One of the common statements I hear today when I talk with grandparents is, “I’m loving this second-chance at parenting.”
I’m all for second chances and for grandparents making the most of grand-parenting, but it seems that if we first-chance parents can anticipate the need for a second chance twenty or thirty years down the road, and then use that wisdom to make adjustments today… we could spare ourselves and our families a tremendous amount of pain and loss.
Now, I realize there is a wisdom that comes from trial and error and by simply being alive for sixty years; there’s often not a way to truncate the life’s lessons curriculum. However, that’s not usually the type of second chances grandparents seem to be referring to. It seems like many first-round mistakes have to do with priorities and values, and not with experience and know-how. For example, this past week I talked with a younger grandfather as he watched his four-year old grandson play outside. He made the “second chance” comment, and when I asked him what he’s doing differently this time, he said, “I’m paying attention. I’m trying to be present in a way that I wasn’t present for my son.”
That grandparent’s reflection reminds me of other answers I’ve received when asking this question. For instance, “I wouldn’t yell as much,” or “I wouldn’t get so worried about money,” or “I would say ‘yes’ more,” or “I wouldn’t spend as much time on my hobbies or my career.”
Why do we need the years to pile on regret, shame, and loss in order to wake us up and make us better the second time around? Why can’t we first-time mothers and fathers anticipate our twenty-year-down-the-road regrets, and then make changes today to prevent them? Why can’t we second-chance parent the first time around?