I Dropped The Ball: On Missed Opportunities During Child Rearing

Recently I was hiking with my wife and boy, up Wantastiquet. We made this hike despite knowing that rattlesnakes have been seen on the trail suning themselves.  The chance to hike in nature, despite such risks, is one of the reasons we live here, and not some nature deprived metropolis. 

During this hike, I had a mission; to get up as far as we could in a certain amount of time.

Morgen, my boy, saw water coursing over the trail and down the hillside, in a little stream filled with rocks. “WOW !”, he said. Can we explore that stream? Can you come with me?” My instantaneous reply was, ” I think you know that we arem’t going to do that right now”. I had my mission, and it was to hike, and I marched farther up the trail.

Fortunately, my wife heard Morgen’s comment for what it was; an honest desire to explore the natural world, immediately, and a chance to take a responsible risk, and venture off the trail a little bit. The rocks were not slippery with algae, and the slope of the stream was not likely to fall apart in erosion due to an exploratory little jaunt.

Really, it was the perfect chance to say, “Yes, let’s explore it. We will be careful, and see what is out there, see the water making its way to the ocean.”  Sometimes I just forget that I am living where I am living, and to take the time to do what matters.

Comments | 7

  • put down the whip

    Nobody’s perfect. Now you know a bit more about yourself. That’s a good thing.

    • Striving to remember, not striving to flagellate

      I was trying to remember that which I forget sometimes. Brattleboro is a great place to be a parent.

  • I find that following kids

    I find that following kids interests can lead to interesting discoveries.

    Sweet Honey in the Rock says it well in their song On Children:

    “Your children are not your children,
    They are the sons and daughters of life longing for itself.
    They come through you but they are not from you,
    And though they are with you, they belong not too you.

    You can give them your love but not your thoughts,
    They have their own thought, they have their own thoughts.
    You can house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in a place of tomorrow,
    Which you can not visit, not even in your dreams.

    You can try to be like them, but you can not make them just like you,
    Strive to be like them, but you cannot make them just like you.”

  • Perils of Parenting

    Dear Rolf,
    That post ranks in the top percentile for substance. I am sure that any parent with reasonable sensitivity can relate to your experience.

    Eve, my stepdaughter, now 42, was about 4 years old, she showed my then wife (from my past life) Carol a small plant in a small flower pot, which had withered and was totally brown and dry. She wanted to know if it was gone forever, or if there was still hope.

    Carol told her to ask me. When Eve brought the plant to me, I looked at it, and in what I thought was a clever prognosis, I said: “It looks like it’s gone the way of all flesh.”

    Immediately the dam broke, tears and uninhibited crying. To me a plant was just a plant, a thing. I was totally taken by surprise at what it meant to Eve. I felt really badly at having informed her that the little plant was dead with such a cavalier disregard for how she felt.

    Every parent of grown children that I know agonizes over their mistakes, oversights, omissions, and stupid things they did as a parent. Regrets and sadness are just about guaranteed, regardless of how dedicated you are to being a great parent. That was by far not the only stupid thing I did as a parent, yet somehow, through the years it has haunted me, perhaps symbolic of all my mistakes and shortcomings.

    In the past few years, I have become an active gardener and keeper of houseplants. To compound my regrets about my insensitivity over Eve’s love for her little plant: I have now seen so many “dead” plants revive with patience and water. At the time I did not realize that life may continue in the roots, even though the plant looks dead. Some kind of metaphor, isn’t it?

    • Related Topic maybe? Remorse and Anger, and modern sensibilities

      Hello out there, SK-B

      For lack of a better word for it, I think that “modern / new age culture” that is our legacy now in southern Vermont, undervalues, or under appreciates remorse and anger. Remorse and Anger both can be positive forces in life if connected correctly to our lives.

      If we believe that there are better and worse ways to act. which I do,
      remorse can cause us to ponder and do better. Likewise, anger can be a source of energy to do work that needs to be done, to correct wrongs, challenge injustice, and so on.

      Staying stuck in remorse, or tarrying in anger, is not healthy of helpful, but remorse and anger both seem like emotions that have been maligned as themselves unhealthy. Emotions aren’t unhealthy of course in themselves, they are just feelings. Living in anger would be a waste of a life, but anger is on occasion an appropriate transitory reaction to events, just as remorse is sometimes an appropriate transitory reaction towards our own behavior.

      On the flipside, I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “If you are not enraged, you are not paying attention”, which struck me as an illness making perspective. Who wants to live in rage?

      Anyway, the bottom line is life is good, and worth fighting for sometimes.

  • redemption awaits!

    As a child, and even until I turned 50, I probably could have told you about 90% of all my parents’ missteps and bemoaned the horrible scars. My parents died by the time I was 40, but between 50 and now almost 60, I have found incredible grace and am remembering more and more of the wonderful things my parents did. I have forgiven them for so much, and I wonder, if only my parents had been more able to just own their mistakes and apologize and show how truly insignificant most of them were by not fearing owning them, how much more rich our lives and relationships would have been while they were alive.

    Yes, Rolf, your post is one of the special ones here on ibrattleboro! Treat yourself to an opportunity to share even more – if your child is of an age to understand, simply apologize, tell your son how much you love and appreciate him, and that you surely will look forward to exploring in the future. Your desire, by the way, was just as legitimate as his; it’s that as a parent, you get to sacrifice a lot!! I, for one, will look forward to hearing how parenting is going and if your son is willing to forgive you. What an amazing additional opportunity this situation is giving you to be a more wonderful parent. Good luck.

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