Parenting Regrets

I went to the doctor recently and it was hard to get his attention, because he was crushed with patients and whipping out his Droid every two seconds to check medication safety issues, etc., but at some point when he found out I had a kid, he slowed down and said, “If I have one piece of advice for you is to get your kids the best teachers you can. I have four daughters. The eldest two were dancers, the second one was sports, and the youngest one is a violinist at __ conservatory [sorry, I’m literally blanking on the name but it’s a good one –Ed.].”

He whipped out his droid and played an mp3 that featured a Mendelssohn quartet, and this rich, flawless, inhumanly beautiful sound filled the teeny exam room.

“My one regret as a parent was not to get her the best teacher right away. We just had her study with someone in the neighborhood until that teacher said he taught her everything he knew and it was time to study with a new teacher. When we brought her to this excellent teacher, she was eight years old and she had to unlearn everything she knew and start over. When I think of that, those wasted years, and how she might be farther along now, I feel intense regret.”

You know, from my perspective, if this is the only parental regret this guy has, he’s doing pretty well. I mean, he had four kids and they all went to college, so that achievement right there is remarkable. Kids are not cheap, as he kept saying during my exam. And while I’m not free of random panic and guilt, I also feel like I’m not a delinquent, so how bad of a parent can I really be? And starting Baby’s path with a non-delinquent mom, I mean, that says winner to me right there. Is that the wrong attitude to have? Perhaps there is room to be more self-critical. (My own mother would undoubtedly say YES, YOU HAVE THE WRONG ATTITUDE! COMB YOUR HAIR! HOW CAN YOU LEAVE THE HOUSE LIKE THAT! Ha ha hee ho ho wha.)

9 Replies to “Parenting Regrets”

  1. You can’t really get the best teacher, if you don’t know what your child’s “thing” will be. I am temporarily done with special classes, etc, because I end up dragging and bribing him to go after the thrill has worn off. And what if the doctor’s dancer kid would have been an amazing… painter, but doesn’t know because she spent all her time at dance class? I was thinking about that this morning, that probably only a tiny percentage of geniuses discover their talent, because you have to have access and exposure to whatever it is. And what are the odds that a brilliant harpist is going to get to play the harp, instead of spending every Saturday being a mediocre soccer player?
    I mean, for each Einstein, there were probably hundreds of brilliant kids who ended up working in a factory. Who’s to say that spacy kid at Starbucks wouldn’t be a groundbreaking theorist, given the right environment?

  2. i think that’s true. i think about all the tennis champs — they’re all from rich families. no one else can afford the intense training and the obsession it has to take over your entire family for one genius to make it. and after all that effort, you’re not necessarily happier for it, i don’t think. i think that guy is lucky if that’s his only regret. i don’t want mine to be “god, i wish i didn’t get wasted at my son’s wedding and careened into his future in-laws table.” you know what i mean. something totally embarrassing that would be good to capture on film.

  3. Are you guys doing lessons and all that, provided you have the cash? He’s not even one yet and I’m curious about after school Programs or just letting him hang with grandma

  4. My mom threw me into ballet, jazz, piano, painting, tennis, typing, and math classes. I hated all of it. But now, of course, I wish I was taking piano and ballet and painting and tennis lessons.

    Do you think, though, if a kid has the talent but an innate drive, regardless of money, family, etc., they will reach their potential in their chosen field some way, some how? I mean, the spacy kid from Starbucks might be a future Einstein, but he doesn’t have the drive, and therefore, is not meant to be.

  5. I could just imagine instances where a kid has talent and drive, but doesn’t have access to the training. I do know a kid who has had an amazing athletic talent and drive from the get go. At one year old, he could drop kick a ball with complete accuracy. Lucky for him, his parents are jocks, too. But I don’t think they pushed him as much as he pushed them. I should give kids credit for having some agency on their own.

  6. nahhh, i think they’re f*ed. ha ha. but somewhat seriously, i think if a kid doesn’t have the support of his family, it’s a much harder battle. what do i know though? i referred to the baby as mr. president in day care today and the teacher was like “wouldn’t it be weird if we vote for him one day?” and ugh, i actually hope my child is not that ambitious. i don’t know that it always leads to satisfaction and happiness. it definitely leaves you with less time to fart around over coffee with your friends, which i think is a very valuable part of life.

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