I came home from work yesterday and my 19 month old son was HUGE! He was so tall and, like, 18 years older than he was yesterday.
I had just left him earlier that morning and he was this little ball of boy; this small developing bruiser who bumps into things and giggles and cries and who’s easily distracted by airplanes flying by and the first 15 seconds of every song that comes on TV.
But now I come home to this!? This 18 year old, this grown up!? How can that happen in a day?
It was a wild feeling, a wild rush of lots of feelings… Obviously he’s not actually 18 — he’s still just 19 months old — but I felt like I missed something between the time I left him that morning and the time I got home. (FYI: I could tell he wasn’t actually 18 because he was still very excited to see me and didn’t give me any of that “whatever dad!” glare… also, no leather jacket).
I felt a lot in that short span of seconds, when I burst through the door and saw that my kid grew up without me. But what I feel most about it now is regret. It’s like a future regret, a regret I know is coming. Regret for any moments I’m going to miss, for any soccer games I’m late to, or first kisses, or video game level beatings, or bullying at school, or word learning, or tower building, or any single moment that I didn’t watch him sleep.
It’s a built in, inevitable kind of regret for parents. I think every single one of us will look back and wish we spent more time, paid more attention, worked harder and enjoyed it all more. Our future selves will be bummed about our present selves… how we’re working on anything else besides our kids.
That’s probably what our future selves are going to feel about us… they’ll probably kick our asses; we’ll probably kick our ass in a few months when we’re all empty-nesters.
But, I’m pretty sure this regret is built into parenting, and, in a larger sense, built into love. Maybe our future selves could never be pleased because they know how deeply in love with our kids we are.
I think, no matter how much we work to be great parents, now matter how hard we try to impress our future selves, we’ll always fall short because we’re humans loving, and that’s just what it’s like. I mean, if we loved our kids now as much as our future selves will wish we would have, we’d definitely end up being those crazy controlling parents with the crackly-thin emotional structure… and our kids would certainly grow up to be assholes and hate us.
The point of it all is this: Invest everything you can in today with your kid. Later on you’re definitely going to regret you didn’t get to spend more time and attention on your kids, but that’s ok because it means you weren’t a controlling freak of a parent (like that mom in Black Swan!).
I don’t know… this all feels very big and a little half-baked in my gut… what do you think? Can you add some clarity here?