I try not to regret much in life. God knows I have no cause for regret. I’ve been abundantly blessed from birth. Just about any white male born in the developed world starts life on at least second, if not third, base in the baseball game of life compared to the rest of humanity. So regret is nothing but self-indulgence. And yet…
There are things that if one had the opportunity to revisit, one might wish to do so. Unfinished business. Unanswered questions. Unscratched itches.
For me, it is the second child my wife and I never had for a combination of very good reasons, both of our own choosing and those beyond our control.
Lately this child has been on my mind. I’m not quite sure why.
Perhaps it is the realization that as our daughter moves into adulthood our role as parents is transforming.
I have no illusions. We will always be parents. But how one is a parent to an adult is different from how one is a parent to a child.
I’m not sure I’m ready to be done being a parent to a child. I loved being a parent to a child. Others will have to judge how well I did on that score, but for my part I didn’t do nearly enough of it.
I deeply regret not having been more present and engaged as a father to our daughter when she was young. I’m sure there were good and compelling reasons. None of them occur to me now or, if they do, they do not seem to matter much compared to the tradeoffs and how I now feel about those tradeoffs.
And so, to console myself, I find myself thinking about what kind of father I would have been for a second child.
This is the realm of pure fantasy, I assure you. The pressures that kept me from being the kind of father I wish I had been to our daughter when she was a child would have been even more intense with a second child. No question about that. But since it is fantasy, I can create the kind of reality I like.
For some reason, our second child would have been a son. There is no rational reason that would have been the case. But since it is a fantasy, I get to choose. In fact, from time to time, I spot a young boy who looks like what I imagine our son might have looked like. When I do, I feel a yearning that unsettles me.
I think about all the things I would have taught our son about how to become a good man—mostly to check his privilege in ways that allows others to claim their voice and power.
I think about how I would have tried not to burden him with expectations but to give him the freedom to discover and choose the path that allows him to be the person God created him to be.
Perhaps I will have the opportunity as a grandfather.