Living with no regrets is a great concept, but a tough trick to perform in any real life. We all make mistakes that we wish we could take back, and that feeling of regret is how we learn to act differently the next time. What is wrong with that? The one evil that often causes this regret is our damn human tendency toward expectations. We hear stories about what our sixteenth birthday should look like, how beautiful our prom will be, what our wedding be like, how awesome the birth of your first child will be. We are all happy families, playing with our 2.5 children and our yellow labrador in the green grass on a sunny day with no radiation clouds or body fat to bring us down. There’s no griping about the wasted picnic food that has to be thrown out, even though there wasn’t enough money to buy it in the first place. There’s no arguing about whether to play frisbee or fly a kite. Everyone gets along. There is not regret.
Sounds kinda boring, doesn’t it?
Yesterday, I saw a dad. He looked like a good dad, trying to take his three kids out on a bike ride. One was on a bike, one was on training wheels, and the other was in a buggy behind dad. They were going uphill when the wind kicked up, right into their faces. He was attempting to push the one on wheels up the hill while riding his own bike and not running over the training-wheel kid. I bet that picture looked so much better in his head when he was getting ready to go on that ride. I ran into the same family again about 15 minutes later and all three kids were crying. He was a good dad. He did not throw his bike in the ditch and have a meltdown (as I might have), but I bet he had a beer when he got home. Did he regret that bike ride? Perhaps. But he probably learned not to take all three on a windy day, at 5 p.m. (which every MOM in the world will tell you is the witching hour. Funny the timing of the witching hour has a positive correlation with happy hour.)
I did that a couple of years ago, when my kiddo was 3 or 4. I decided that – yes, it was slightly snowy out, but the sun was shining and it was my birthday and I wanted to go outside with my kid and my dogs. We got bundled, leashed, and shoe tied. Twenty-minutes later we headed out the door. My husband called and I decided that even though I had two dog leashes in my hands and a kid running along, I could use that third hand I keep meaning to grow to answer it. We decided I would call to order take-out and he would pick it up on the way home, because that’s a practical idea when walking dogs and kids in snow on your birthday. I called. A teenager answered to take my order. Meanwhile, a person with a bulldog on a leash was approaching. I start heading off the trail a little, still on my phone. I ordered cashew chicken.
“I don’t think we have that.”
It’s a Chinese food restaurant. They don’t have cashew chicken?
“Really? Well, how about chicken and broccoli?”
“Um, I don’t think we have that either.”
Did I accidentally call Pizza Hut? What the hell?
“Oh, wait. I guess we do have that. Do you want the broccoli or the cashews?”
“Do you have both of them?”
“No. We have chicken and broccoli.”
The bulldog and owner are now about five feet away. I have two extended leases. My dogs are pulling. My daughter has wandered down to the ditch to look at something. My labrador runs to greet the other dog. The leashes cross. The daughter is taken out and spilled into the ditch. Somehow I hold on to my phone. Probably not the priority I should have had at the moment.
“Oh, God man, just forget it.”
I finally hang up, or maybe just shove the phone in my pocket. I drop the leashes and they wrap around the lady and her bulldog while I fish my screaming wet child out of the ditch (there was only 3 or 4 inches of water in it). I apologize to the woman and tell her to hold on for a minute and I will rescue her, too. My dogs are sniffing the bulldog’s butt, continuing to wrap her tighter and tighter in their leashes.
Like a great big human birthday present for me to unwrap.
I unwind the lady and fortunately for me, she smiles and tells me to have a good day. I am in the midst of regretting our snowy day adventure, but I thank her and strip off my sweatshirt to wrap my kid up in it. It is snowing. I now have a tank top on and a 15 minute walk ahead of me. Good times. Man. That cashew chicken sure would have warmed me up.
It wasn’t even close to happy hour, yet.
I ran into that same bulldog-walking-woman a month or two later, and she complimented me on my parenting (which made me laugh too hard and blow a little uninvited snot out of my nose). She said she never would have held it together with all of those events occurring in unison. I don’t know that I held it together that well, but I’m glad that I faked it enough to fool someone! Next time I see that dad I should compliment him on his patience… and maybe even tell him about the witching hour. I don’t think it’s fair to keep that a secret amongst moms. Especially not the witching hour, happy hour correlation.
Happy hour washes away most regret. It’s like detergent.