The question was born from some obvious reflection.
“Dad, if you could go back and be a kid again, what would you do differently?”
Anyone who has a teenager knows you jump at these rare opportunities. These are the teachable moments—the ones that can make an impact one way or another.
The second she finished her question, my mind went into immediate rewind of years gone by—situations, poor choices and times I’ve hurt people. Regret is a funny thing. Somehow we tell ourselves that it’s perfectly normal to feel horrible about something three decades old we would handle differently today.
“Well,” I began. “The first thing you need to know is that you absolutely will have regrets. You’re awesome, but you’re not perfect.” Then, sensing she might tune out another eye-rolling ‘dad-lecture’ I told her. “If I could do it all again, I would be a lot more kind. I would feed my empathy and starve my ego, and I would be less afraid.” We sat in silence for a while after I had finished my answer. Then I added. “But I try not to look back too much because if I had chosen different paths then maybe you wouldn’t have been born, we wouldn’t be in this car right now and I would never have had the chance to be your dad.”
As a naturally nostalgic person, I fight this internal battle a lot. I want to stop an argument I had with someone in 1984 and say, “You’re right, I’m being a jerk.” I want to thank my parents for working hard and loving me. I want to go back to a place I once worked and say, “Let’s work as a team because I don’t have all the answers.” I wish I had been more Godly and less god. I want to zig where I zagged. I want to apply today’s wisdom to yesterday. I cannot. All I can do is wake up every day and do the right thing, be honest, be thankful, be kind, and say I’m sorry when I fail.
My daughters are only fourteen. They don’t even realize the roads ahead for them, but they’re starting to see that it’s up to them to pave the way.
I hope my daughter heard me. Regret is a funny thing. And if we’re not careful it can drag us down, slow us as we attempt to move forward down the road.