He backs the car out of the driveway very quickly.
He does not look behind him.
Mr. Watson is a forward looking man. He does not believe in looking back.
~Kate DiCamillo, Mercy Watson Goes for a Drive
I am a mom. I am just like you. I have struggled with parenting. I was searching for a more accurate word to use there…I have struggled with limits, with self control, with consistency, with my emotions, with finding a balance, with appropriate communication…but all of those are accurate. They’re all part of parenting, and I’ve struggled with all of them.
I can look back and single out moments in my parenting that have not been what I want them to be. I look back on moments and feel sorry for how or why those moments occured. I’m sorry I couldn’t magane my feelings differently. I’m sorry I acted the way I did or said the things I did or used a tone of voice devoid of kindness or understanding. I’m sorry for the tension, the fear, the sadness of a situation because of how I responded.
But even looking back and feeling regretful, I still know that in those moments I was doing the best I could right then. I hadn’t yet come to understand my emotions, my triggers, my child’s development, and my own sense of confident authority.
And though I feel sorry, I do not feel guilty.
Guilt is about dwelling on the past. It’s retracing your steps and circling around and around an obstacle you navigated, wishing it were something different. Wishing, but not being able to do more than that.
Regret is about understanding the past and moving forward. Not about enjoying life’s hurdles, but about accepting them for what they were and understanding how to navigate them differently next time, after you’ve moved forward and are continuing on your journey.
Indeed, parenting is a journey. An off-road journey–a winding path full of detours, uneven roads, obstacles, pits, uphill climbs, and downhill slides. But despite the nuances of the excursion, the trajectory is forward. We are
making forging our own new way. It’s difficult. Every step is a decision based on the knowledge we possess in that moment. When we know differently we step differently; go a different way; adopt a different strategy for navigating obstacles. But always moving forward.
When we broaden our field of vision from the obstacles in our path to the direction of our journey, we’re able to consider where to take our next steps. Rather than go back and circle around things you wish had been different, remember them, learn from them, and then look ahead to where you’re going. Choose the path you want. Face forward and keep trekking.