Regrets for the Wrong Turns

Nov 7, 2013

"We've done it all wrong!" moaned the mother. "We've mishandled bedtime, and now we've taught our son the wrong way to go to sleep. Will he ever learn the right way now?"

How old is their son? Four whole weeks.

You don't get too far into the parenting game without questioning your choices. Second-guessing ourselves is a steady occupation for most parents.

Parenting is like a walk in a forest. The path is rarely clearly marked, so at every turn we choose the way that makes the most sense at the time. Eventually, we may find ourselves coming into a clearing where it's easy to see the best way to go. But sometimes, we find ourselves in a dark and shadowy thicket, and a nagging voice in our heads tells us we must have taken a wrong turn.

Like our electronic navigational devices, these may be occasions for us to do a little “recalculating.” It’s rarely too late to correct our course when we catch a clear view of the route we want to take.  Helping a four-week old learn a different sleep pattern is a tiny stumble on the road to raising kids.

Unfortunately, parents beat themselves when they find they took a wrong turn.  Recognizing the high stakes involved in childrearing, many parents feel desperate disappointment in themselves when they wind up where they didn’t want to go.

No parent can do it all right. Human families are messy affairs in which imperfect human beings are helping other imperfect human beings find their way.  Accepting that there will be missteps is the only way we can take on such a daunting task.

In fact, the times when parents lose their way on the journey often teach them important lessons to guide their next steps, as well as providing for some great family stories. Parents who care deeply about their children usually keep them on the path well enough to bring them to healthy adulthood, despite their own sometimes imperfect navigational skills.