I constantly struggle with what could have been. With what I should have done differently. What I would do if I could go back and change things. This happens on a daily basis, with situations that are big and important, and with ones that should never matter at all. I regret the silliest of decisions, and although I try to let it go, I never can.
On a recent trip to Subway, I fought with myself over my decision to not get my sub toasted. I should have gotten it toasted. It would have tasted better toasted. I do this all the time at restaurants. Once my meal arrives, I constantly think about what I should have ordered instead. It happens with other purchases too. I should have gotten the shirt in a different color. I shouldn’t have bought Emily more clothes, she has enough. I should have put the money toward an Exersaucer instead. It never ends; it’s like the freakin’ Energizer bunny. These thoughts just keep going and going….
Like this upcoming weekend. It will be Emily’s first 4th of July. And her daddy will miss it. He is going 200 miles away to ride 4-wheelers for the whole weekend. Will he ever look back and wish that he’d done things differently? Will he regret missing her eyes light up as she watches fireworks for the first time? Or should I suck it up and go with him? Even though I will be stuck inside of a 30′ camper for 3 days, miserable and bored to tears? Will deciding not to go be a decision that I will ever regret?
And those are not the thoughts that bother me the most. It’s those major decisions that leave me at the breaking point; just one little nudge is all it will take to send me into a major meltdown.
Did I make the right decision to become a teacher? I love being a teacher, but at the time, it seems the answer is NO. I don’t have a job, and it isn’t looking like I will have one next year, either. If I could rewind the clock, I would stay on the path of becoming a nurse, and then a midwife. That was the plan. I tried as hard as I could. But looking back, I keep feeling like I could have done more. I could have hired a tutor. I should have studied more. But one dream got in the way of the other. I would have had to go to Atlanta to become a midwife. I would have had to leave my family, and most importantly, the man I wanted to marry. It would have been only for 2 years, tops. But at the time, it was unfathomable. At the time, 2 years seemed like forever, and Atlanta seemed worlds away, not the 4 hour drive that it actaully would have been.
Did I make the right decision? What did I give up in order to get what I now have? Would Denny and I have stayed together? Probably. Would he have come with me to Atlanta if I’d really wanted him to? Maybe. Would I be happier in that career than with the one that I ended up with? I don’t know, but all signs point to yes. Would I have my Emily, if things had gone differently? That is what it all comes down to. How can I regret any decision that I have ever made, knowing that one wrong turn might have steered me away from where I am right now? But if I’d never had her, I wouldn’t know what I would be missing. I might have had a totally different life. I sometimes wish that I did have a totally different life.
Is this even making any sense?
I look at the lives of those around me, and I wonder if anyone else harbors any secret regrets inside. As a mother, I can guess that other mothers would not change one thing, based solely on their love for their children. They would take all of the abuse, all of the addiction, all of the sadness, the loneliness, the responsibility of raising their children alone (even though they have perfectly capable husbands there to help, they just don’t) just to have one second with their children. But fathers, I see them in a different light. Maybe that is because at the moment, I have never known a father who was worth a flip at being a father, except for my Granddaddy. He let me put bows in his hair without a single protest. He played countless games of Connect Four with me, when there were probably 100 other things he could have been doing. And from the stories my mother has told me, he was what all men should strive to be.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that Denny is abusive or struggling with addiction or mean or lazy or any of the above. He is a good man. He has just not yet realized that he is now a father, and that his life no longer revolves around only him. Or rather, that it shouldn’t. Or maybe his definition of the word father is construed. Maybe he thinks his job ended at conception, and the rest is all up to me. You learn by example, right?
And now I’ve said too much. I could simply hit “backspace” and make all of this go away. I could never hit “publish” and all of these thoughts would remain only mine. But I can’t do that. I have to get this off of my chest. Yes, Denny works outside of the home all day. And I work inside of the home all day. We both work, although I do know some people who would argue that what I do is not technically “work” and that I should be out working a 9-5 shift while Emily is raised by strangers in a daycare. (And before I became a mother, that was the plan, but as we all know, plans change. And I cannot bear to be away from her for more than a few hours at a time. As cliche as it might sound, I truly feel like a piece of myself is missing when she is not around.)
When Denny gets home each day, I want him to spend time with Emily. Not for my sake, but for hers. All of my life, I had an “absent” father. My parents were married and lived together. My father was home. But he was never really “there”. I know the pain of being less important to someone than the baseball game on tv or the buddies down at the bar. I have made many, many mistakes while trying to fill that void, searching for a man to give me the attention that I had always been starving for and never shown. And I want something different, completely opposite for Emily.
I want her to be more important to Denny than any 4-wheeler, truck or tractor. More important than any friend that calls and wants to work on a project or just hang out. More important than the uncut grass or the trash that is overflowing in the can. More important than me.
I want my husband to never look back wishing that he had done more with her. I never want him to regret that he didn’t spend enough time with her, didn’t take her enough places, didn’t teach her enough new things. And even more troubling is the fact that he might not ever regret any of it. It might not ever be as important to him as it is to me. So how do I get him to do all of that? I can’t force him. I can’t even ask him. I want him to want to all on his own. I want him to love her as much as I do.
I always thought that he would be a good dad. He was a great boyfriend. He’s a wonderful husband. And my Grandma always tells me that he reminds her of her Otis. So I always assumed that when we had children he would be the best father this world has ever seen. And for a while I wondered if all men were the same. I wondered if any father loved his kids as much as his wife does. And then as I watched his brother yesterday, I realized that their childhood had nothing to do with it. His brother is a good papa, and he teaches his children and plays silly games with them and spends time alone with them. So no, not all men are the same. Not even men from the same family.
As I checked my Facebook this morning, a friend of mine who is a brand new father left an update saying that his daughter was all smiles this morning and he didn’t want to leave her to go to work. Again, no, all men are not the same.
I read a lot of mommy blogs, and I am surprised at how many husbands get up at night to help with the baby, and how many times the mothers have gone away from the house, leaving the baby with the husband all alone. How do they do it? Do they possess some sort of magical powers that make their men helpful? Denny has kept Emily 1 time, for a whopping 3 hours. I can count the number of diapers that he has changed on one hand. And it’s been nearly four months. And he doesn’t get up at night, but then again, he doesn’t have the feeding mechanisms required, so I can’t really say anything about that one.
My heart is sad for my daughter. At times I wish that we had waited longer to have her, so that my husband could get everything that he wanted to do out of his system first. And then there are the times that I wonder if all of my earlier mistakes was my subconscious trying to tell me something that I didn’t want to hear.
And although it is too late to change anything now, I will always wonder what could have been. What should have been. What would have been different if only I had done something different. If. So much meaning in such a tiny, little word.