Between bringing your newborn home and sending him off to college, you’re bound to make mistakes. We asked moms to look back on theirs so that maybe—just maybe—you won’t have the same regrets.

By Deborah Copaken
Stephanie Rausser

“I haven’t been consistent in the face of pressure.”

“Sometimes I change my ‘policy’ after I’ve had time to think. For example, I might say no to something, and then one of my kids will argue with me endlessly until I say yes. I’m naturally collaborative, so it’s tempting for me to compromise rather than set a hard-and-fast limit. Over the years, however, I have learned the power of saying, in response to a request, ‘I’m not sure yet. I’ll let you know once I’ve thought about it.’ ”

—Eve Weisberg, of Silver Spring, Maryland, whose kids are 16, 14, and 11

“I expected my daughter to be friends with everyone.”

“Looking back, I’m not sure I should have started holding my daughter solely responsible in third or fourth grade for talking to the kid no one else was talking to or inviting someone new to sit at her lunch table, or whatever. She always complied, and I was proud of her for that, but I didn’t really think about the emotional cost to her of doing that until we talked about it years later. It was a lot easier for me to think about these things than for her to have to put them into action.”

—Stephanie Rosenfeld, of Salt Lake City, whose child is 30

“I wish I’d been in more pictures.”

“As a photographer who takes pictures of children and families for a living, I have created tens of thousands of priceless images for my clients. But my biggest mistake is that I have too few great ones that include me—fewer than two dozen over two decades. You may not love how you look and feel in any given year, but when you look back, you will be grateful (and your kids will, too) that you were in the photos.”

—Tanya Malott, of Sag Harbor, New York, whose child is 21

“I didn’t fully honor the differences between my three kids.”

“I try not to compare them but often fail miserably. It’s my daughter who has called me out on this most often. She’s correct; I probably do unfairly compare her with her typically high-achieving older brothers, although I’m not always doing it consciously.”

—Sari Ratner Judge, of Madison, Wisconsin, whose kids are 22, 20, and 17

“I let my son quit too many activities when he felt challenged.”

“Now that he’s a teenager, he still expects that he’ll be able to quit, but it’s past the time in his life when it’s no big deal. He can’t quit math. He makes such a fuss about every activity he doesn’t want to do. And why shouldn’t he? That’s the way I trained him.”

—Jill W., of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, whose child is 14

“I forced my 5-year-old, kicking and screaming, to go to preschool one day.”

“I didn’t take into account the fact that there was a huge amount of stress at our house—my mother was staying with us and was close to death, and my sister’s family was also staying with us, and her kids were going to the park, not to school. My daughter picked up on all that, and she wanted to be with her family for comfort. She still remembers that day.”

—Sara Newman-Martins, of Los Angeles, whose child is 16

“I should have taken bullying more seriously.”

“I counted on my child to be resilient in the face of painful episodes that began early and persisted over time. Not knowing what to do, I did nothing, or not enough.”

—Louise Williams, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, whose kids are 18 and 16

“I introduced my new partner to my children too soon after their dad and I split up.”

“I wasn’t thinking clearly, and I hurt them. I still regret this. He is now their stepdad and they love him, but I did it all wrong.”

—Abi Z., of Boston, whose kids are 22 and 17

“I should have gotten my youngest son on more of a schedule.”

“He was a hellion when he was born, and we often felt like we were holding on for dear life. But now that he’s older, I can see that he really just needed more limitations in his life instead of the open, flexible household we have. These days, it’s harder to enforce rules.”

—Diana Kirk, of Astoria, Oregon, whose kids are 18, 15, and 12

“I wish I had let more go, especially when my kids were young.”

“I felt pressure to get everything done: dinner, bath, books, bed! Yet the moments I treasure are the ones where I’d leave the dishes as we broke out into a dance party, or I’d say, ‘Let’s get ice cream!’ I vividly remember when we went at the last minute to see Will Ferrell in Elf.”

—Elena Seibert, of New York City, whose kids are 24 and 22

This article originally appeared in Parents Magazine's October 2019 issue as 'Been There, Learned That!'

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