Yes, it really was a bad idea to give your six-year-old access to the finger paints while you did the laundry. Or to let your fourteen-year-old son stay overnight at his friend’s place without triple checking to make sure his parents were home.
And maybe it wasn’t all that wise when you had that fight heated conversation in the kitchen when the kids were watching cartoons.
We all have regrets.
But the flip side is also true.
We all have things we’ll never regret doing as a parent. And if you think about doing things you’ll never regret, you can actually do them more often.
Here are 5 things I think you’ll never regret as a parent:
1 – Putting each other before the kids
You’ve probably heard it as much as I have: One of the greatest gifts any parent can give a child is a healthy marriage.
It’s as important for your child to know you love each other as it is for your child to know you love them.
So take a date night. Hire and sitter or enlist the grandparents and go on a weekend away. Your friends will be envious (we haven’t been away together without the kids in seven years!!!), and you’ll have so much fun you’ll think you’re dating again.
Here’s something else I’ve discovered. Eventually the kids move out (really…no lies!), and all you have left is each other. It works way better when you’ve built up your relationship to the point where you actually still like each other. 🙂
2 – Taking family vacations
It can be so hard to find both time and money to get away, but it’s been one of the best things we’ve done as a family over the years.
While staycations can be decent, a vacation moves everyone out of their native environment. There’s no grass to cut, no clutter to clean up every three hours, no video games to play for hours and hours and hours, or friends who want you to come over (again). All of you move into new experiences and new environments together.
Even if you don’t have a ton of money, borrow someone’s house for the weekend (we’ve done that), and change up the scenery. Moments away will become some of your kids’ fondest memories—and yours.
3 – Creating traditions
My wife is so good at this. She knew early on that family traditions are a great thing.
For example, on Christmas morning, we eat desserts like chocolate covered apples for breakfast. (No, Christmas and breakfast chocolate aren’t related, but don’t spoil things here). I don’t know how that tradition started, and I don’t even know that it’s a good idea, but we love it. And to this day, we can’t wait to dig into chocolate and stuff that really isn’t good for us in honor of Christmas.
We’re not big into baseball as a family (although I’ve always loved it), but every year I took my boys to a Blue Jays game. Now they insist on taking me. It’s a tradition.
We also go back to the same place every year for a week every year in the summer. That spot is now filled with two decades of family memories.
4 – Incorporating God into the rhythm of family life
Yep, life is busy. And talking about God can be . . . well, awkward.
But figuring out a way to make God a natural part of the conversation is a great practice to establish early. The baby and toddler years are perfect places to start with morning and bedtime stories and prayers.
In the elementary years, meal times are great places to talk about God and life.
And even in the teen years, driving around in the car or hanging out after dinner are great times to talk about faith.
If you do this well, having conversations with your kids into their college and adult years won’t be that difficult.
5 – Setting boundaries
So much of the conflict that happens between parents and kids, and between parents, happens because boundaries aren’t clear.
Boundaries and limits are something we both crave and resist. We think freedom resides in having no boundaries and limits, until we have none. Then we crave them.
Kids are masters at pushing the boundaries.
If you can set and agree on boundaries ahead of time, life becomes so much simpler. Then you have a solution to a problem (like curfew) before it arises.
Sure, if you have healthy limits for your kids as they move into their pre-teen and teen years, you too will be inducted into the Worst Parent Ever In The History Of Parenting category by your darling child, which is exactly where every parent enforcing a boundary will find themselves at some point.
But secretly your kids crave boundaries. And one day, they’ll thank you for setting them. Okay, I said one day . . .
So those are five things I’ve never regretted doing as a parent.
The list could be so much longer. What would you add to it? Leave a comment!