It’s popular for retiring politicians and athletes to hold press conferences and declare they have “no regrets” or say, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Adoring audiences blink away tears and dismiss the domestic relations charges, marital infidelities, drug/alcohol transgressions and failed steroid tests.
I’m from a different school. I regret my decisions minutes after making them and freely admit them to the world. As a parent, I’ve made countless miscues along the well-intentioned path to raising young adults. And so here are three that come to mind, three monstrous errors that I would reverse if I could.
Do-over No. 1: The day we sat in the front of church. Circa 1994, and with four under the age of 6, I sensed trouble the moment the usher waived us forward. We were directed to the third pew, with the front two rows representing the AARP contingent.
Detailed sermons on the holy trinity can’t hold the attention of most adults, let alone toddlers. Parents know this, of course; their kids do coloring books, work puzzles, read a children’s Bible.
My kids fight, crawl under pews, dig through the purse, sneeze on neighboring families and grout their noses. But that day we hit a new low. The collection plate came by. Kids love to touch it, handle it, inspect it. And you know what came next. Dollars, coins, envelopes flew in the air as the plate flipped and fell to the floor like a slow motion scene from a Tom Cruise movie. Everything clinged and clanged on the tile, with the blame game following. Holy-roller heads turned and locked on us. Forget fake pray, or pretending to find the song in the hymnal; you squirm through communion and then make an early exit.
Do-over No. 2: Four kids hit Petco. Pet stores are basically a petting zoo with AC. With proper planning dads can give moms two, possibly three, hours of freedom.
Kids always long for what they can’t have — rabbits, hamsters, rats, mice — anything that requires constant cleaning and lures the cat. On that day, the kids gravitated to fish and I went weak. An hour later we owned an aquarium, blue rock, plastic plants, caves, bridges, seahorses, expensive filters, food, special drops to treat the water and 10 different kinds of fish, only distinguishable with a magnifying glass.
Petco promptly declared a stock split.
In return I got oaths of aquarium cleaning that were promptly kicked to the curb. In a week a clear aquarium became guppies dodging oatmeal chunks, followed by a fish kill that rivaled the Exxon Valdez disaster. The tank and trappings went to the basement and haven’t seen daylight since.
Do-over No. 3: Homecoming post-party, high school junior year. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Our social son wanted to have people over to the house following homecoming.
Rules were discussed and limitations endorsed with everyone-on-the-same-page clarity that comes with a son who has zero negotiating leverage. And when the numbers went from 25 to 50 to 75, mom and dad were pulling the nearest fire alarm. If your brood includes an 18-year-old, he or she was probably in our basement that night. This led to frantic visits downstairs, turning on lights, opening doors, closets and yelling over loud music “no one better be drinking!”
At 11:45, I stuck my head down the stairs and yelled, “Everyone needs to leave now!” Thirty minutes later not a soul had left. When the basement was finally emptied, cleanup required a hazmat team.
There are more, but my columns have a word limit. No regrets, at least so far, involve the principal, police or sheriff.
Originally published 2010