If I were a parent like Sallie, the breeder from whom we bought Terry (Miles’ show pig), would not have charged Miles full price for a leftover runt. If I were a parent like Carole, my kids would brush their teeth and clean up after themselves. If I were a parent like my dad, my children would turn off lights. If I were a parent Brian Douglas or Louis Alacano, Miles would have excelled in showmanship and won honors at the fair.
Pondering led to praying. “Please, dear Father in Heaven, help me accept me for who I am,” I asked. And He did. I have gained some insights that I will share...and that I hope to remember.
I am not Sallie or Carole or Brian. And that is okay. I am me, I am very blessed, and I would not trade places with them, even if I could. So, it is stupid for me to berate myself because I am not them. I don’t want to be them. True, I would like to have their strengths, but life is not like that. No one, them or me, is perfect. My children would certainly be better off if I had some of those other parents’ traits but I have done the best with the skill set I have, and I am striving to improve. And I need to be okay with that.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said almost the same thing. (April 1997) “He [Heavenly Father] knows that your giving birth to a child does not immediately propel you into the circle of the omniscient......if you try your best to be the best parent you can be, you will have done all that a human being can do and all that God expects you to do.“ (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, April 1997)
I am trying to be the best parent I can be. Honestly and sincerely. Am I the best parent? No. Not even close. But I am giving it my best shot, honestly striving to be a good parent.
I have parenting regrets. “If only I had done/been/said/not said…….” I have other regrets as well. Big and small….
When I was a BYU student, studying in the library, a male co-ed asked the girl next to me if she would go on a spontaneous date with him, explaining that it was part of an activity he was doing with his roommates. When she turned him down, he turned to me and asked if I would go with him. I admired his courage in asking but did not have courage to accept. I regret that.
I have more…. I wish I had run the 800 m in high school. I regret turning down the offer to teach welfare missionaries at the MTC with Elder Strong and I regret not spending a semester at the BYU Jerusalem Center when I was younger and single. I wish I had not yelled at Chick for the way he spread the pasture fertilizer and I wish I had played soccer with him and Mr. Maag on their junior high field trip to Antelope Island. I have other, bigger regrets…. most too personal to share.
And I wonder…. I wonder how my life would have turned out if I had made other choices. What if I had studied organizational behavior instead of science education? What if I were less arrogant, more teachable? Less judgmental, more loving?
Regrets and wistful wondering lead to sadness and sorrow. Sometimes I find myself mourning the life I lived and the lives I’ve not lived.
God is good. He led me to a book that helped me embrace the life I live. Following in an excerpt from The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.
“It is easy to mourn the lives we are not living. Easy to wish we’d developed other talents, said yes to different offers. Easy to wish we’d worked harder, loved better, handled our finances more astutely, been more popular, stayed in the band, gone to Australia, said yes to the coffee, or done more bloody yoga. ….It is easy to regret, and keep regretting, ad infinitum, until our time runs out.
“But it is not the lives we regret not living that are the real problem. It is the regret itself. It’s the regret that makes us shrivel and wither and feel like our own and other people’s worse enemy.
“We cannot tell if those other versions would have been better or worse.... Of course, we can’t visit every place or meet every person or do every job, yet most of what we’d feel in any life is still available. We don’t have to play every game to know what winning feels like…Love and laughter and fear and pain are common currencies.
“We just have to close our eyes and savor the taste of the drink in front of us and listen to the song as it plays. We are completely and utterly alive as we are in any other life and have access to the same emotional spectrum.
“We don’t have to do everything in order to be everything because we are already infinite. While we are alive, we always contain a future of multifarious possibility.
“The impossible, I suppose, happens via living.
“Will my life be miraculously free from pain, despair, grief, heartbreak, hardship, loneliness, depression?
“But do I want to live?
“A thousand times yes.”
Though my life is not free from pain, grief, heartbreak, hardship, sorrow, loneliness, and depression, am I glad I am alive? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Though I have not played every game, I know what winning feels like. I know what it feels like to see beauty, even though I have not visited every beautiful place. And I know what it is to feel love ….and joy…. and peace. I don’t have to do everything to be everything; I am infinite and so are you. There is no need for regret, indeed no place for it. Other choices would not change life’s essentials. Pain and sorrow are part of every path; “Love and laughter and fear and pain are universal currencies”.
The book taught me a powerful lesson. Let go of regrets. They wither and shrivel. Different choices may have led to different paths but the baseline experiences---love and laughter and fear and pain—would have been the same. [If you are plagued by regrets, uncertainty, fear, and darkness, consider reading the book. It is beautiful and insightful though—beware—the first third seems very dark. Stick to it. There is light at the end.]
May we give ourselves grace. Being alive does not make us perfect and it is unfair to expect perfection from ourselves (or others). Let us do the best we can, get up when we fall, and help others do the same. And may we remember to “close our eyes and savor the drink in front of us…”