It’s hard not to live without some regret in this world. We tell ourselves often, “if I could do it all over again, I would have done it a lot differently.” Parents and children deal with this a lot. Parents have regrets from how they raised their kids, and kids have woes from how their parents raised them. I have been one of those kids. I’m sure raising kids isn’t easy, and it is probably hard not to wrestle with the thought of, “did I mess up my kids.” It is common to be hard on ourselves and on our parents, but something I think is important to keep in mind is, we are all doing the best we can; maybe our best isn’t always that good, but it is still our best, and we can’t do any better than that. So how can we be bitter, resentful, or filled with regret?
If everyone in the world played basketball, not very many people would be able to play like Lebron James, or even be able to play the game very well at all. If someone is playing the best they can, and they keep turning the ball over and shooting airballs, can I have grace for them and not be angry at their performance? After all, they are just doing the best they can. If that is true, then why do we so often look at our parents in such a negative light for all the things they did wrong when they can only do their best. Granted, it may not have always been very good, but it was still their best.
My upbringing wasn’t the most ideal. My parents got divorced when I was six, and my dad, as well as my older sister, moved far away when I was eight. I didn’t grow up around any family, so all I had was my mom and my brother. And like most kids who grow up with a single mom, my brother and I had to raise ourselves a little bit. Mom had to work to make sure we had food and somewhere to live, which means my brother and I had to take care of ourselves sometimes. There were moments in my teens where I felt abandoned and alone in the world, which made me feel angry and resentful and I felt like I had a right to be. But to get past those things I had to come to terms with that my parents did the best they could with the resources they were given. They weren’t able to give my brother and I the most ideal upbringing, but they did their best, and I can be thankful for that.
Being a single mom can’t be easy and my mom worked hard at it. She always made sure we had everything we needed, even though we would have been considered poor. For there was a time when the three of us lived in a studio apartment, sleeping in the same bed, but I never felt poor, and I never felt like I went without. I was always in sports, my mom always found a way to get me to all my practices and games, and when I started skating she always made sure I had a skateboard. She also got herself through nursing school while raising two kids by herself, which is quite the feat. The other day I was playing tennis with my friend, and this mom with her three kids showed up and started playing on the court next to us. She was in medical scrubs and looked like she had just gotten off of work. This mom reminded me of my own and I almost shed a tear. Probably a single mom, trying her best to not only take care of her kids financially but also trying to have some fun time with them. My mom used to do the same kinds of things for us. My mom would get off of work, and even though she had every right to kick her feet up and relax after a long day at the hospital, would grab all the racquets and take us to the tennis courts still in her scrubs. My mom did her best to do it all and she worked hard at being a mom, and no matter what hurt she may have caused, I can be thankful for all she did. For her best was often really good
My dad for whatever reason felt like he had to get back to his hometown where his family was, and from that point on we had to battle the distance, and that is ok. And even though he wasn’t around too much, I do have some fond memories of him. I played a lot of little league baseball as a kid, and I usually always pitched, and I remember practicing with my dad, and he would always get in the catcher position and start making funny faces and make me laugh. And when we were little my dad used to take us dirt bike riding, and he would always have us sit in front of him, and I remember always telling him to do a wheelie, and when I would get scared he would always say, “just lean back into my chest.” My dad gave his best, and even though he felt like he had to leave, which left him with regret, and my brother and I with some hurt, he still gave us his best. I know he is hard on himself for making that decision and for not being able to be around more, but he did what he could, and we have to live with that and try to make the most of it. He had his moments where his best was really good just like everybody else, and he had his moments where it wasn’t. We can choose to either remember and be thankful for the good things or be remorseful and bitter for the bad things. I would rather choose the former.
As kids, we spend a lot of time thinking about all the things our parents did wrong, and not enough time thinking about all the things they did right. Almost everyone has stuff they can complain about in regards to their upbringing and how their parents raised them. There probably isn’t a human out there that didn’t grow up with nothing to complain about. But no matter what mistakes my parents have made, I always have the choice to be a good son. I’ve put off calling and going to see my parents. I’ve come home drunk as a teenager, and thrown house parties when mom left town. At one of those house parties one of my brother’s friends threw up pink vomit all over the living room carpet, and my brother and I couldn’t get the stain out before my mom got home. One time my mom picked up my friend Ryan and I from a bonfire that we both got really drunk at and Ryan puked all over the backseat of the car. Being a family is hard, and I have also been the one that has made bad decisions that have pained my parents. My best as a son hasn’t always been stellar either, and I have had my moments of being hard on myself and asking the question, “Have I been a good son to my parents?”
My dad recently came really close to dying, and whenever death looms over a loved one, there is always the question of, was I good to this person? Have I been a good son to my father? Did I reach out and make the effort enough in our relationship? No matter how much I call him and go see him, there will always be this feeling of, “I could have done more.” I need to have grace for myself and remember that I did the best I could. Maybe my best wasn’t always very good, maybe I didn’t reach out enough, but I still did my best. Moving forward I can always do better, but beating myself up for not being better is pointless. I can only give my best, and I don’t think our best ever feels like it is good enough.
Our best is all we have to offer this world. Hopefully, we are always improving and getting better, but at the end of the day, we can’t do any better than our best. Sometimes our best may not be very good, and hopefully, there is grace for those times, and sometimes our best is awesome and wonderful. Being hard on ourselves for not doing better, or being resentful or bitter towards someone else for not being better is never going to get us anywhere. We all need grace, and we all need to remember that we are all just doing the best we can. Sometimes the cards we are dealt in life aren’t the most ideal, but we can always choose to make the most of them and love all the people that God has put in our lives regardless of how good they were to us. Even when we feel like they don’t deserve it. I haven’t always been a good son, and my parents haven’t always been good parents, but we have always done our best, and I can be thankful for that.