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Choosing What to Regret

Posted Mar 19 2009 12:00am

I was asking myself this morning and explaining it to Kari on the way back from the Y , "Which would U rather regret? Doing too much or not doing enough?"

If you would have asked me that question 15 years ago, I would have said that I definitely would want to do as much as possible, to give something my best shot, to know that I had tried everything and then, if I failed, to at least know that I had done all I could.

But today, I'm not so sure.

How many hours of my life have a dedicated to attempting to change something that cannot be changed? How many endless paragraphs of words have I spoken that have never sunk in? How much emotional energy have I spent worrying about situations I can't control? How many long conversations helping a child make a good decision have I had simply to watch them make the wrong one? The phrase "beating your head against the wall" has gained real meaning for me over the years.

And so I look back on phase one of my parenting, the first 8-10 years, and I know I did too much. And I regret it.

However, I'm not seeing a lot of results from my new approach. Sure, I'm less stressed, and I realize that I can't control them, but they are still making bad choices, they still have behaviors that don't change, and now I wonder if I'm not involved enough.

But when it comes right down to it, if the outcome is the same, maybe I will regret doing too much in phase one more than I wonder about not doing enough in phase two. I just can't imagine continuing to pour that much effort into situations that don't seem to make a difference.

I'm sure that the temptation is to comment that "yes, you're making a difference, hang in there, Claudia" but you know what? With some of our children who suffer from mental illness, FASD, or attachment disorder, I'm not really sure I am. I'm not sure I ever did. And I'm not sure that with some of this stuff, any of us can do much.

Sure, we've given them stability. We've loved them unconditionally. They have parents who will never give up on them. And I am a firm believer that this is crucial. We've done a good job with that and for that I do have a sense of satisfaction. But as far as the rosy colored picture of rescuing a child from a generational cycle of abuse and neglect and placing them on new path for generations to come may not be accurate.

But, there is this, and this is what I hang on to: We have given them a choice. A choice they may not have had otherwise. They can compare where they are with where they have been and they can choose, to a certain extent, which path to pursue. And that choice, had they aged out of foster care without parents, would never have been theirs.

But like God, who created us with freedom of choice, that freedom to choose that belongs to a child is both a parents biggest blessing and their greatest curse. For when they do choose the right things, the pride and joy is beyond compare. But sitting back and watching them choose the wrong thing time and time again makes us want to somehow eradicate that freedom and insist that we be allowed to choose for them.

Will I regret adopting any of my children? Never in a million years. Do I regret some of the choices about how to handle situations? Often. And as I age and my children age, my approach may change, but the core remains strong. Permanency, even with imperfect parents, beats the alternative hands down.

And for that reason, maybe I'll choose a path without regret, and just know that I've done more than most would dare, and face another day, committed to growth, learning, and change in me .... regardless of whether or not I see it today in the lives of my children.

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