If I could do it over again…

Mother's Day 2009


Me and my boys, May 2009

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have been re-reading Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. Last night I was struck by a story that Kimmel tells in Chapter 7, ‘The Freedom to Be Different’, and I want to share it here.

Whenever I read great or interesting magazine articles, I file them away for future reference. I’ll never forget the impact one article had on me as a father.

The writer had penned one of those “If I could do it over again…” type articles about being a dad. He listed various things that he wished he could go back and do differently with his children, who were now grown. One of the things he said went something like this: “If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have made such a big deal about my son wanting to go to sleep with his desk chair on his bed.” There was an explanation that went with this incredible statement. Apparently, his son (in the three- to four-year-old range) really liked the desk chair in his room. Every night, he wanted to have his mom or dad put the chair on his bed—near hs feet on top of the bedspread. When they asked why, he’d say things like “I really love it” or “I just enjoy going to sleep with it.” When they asked what was wrong with the chair staying where it was since it was still close by, he’d tell them how much he preferred having his desk chair on his bedspread as he fell asleep. When they resisted his requests, he’d get teary-eyed or actually start crying. His parents would scold him, and he’d cry more. On those occasions when they accommodated his wild request, he’d always tell them how thankful he was. What was most amazing about those nights was how easily he would fall asleep.

For the most part, however, his parents (especially his father) would make a scene about putting the desk chair on his bed, which always led to the tears and the shouts. When they did let him sleep with his desk chair, they’d stop by the room before their bedtime, and invariably his sleep movements had already knocked the chair to the floor. They’d roll the chair back to his desk, wish their son sweet dreams, and close the door. Every morning, their boys was fine.

As this father looked back on those months of nights that their son had cried himself to sleep because of their refusal of his simple request, he was overwhelmed with regret. He realized after the fact that his son’s request, though weird… was not evil. There were no moral issues at stake, and any parent who would try and make one is simply not willing to see the obvious. This father, with the advantage of time and the wisdom gained from years of foolish decisions, wondered why he hadn’t gladly picked up the chair, set it gently at his son’s feet, and not made the least little issue of it.

…. This was a father that wished he could go back and exhibit more grace in his son’s life. (pp 143-145)

I teared up as I read this story. Then I sputtered and cried as I read it aloud to Jon. What am I keeping my boys from doing that would make them happy and, in turn, make me happier, too? In what ways am I letting my OCD tendencies take over and run the show?

If Matty wants to bring his penguin AND his puppy to pick up Elijah and Brady from school, what’s the big deal? Why do I feel the need to insist he brings just one or the other (or on occasion, none)? Yes, there is a 75% chance that he will end up dropping one (or both) of them. And with Mattias there is a 95% chance that he will fall and they will be wet and muddy by the time we get home. (Oh, and that means that my jeans will also be wet and muddy, as they have become the place to wipe all things dirty.) But there are worse things. And so what if he insists on wearing a Thomas shirt EVERY SINGLE DAY! (He and Jesse do share 5 of them, after all!)

Matty loves Thomas!

I want love and acceptance of my boys and their unique qualities to over-ride my selfishness. My personal desires. My “good sense”.

In twenty years, I want to be able to say, “If I could do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing!”

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11 responses

  1. Melissa

    That’s so true–I get caught up sometimes on that kind of stuff that really doesn’t matter on my end but makes a world of difference for the kids. Good reminder! It will probably make tomorrow more pleasant all around :). There IS something about being three years old that lends itself to that kind of stuff.

    05/02/2011 at 23:56

  2. Melody

    I remember this story from when I read the book a year or so ago. I really needed this reminder as both my girls – especially Sonya with her ADHD – do seemingly weird but yet not bad things and it takes so so much patience. Thanks Angie.

    06/02/2011 at 01:48

  3. Why did I read this the day I took away Luke’s paci???? 😉 Well quoted/said, Angie. 🙂

    06/02/2011 at 15:06

  4. p.s. I think my biggest regret was trying to get my kids scheduled too fast instead of enjoying rocking them to sleep and just holding them…

    06/02/2011 at 15:12

  5. Good post Angie. I think we all have those moments as parents when our kids are asking for stuff and instead of ‘why’, we need to ask ourselves ‘why not’. Thanks for the reminder. It’s also good to hear of good parenting books that are out there..I’m clueless!

    06/02/2011 at 17:05

  6. That’s a great word – thanks for sharing 🙂

    08/02/2011 at 10:39

  7. I love that story! I think having an autistic son taught me this lesson pretty early on… I have learned to choose my battles very carefully and see that LOTS of things people get uptight about really don’t matter. I still have to remind myself of that often though. When Aiden wants to wear the same things over and over again and when Owen wants to dress up as Harry Potter for church and when Olivia wants to wear her version of “pretty” clothes to school… I just let them.

    And yes, people do give me a hard time about it. Regularly.

    And THAT is what makes me questions myself more often than not. But really? Those little things are not the ones that truly matter.

    🙂

    09/02/2011 at 00:25

  8. Anne Wilma

    Just want to agree so much. I know I have been guilty of starting stupid arguments about stupid things with my girls. Things which really don’t matter. Now that I’ve read your blog – just wait ’till you see what clothes-combination Naomi will be wearing to church this weekend! 🙂

    17/02/2011 at 14:06

  9. Jemma Werner

    Thanks for your post Angie. I just got that book as a gift and I’m even more excited to read it now. 🙂 Any other good reads?

    21/03/2011 at 21:11

    • Sorry, Jemma, just saw this! I am currently reading a couple other parenting books, but can’t say yet what I think of them. Will let you know… 🙂

      11/05/2011 at 13:35

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