They say hindsight is 20/20.
“If I only knew then what I know now.”
“If I could go back in time and do it all over again, I’d…”
So many remorseful cliches, so little time.
Let’s be real — hindsight is only gained by living through certain life experiences, many of which are difficult, some even painful. Hindsight comes from living through those trials in the absence of foresight, or the ability to see what consequences or pitfalls lie before us. If we had the ability to see what hurt, pain, or regret certain life choices would bring, well, we’d avoid them at all costs. I’ve been accused of offering a little too much foresight to my hubs and kiddos, but, if we’re being honest, I’m almost never wrong.
“Yes, son, when you have a ‘stick war’ with your friends, things could go terribly awry, you could end up with a broken nose and subsequent nasal surgery that forfeits a good portion of your summer.”
Not really something I wanted to be right about, but hey, I can’t help these mad skills I have. Hindsight is necessary in predicting the future, but it also has other benefits.
I have this friend — this amazingly smart, beautiful, successful, and crazy competitive friend — who is such an inspiration to me. I remember the first time I ever met her I was sure regular old me could never be friends with someone like her. Hell, she looked like she should’ve been seated on Olympus at the right hand of Zeus, rocking that wavy blonde hair, a golden bicep bracelet, her toga, and of course, her three immortal children on one hip.
She is the definition of success by which so many women measure themselves, but not in the catty way many women make comparisons. Sure, she’s fun, pretty, athletic, energetic, and she makes it all look easy. But she’s so much more than that.
She leads. She challenges. She inspires. She encourages. She does burpees — for fun. Gross.
During one of our recent beach weekends together, she asked me how we raised such confident children.
Hera was soliciting parenting advice from ME? The Queen of Confidence herself? I could’ve never seen that coming. But that’s the thing about hindsight — we can’t see it until it has already happened.
I didn’t really have an answer for her, but her question made me pause for a moment and examine my kiddos and their confidence levels. You see, we get so busy and caught up in our parenting journey that we sometimes lose sight of what it is we’re working towards. Of course I want strong, self-assured children; who doesn’t? But I’m also trying to instill about 235,839 other good qualities in them, so it’s easy to lose focus on a specific trait. Her question forced me to look not only at my parenting, but also my own confidence level and how I got to this point.
I vividly remember the walls and layout of my cruel middle school like it was yesterday, which is pretty amazing, because I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning. I guess some things stick because of their relevance, or in the case of my middle school years, hairspray. I remember many things about those years: the yellow and black striped sweater dress I coveted for months and finally got, my Aqua Netted high hair with bangs pointing at the ceiling, and the pink, lumpy, L-shaped pillow I made in my home economics class. Looking back, I realize all I really looked like was a bumblebee in black granny boots with peacock shaped hair. What a sight. Oh, and I stunk at sewing. But more than anything, I remember walking those halls with a constant concern of what others thought of me, hoping for looks of approval from my peers and praying with every fiber of my being that no one noticed the once-a-year-size-of-a-volcano zit on my forehead. I remember how I FELT.
High school wasn’t much better. It took me until the end of my sophomore year to really get my bearings about me and establish some sort of sense of self. Just when I got into a groove, a good group of friends, and a spot on the flag line (hey, they were the STUFF at our school!), we moved. I went from my mid-Western city life to a small Southern town where no one had ever left or entered other than by death or birth. I was dubbed a “Yankee” with a nasal accent by my high school peers.
Seriously, people? I moved from Missouri!
Needless to say, I was in culture shock and experiencing what I was sure was a teenage tragedy. And it was, at the time, but I survived. You couldn’t have told me at the time I would make it through that dreadful first year, but I didn’t know then what I know now.
I have two children who have also survived middle school, and one who is currently in the thick of it. Another is finding out that high school is one of the first times in life when friends are truly revealed, and another is in college forging what I know she hopes will be lifelong connections. As I watch them face different challenges and struggles, I wish I could convince them that I really DO know how to help them because I’ve already been there. Why can’t they accept my hindsight as their own and avoid the pain, the learning curve, and the flying sticks? I mean, that would make ME feel a heck of a lot better about things, and greatly reduce the number of doctor’s visits.
But it wasn’t until my perfectly put together friend questioned how we’ve managed to arm our children with some level of self-assurance that I realized one important connection — hindsight helps build confidence.
Each and every trial and lesson they encountered taught them something about the world and themselves. The first time no one wanted to play with them on the playground. The first time they were picked last. The first time they found out their best friend shared a secret. The first time they didn’t study as much as they should’ve, and got the grade to prove it. The first time someone made fun of or questioned their faith. The first time they realized that some people are just mean for sport. The first time they realized they had hurt someone they love.
None of those experiences were fun or easy, but they were necessary. It sounds a bit harsh, but it’s true. Each challenging moment taught them something they could improve upon, eliminate, change, or better. Even though there were times the world seemed to be falling down around them, they were gaining the ability to look back, reflect, and make the necessary adjustments to move forward. After all, what’s the point of reflection if we aren’t using it to make positive changes?
The good news is my kids are, in fact, brimming with confidence and rocking each milestone far better than I could’ve ever dreamed of at their ages.
The bad news is they don’t realize how well they’re actually doing, and no amount of me telling them will convince them the way hindsight will.
In moments when I’m sure I would’ve crumbled, they hold their heads high and keep on keeping on. There are still moments when I wish I could go back to my teen years with the knowledge and assertiveness I have now, and truth be told, I often wish I could go back on behalf of my children. But what good would that do? I AM raising kids with confidence, and I’m absolutely impressed with the courage and poise with which they navigate their youth. I hope I had a small part in creating the assertive young people they are, but ultimately what they do with their own experiences is up to them.
I’m 40, and still creating moments of hindsight for myself (can I just be done learning the hard way already?). I still have much to learn, but I’m finally making peace — ok, trying to make peace — with the fact that my kids have to experience pain and failure in order to experience great happiness and success.
I also have a confidence that I never thought I’d attain, and that is largely due to trial and error, failure and feedback, heartache, humility, and hindsight. At this rate, I should be a genius by the time I’m 60. I envision being one of those 80-year-old great aunts (we all have one) who pinches cheeks and says inappropriate things because she’s acquired the boldness to speak freely even if it makes everyone in the room cringe in discomfort.
Thankfully, I’ve reached a point in my life where I realize what other people think of me doesn’t matter at all compared to what I think of me, and even more importantly, what my children think of me. And much to my surprise, sitting on the beach next to Hera isn’t quite as intimidating as it once was. I may not be a supermodel or a goddess, but I AM my children’s model, which comes with an enormous amount of pressure and honor that I gladly accept. What my kiddos don’t know is they are often the models I follow, and I could’ve never seen that coming.