10 Things I wish I would have done, done better, or not done raising my children

I don’t have many regrets as a parent. Not because I haven’t made mistakes as we clearly all do. I parented with the tools I had at the time and I had absolutely no good example to follow from my own parents. I’m clear any mistakes I made I did so out of trying to ensure my children made it to adulthood alive and as productive adults. As they have checked both those boxes I consider my parenting a reasonable success. There are some things I’d rather have done, not done or done better. I’m just going to list ten of them. Why ten? It’s an easy rounded number. Besides I’m not my wife so I can’t think of more than ten mistakes I may have made. They are presented here in no significant order of importance.

  1. Give them more of my time. I was not a neglectful father. Of this I’m sure, but we can always give them more time cant we? More tea parties with the girls, more rough housing with the boys (okay the girls too), more talks about nothing at all, more sports, more hiking, more movies to see, more everything. Whether it would make a big difference to them (it would) or not it would surely make for more and richer memories for me as it is the ones I have of them that are the most precious ones I have of my life. I’m sure they say the same. Right? Right?
  2. Never ever raise my voice. There is a large gap in ages between my three older children and my two younger ones. I became a father very young and I was a very different parent between the younger and older ones. More patient as I got older. But throughout I felt compelled at times to yell at them for something they may have done or neglected to do. I’m not talking raging or belittling, but simply raising my voice. Whether justified or not, I was usually filled with regret afterwards and pride stopped me from apologizing most of the time. I marvel at the patience level my sons and daughter have with their own children. It’s truly a sight to watch and learn from, albeit this late for me. Of course I have not found any reason whatsoever for which to yell at my grandsons. They are clearly less annoying than their parents.
  3. Let them know how proud I am of them. I did and continue to do this, but I could do it much more often. My mother ensures I know how proud she is of me every time I talk to her. She’s absolutely effusive about it to the point of annoyance. Yeah, that’s why I don’t do it. I don’t want to annoy them. You’re welcome kids!
  4. Explain to my daughters the truly disgusting nature of teenage boys. I mean seriously, they are disgusting. I know. I was one. Yet despite this, they both managed to navigate those years successfully. One is happily married to a doting and loving husband, thus far (he’s still under the spotlight and probably will be for life). The other has managed to dodge getting her heart broken and doesn’t allow herself to be taken advantage of. I take no credit for either of their choices. Must be their mother’s upbringing. Then again she chose me so what does she know?
  5. Buy my son the piece of crap overpriced car he seemed to have fallen in love with when he was a teenager. I saw exactly that. A piece of crap, overpriced money pit that would probably break down on a weekly basis. What I failed to see was the car through his eyes and he probably saw only potential. Believe me, the car had none. But most importantly, he would have had a better story to tell than his Dad refusing to buy the first car he fell in love with. Sometimes the smarter decision is not necessarily the better one. He should still thank me for the heartbreak I helped him avoid by not buying it the ungrateful cuss.
  6. Force them to learn Spanish. I say Spanish because it’s the other language I speak/read/write fluently, but any second language would do. My father, although also fluent in Spanish (for a gringo) refused to speak to us in any language other than English. He was militant about it. Why? We were living on a Spanish speaking island and he did not want us to forget English. Result? We didn’t. I should have been more militant about it. They resisted and I caved. Soooo my solution was to take them to that Spanish speaking island so they’d be forced to learn by immersion. I should have taken them to Mexico instead. Everyone in Puerto Rico speaks English, poorly or not, they do speak it.  Fail!
  7. Teach them to dance. My mother taught me to dance very young as she is a dancer at heart. At the time I hated those lessons but I was very appreciative of them when I was in my teens. I was a dancing fool in my teens and where I was raised that’s how you got the girls. My youngest is a natural dancer who’s pretty much self taught. To be honest I’m not sure if my other four can dance a lick. I made up for this by teaching them all martial arts. Only one of them has not made it to black belt. I’m not giving up on her.  Perhaps when I start training her children she’ll start again.
  8. Take them out to sea. I spent ten years of my Naval career on ships and I’ve seen some of the most majestic sights out at sea, night and day. Only one of my children has gone out to sea with me. He actually got to shoot the 5”54 caliber gun mount on my last ship (thanks Captain Frank Demasi!). They were memorable trips and I treasure the memories. My oldest served in the Navy so he’s been out there. My three younger ones have been aboard my ships but only while tied to the pier on my duty nights. Perhaps I’ll purchase a family cruise one of these days. My wife having been out to sea with me once will probably skip that cruise.
  9. Build a treehouse fort. I didn’t have one growing up so I’m not sure how much they missed out on this one but I always wanted to do this. Probably a good thing I didn’t as I’m not much of a builder and I probably spared them some broken bones. In fact they should all thank me for this one too!
  10. Create a college fund. This one is not necessarily so they could all go to college but so they would have the option. My wife and I sacrificed much financially so she could stay home, raise and educate our children. Not much was left over. They never lacked for anything but we did not put anything away for them. I would have liked to have given them the option of going to college or taking the money and bumming around the world for a few years. Wait! Bum around the world for a few years? Why should they get to do that??? Never mind. I’m glad I bought that Corvette and that motorcycle. Okay, I didn’t get those either but I sure did think about it.

I’m not done parenting my adult children so I have some time to make up for these lapses in my parenting record. I just want them to understand how precious and special they are and that because they are, I have managed to do something precious and special in my life. At least five times. Happy Fathers day to me!

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