Neither is giving your child a pacifier or deciding not to send your child to preschool or saying no to the bright red double-velcro ridiculously obnoxious Paw Patrol sneakers simply because you think they’re ugly. The fact is, we will carry some regrets about our parenting, and we will look back when they’re no longer little and wish we would have read to them more, had more pillow fights, or said yes that time we said no. We will know certain heartaches our children went through were because of decisions we made, but we will also know that the heartaches we wish we could have spared them from are the same ones that shaped them into resilient, compassionate, strong adults. We do our best and know that regrets are ultimately part of the human experience, and life gives us many opportunities to make up for them. That said, there are a few trivial parenting regrets I carry with me as we’ve packed up the baby and toddler years–silly things that won’t necessarily put our kids in therapy, but ones I wish I could go back and do differently to make things easier today or to bring more joy to the early years. I thought it would be fun to share them, if not for the simple reason of sparing new moms from my regrets.
Regret 1: Not investing in the most important item in a nursery…a good rocking chair.
I was only a couple months pregnant when Brett and I went to the fanciest kid furniture store in town, and I fell in love with a crib and dresser. It wasn’t cheap, so I knocked off my plans for a nice rocking chair, convincing myself I could find a cheap one on Craigslist. I bought an inexpensive wooden one, but it wasn’t very comfortable, so it lasted a couple months before I got rid of it. I nursed Lainey from the couch or the little love seat we inherited from our neighbors, and when Nella and Dash were born I made do with wherever I could find a spot to sit with them which was often my bed heaped with laundry. Looking back, I realize how precious and fleeting those baby years were–how magical those hours of sitting and nursing were, and I wish I would have bought a less expensive crib and had the perfect chair instead. Rocking babies to sleep in a chair made just for that purpose is something worth investing in. Those chairs are where you nurse them, hold them close in the middle of the night, soothe their fevers, and read them Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny until they can recite the words themselves. So if you’re pregnant and starting to plan your nursery…you can jazz up any basic crib to be beautiful. Put your money where your memories will be…get the good rocking chair.
Regret 2: Bumping Nella from a crib before she was ready.
We got ahead of ourselves on this one. We moved Nella to a bed when I was pregnant with Dash because I thought making her more independent was the right thing to do, and also the little kid bed we moved her to was so darn cute. But she loved her crib. She slept so good in it, the crib was always her safe place, and there were countless mornings when she woke up babbling and we let her stay and play simply because the crib was where she was happy. Her sleeping patterns were never the same after we moved her from the crib, and Brett and I to this day mention several times a year, “We should have never taken the crib away from her.” I think we feel rushed as parents sometimes to get to the next milestone, but if I were to go back, I’d have let her sleep in that crib for as long as her heart desired. Don’t rush the milestones. Let them be babies.
Regret 3: Letting “Foods I Think They’ll Like” be my guiding force for what I introduced to them.
I poured applesauce in their first oatmeal because I thought it would be bland, I skipped over mashed peas to give them bananas because “Ew, gross,” and I didn’t think to offer avocado when they cried for something to eat because, duh, she wants a biter biscuit. I don’t expect my kindergartener to request steamed beets and a salad in his school lunch, but I know my kids would be less picky eaters if I wouldn’t have jumped to make their first foods flashier.
Regret 4: Not teaching them to pick up after themselves.
Oh, Debbie is loving this one. This one is haaarrrrrrd to go back and teach if you don’t start early. And to be honest, I never really thought about it as something you have to teach. I just picked up toys, all the time, wondering why I was picking up toys all the time. I realized late in the game that picking up after yourself should be A: modeled (okay, I guess I’m out) and B: taught. Taught looks like constant reminders: “Okay, if you’re done playing legos, you need to put them back in the lego bin before you pull out the puzzles.” Or “Could you please come inside and put your blocks away before you ride bikes?” I caught on and did this more with Dash, and it’s remarkable how much more instinctive it is for him to put things away without even thinking. His room is always clean. I wish I would have done less picking up after my kids and made them do it themselves because we’re catching up on learning now, and it’s a long, slow struggle.
Controversial parenting decisions I feel pretty good about though? Having a family bed, letting Lainey have a pacifier until she was 4, holding my babies all the damn time, introducing a phone to Lainey in sixth grade (lots of thoughts on that for another time, but so far, a few weeks in, it feels like very appropriate timing!)
Wait, I thought of one more regret, and this one’s important. Those precious baby pictures you took? That whole first year with all the milestones you managed to capture? The photos of toothless grins and cake-on-face first birthday celebrations? Are they on your hard drive? BACK THAT SHIT UP. I learned the hard way with Dash’s first year. Thank goodness for what I edited because I had backup copies in Lightroom, but I still lost a lot.
Any trivial parenting decisions you wish you could go back and redo? Dish ’em!
Oh, and a little P.S. for your weekend. I’m launching the second run of Ordinary Magic, a month long program near and dear to my heart intended to spark joy and creativity and bring purpose and community to women who are feeling a little stuck or want to take some time for themselves. You can read all about it here as well as testimonials from women who have been a part of it. This program is for women of all ages! Most participants fall between 25-55, but there are also women in their early twenties or 55+ in the Ordinary Magic crew. You’ll meet new mothers, empty nesters, entrepreneurs, artists, nurses, teachers, retireers–you name it. If Ordinary Magic calls to you, it’s right for you, and we welcome you!