No Regret Parenting

birthday biking grand mesa colorado

Biking on our son’s birthday, near Flowing Park Reservoir.

braveskimom logoWhen our oldest son turned 17 last month, my husband took the day off from work. This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. He was present when each boy was each born and he’s been present for every birthday since (he also takes my birthday off, which is very nice).

The night before the big day, my husband was talking with a colleague. When he told him that he’d be out of the office the next day and why, his friend sighed.

“My daughter is the same age. When she was little, I made a list of the things I wanted to do with her. Now she’ll be going to college in two years and we haven’t done any of them,” he lamented.

Relaying this story to me later that evening, my husband ruefully laughed and said, “I couldn’t commiserate. I realized that I don’t have a list like that. I do pretty much everything I’ve want to do with my family.” 

While he felt bad for his friend, I think he, himself, felt blessed.

Setting Family Priorities

We’ve all heard how at the end of life, no one wishes they’d spent more time at work, away from their family. I think we can all relate to that sentiment and most of us believe that its true.

Yet while a lifetime (hopefully) gives you decades upon decades to grow up, grow wise and set your priorities, the timeline for parenting is short. Sure, we’ll be our boys’ parents forever, but they won’t live with us forever.

Colorado college hockey

Watching college hockey together in Colorado Springs.

When our guys were young, we were pretty much homebodies. We didn’t often go out with friends or leave them frequently with babysitters. When we did go out or away (and my husband and I did have several big work-related adventures sans kids), the boys were with their grandparents who live nearby, having their own adventures, big and small. Almost always, they have been with family.

Over the years, this has sometimes frustrated some of my friends. Since I usually can’t think of anything better than spending time with my family, I have a hard time committing to girls’ trips and getaways. It’s not because I don’t love and value my friends, it’s just that going away with them is something that can wait for the future.

Will I regret the trips I’ve passed on? I don’t think so. Do I look forward to new adventures in the future when my sons no longer live at home? Absolutely.

colorado avalanche family

What’s on Your List?

Obviously, every family is different and I recognize that not everyone can rely on family or prioritize the way we have (or would even want to).

Still I think it’s important for parents to take stock now and then and make sure they’re not setting themselves up for regret. Why? Because no one wants to end up holding an unchecked list and staring at an empty bedroom.

northern ireland

Laughing it up in Northern Ireland.

I have another sweet anecdote from the night before our son’s birthday. When we asked our gregarious, outgoing, friend-oriented son how he wanted to celebrate, he didn’t hesitate. “I want to spend time with the whole family, and since my grandfather loves to fish, I guess we should go fishing.” He picked up his phone and invited his grandparents. And, together, we had a tremendous day and celebration.

Like I said, no regrets.

Flyfishing on his birthday with his grandfather at Island Lake. This was before the biking!

Flyfishing on his birthday with his grandfather at Island Lake. This was before the biking!

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  1. says

    Great post! I’ve never had an official list. I find that if I focus on making every moment with my boys count instead of focusing on what may or may not happen with them in the future, those moments are rich, adventurous and filled with love. This is especially important as we’re all going through a divorce and the changes that entails. One thing that won’t change is our bonds as father and sons, and the adventures that we share.

    • says

      Thanks Ken. I am sorry to hear about your divorce, but it certainly sounds like your boys are spending some amazing time with you.

      We don’t have official lists either. Although there have been things we’ve wanted to do with our kids, such as backpack the Grand Canyon (check), visit Rome (may not get done until they’re adults), and more. But as you say, the most important thing is a focus on each moment!

      Thanks again and good luck with the Backpacker Outdoor Heroes competition!

  2. says

    I love this! My friends think I’m weird, too — family time is fun for me. Why would I want to take a break from that? I keep saying that I have no regrets about their younger years. We made the most of them and I still feel like it wasn’t enough time. Happy birthday to your son!

    • says

      Thanks Michele! I am not sure there is ever enough time, but I will also say that each additional year, has brought additional joys! Stay weird! Cheers!

  3. says

    I absolutely loved this post. It responates so much with everything I’ve been thinking about lately. Living deliberitly and parenting with no regrets – totally the way to go. Thank you so so much for sharing!

    • says

      Thanks Jessica! I think a lot of parents feel this way. But its hard to buck society when people are telling you that you need “you time” or “adult time” or “girl time” or “guy time.” I truly believe there are plenty of years ahead for “my time.” Right now, I love that we have “our time.”


  4. says

    CHEERS to that! I wish the grandparents lived closer to us, but we are blessed they are willing to travel when we need a little help! No regrets – life is too precious! :)

  5. says

    Your family is such an inspiration. People always tell me that their teenage boys don’t like hanging out with them anymore. So it’s refreshing and inspiring to see that does not happen in all families!

    • says

      Thanks Jen. I think our boys quickly realized that if they continued to hang out with us 1) they’d get to ski all of the time — on our dime and 2) they’d get to go on adventures most of their friends can’t even imagine. You guys do the same with biking…if the parents are out there, active and doing stuff, the kids will want to follow. There is no excuse for boredom!


  6. says

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post!! That is what I aspire to my family to be, I want my children to WANT to spend their time with their family especially when they are teenagers. My kids are toddlers and I agree with everything you say here and are doing the things that will hopefully build the relationship you have with your children!

    • says

      Thanks so much Melissa! I think another key is that we, as parents, want to spend time with our kids. It works both ways and we make sure that everyone gets to set the pace, choose the place and be trail boss from time to time! Enjoy!

  7. says

    Thanks for the great reminder! My little one is only 6 months, and already I can see how I could have regrets over my first half year with her (but don’t!). I tried extra hard to balance the amount of attention I wanted to give her with the other stuff I ‘needed to get done’. I have a quote on my wall that says, “if you’re bored, you’re not paying enough attention!” As she gets older, I’m excited to start planning memorable ways to spend our time together. So far we’ve done a fair amount of hiking, paddling, camping and playing in the park. I think we’re off to a good start. I want to keep it that way!