Our house is a simple two-story with four bedrooms upstairs, one at each corner of the rectangle-shape footprint. My wife and I are in one corner bedroom, and the other corners are our three kids' rooms. However, except for a few weeks each year, the kids' corners are now empty. We walk by their rooms dozens of times each day. Their beds are made, and the memorabilia of their childhoods is collecting dust on the bookshelves. The hallway walls between the bedrooms are filled with pictures of our kids at every stage of their childhoods. Just like the hallways in your homes, I'm sure.
We still drive the same minivan we did when the kids were home. Now 15 years old, it's never looked better. No Cheerios or juice boxes on the floor, no fingerprints on the windows, crayon marks scrubbed clean. The "baby on board" sticky sign and the pull down baby window shade have been replaced by college decals and bumper stickers, now also anachronistic as the kids have all graduated.
This Sunday is Mother's Day, typically the highest phone call volume day of the year. Whereas long ago, Mother's Day in our home meant homemade decorations and cards, breakfast in bed, and picnics in the park, our little ones are now in graduate school or the workforce and, like so many other parents of a certain age, we'll be looking forward to their phone calls this Mother's Day.
As I reflect back on Mother's Days past, when all the corners of our house were full and the minivan was a mess, when we could snuggle with our kids before bedtime and snugly buckle them into their car seats on the way to preschool, of course I'm nostalgic. But I'm not sad about how fast time has passed, and I don't have misgivings about how we spent the time with our kids when they were young. When I walk by the empty corners of our house, I feel fulfillment and satisfaction that we were there with them as often as we possibly could be, and we made the most of the time we spent with them. On Mother's Day and Father's Day, but also on plain old Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Of course, there were many childhood moments that got away from us because of our commitments or the kids' commitments. Parents can't be with their kids all the time, and kids need independent time to grow and form their own opinions and make their own decisions. Parents need to fulfill their adult responsibilities. But when life got in the way on Mother's Day or Father's Day or any other special family time, we did our best to make up for it the next weekend or two. And we made an effort to actually celebrate mom and dad more than once a year.
We can't go back to the Mother's Days when the corners of our house were full, but even if we could, we probably wouldn't do it any differently—which is a wonderful feeling. It's the feeling I wish for you when your corners are empty: the feeling of having no regrets.
Happy Mother's Day!
Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children's Hospital Colorado. He is the author of four books for parents and families, including No Regrets Parenting and 940 Saturdays. He is also a Parents advisor and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at noregretsparenting.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).
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