This post is neither easy nor fun to write. If you want one that was, check out my post on spirit animals.
No...today I am fresh off a parenting fail and I am struggling. Parenting fails always make me feel sheepish, but this one was in public, witnessed by people I know and admire, as well as by strangers who live in my community.
A couple months ago, I signed myself and my daughters up for a 5k. It's a fun, well-organized event that I like to support. Forget the fact that I didn't run a 5k until I was in my 20s...my kids are 7 and 9 and we're doing it. Yesterday was the day, so over breakfast, we had a pep talk. I was especially focused on my younger daughter, telling her how a positive attitude and a good solid effort were far more important than any time goal. We discussed some strategies for how to deal when the going got tough, and I really tried to solidify the "NO WHINING" rule.
The start line was abuzz with good energy and we lined up surrounded by friends. Kids were smiling and happy, and I was ready to have a good time. "We got this," I thought.
3 minutes folks. Just 3 minutes after the start, my best laid plan began to unwind. My youngest started whining and asking to stop and walk. This same child has endured 10 weeks of Prep Cycle and several all day karate tests without one whimper. This same child is the darling of all her teachers and a leader in her classroom. This same child can be the toughest, sweetest, most amazing child on the planet.
I did try. I told myself to be the adult. I told myself that I was in control of my emotions. I used some of my coaching language both on my daughter and myself. I tried to pep talk her. I tried to convince her to run with her friend. A few of our adult friends offered to run with her because they know that children often exhibit much better behavior for someone other than their parents. But she was dug in. She shunned people's offers, she continued to whine, and nothing I or anyone else said could snap her out of it.
Well...one thing snapped her out of it. I snapped into it. I lost control of my emotions. I resorted to ultimatums and guilt trips. I told her we were going back to the finish line. I pouted and cried. I threw a fit almost equal to hers.
I could list about 30 reasons why I lost it. Many of them would point to my daughter's behavior. Several would point to other circumstances weighing on my mind. And most people would read those reasons and validate them. But none of those reasons are good excuses. In a future post I will go into detail about why circumstances are not valid excuses for bad behavior, but right now I want to talk about another result of this whole situation...the feeling of regret.
Even as I was throwing an adult-sized fit in front of poor unsuspecting onlookers, I was regretting. I was regretting that the run wasn't going as I'd planned. I was regretting that I didn't have a better strategy for making it fun instead of a fight. And now that some time has passed, I regret that I didn't model better behavior for my daughter...and I regret my own regret.
Yes...I regret my regret. My daughter has a lovely ability to go from angry to fine. Once she gets it out, it's out. No grudges, no lingering smoke coming out of her ears, just mad to glad in about 2 seconds. She can hug you and apologize and carry on AS IF WE HADN'T JUST MADE A SCENE.
I can't. So even once she had started running again with a much better attitude, I couldn't let it go. I played some music to get us to the finish line (ironically, "Shake it off" by Taylor Swift), and as my daughter danced and ran, I could've joined her, had I not been plodding along, wallowing in my regret. So I regret my regret. What a vicious cycle, huh?
Here's the thing about regret: for the most part, it serves no purpose. It is an indulgent emotion because we give it more time than it deserves and it doesn't create good results. We indulge in it even though we know it's of no good use to us. And regret is of no use to us because it is based on a desire to change our past, which is something we simply cannot do, unless you are Marty McFly.
Yesterday made me think a lot about regret as I was feeling all the heavy layers of it. Oh how I wanted a Redo button on the run. I wanted to change the original plan of 5 minutes running and one minute walking. I wanted to change the way I responded to my daughter's first whine. I wanted to go back and pull out the energy chews I had for bribes but had forgotten to use. I wanted to go back and NOT sign up in the first place. Can you see how fruitless all that wanting is? I can't go back and change anything at all.
So how can we make regret more useful? I came up with a few ideas as I struggled through the process:
When my husband called to see how the run went, one of the first things I said was, "Well, I'll never do that again." I meant that I would never run with my daughter again. This was a direct response to the fresh upwelling of regret. However, with time comes perspective, and I'm already loosening my view on the idea. I know that I will run with my daughter again, but I'll "never do it" that way again. I will learn from my regret rather than just be a victim to it.