Feeling regret


Well-Known Member
We have had a pretty good visit with our son. He seems to want to move forward with his life and to stay sober so there is hope. However I am feeling sad for him, the path he has been on...and feeling some regret that I somehow did not see the seriousness of it all when it started when he was in 7 th grade. Fact is we got him therapy but I don't think he was open to it...so I am not sure what I could have done differently...but I do feel I missed some things and am feeling that wish for a do over....and none of this regret is helpful at all! It will be good to get home and back to my own life!

New Leaf

Well-Known Member
and none of this regret is helpful at all! It will be good to get home and back to my own life!
Ahhh, the regret. Yes, I have been there many times.
If only retrospect worked, for the past.........You know what I think?
It isn't helpful to us, but maybe someone here on CD is going through a similar battle and can learn from it?
Tl, you were the best parent you could be. We all were.
In the long run, our kids are going to do what they do.
Free will. It is free will and choices.

Didn't cause it, couldn't prevent it......

I am glad your son is getting treatment and on the road to recovery.
It was a hard visit.
Hope you have time to unwind.
Carry on, warrior mom!



Well-Known Member
However I am feeling sad for him, the path he has been on...and feeling some regret that I somehow did not see the seriousness of it all when it started when he was in 7 th grade
Regret. I'm going to guess that if even a small percentage of us on the CD board got together and combined our regrets, we'd have enough to drown in.

Part of me wants to say... your regrets only go back to 7th grade? (mine go back to kindergarten). Yes, I always wonder what we missed or what could have been done differently.

I am slowly learning to not take the regret so personally. That is... some of what happened to my highly challenged child WERE unfair, ugly, wrong, almost criminal. Just as my child regrets those things, so can I... I can regret that they happened, regret that the medical and school systems had nothing to offer us or him no matter how hard we fought.

What could *I* have done differently? Lots of things, except, the farther we go in this process, the more I understand that the things that were in my power to change, would have made at most a very tiny dent in the outcome. Most of it was beyond my power to even influence.

At some point in the future, I may be able to collect my wits and energy, and start a crusade against all the injustices around mental health and developmental challenges in our young people. Not until after we are done with our own challenging child, however - and that's going to be a while yet. Until then, I guess I just have to park the regret.


I Am The Walrus
I visualize the makeup of a person like a jigsaw puzzle - there are many pieces that make the picture of what we become. Hopefully, as we grow older, the picture continues to change and grow and become more detailed as we learn from our experiences.

As parents, when our children don't blossom and fail, we get it in our minds that we are the biggest piece of that puzzle, or even the only piece. And that if we had done this...and this....and this...and this differently, the pieces would have fit. Then we fall into the "what if" game and regret after regret eats you alive. I have done it many, many, many times.

But we are most definitely NOT the only piece or even the biggest piece of our child's personality puzzle. Every friend, family member, enemy is a piece. Every positive and negative experience, every triumph and every failure, every win and every loss goes into what makes a person who they are. Every choice your child made is part of that puzzle, as well as choices you and others made for your child.

InsaneCdn is right - even if you had a do-over and somehow "magically" undid every parental "wrong" you committed (because only perfect parents have successful children, right?), it would do very little if anything at all to change the picture of who he is today. Human beings are too complicated and too many pieces go into our makeup - genetics, environment, upbringing, experiences, peers, education, economics....- and for whatever reason, with our children, the pieces don't fit right.

Only when they are able to look at themselves honestly and reflectively, decide that they don't like what they see, and put in the work to rearrange those pieces can they change the landscape of their lives.


Well-Known Member
Yesterday M, my significant other, said something like this: It could be that when we asked things of SON, he could not do it.

Four years ago we made him leave. I had reached my limit. I said leave. He spent the night banging on the windows and lurking outside. (What kind of mother does that?)

The next night a friend brought him to the shelter. It has been downhill since.

I think I had been unrealistic for years and years. I did not want to encourage him or anybody else to think of him as limited. By my attitude did I set him up? Could be.

But on the other hand, nobody knew then and nobody knows now what will be the end result. Because the end result takes a lifetime to manifest. Not in a slice of time, is it revealed.

I was reading about Aristotle who believed that happiness came from living a virtuous life and that life was not revealed to be lived well, until the very end.

So I think we are being hard on ourselves.

It could be said that treating our kids as damaged or troubled and not insisting upon their reaching for more and standing on their two feet, itself could have created the very result that we feared.

The thing is we never know. And nobody knows. Not the psychiatrists or anybody. It can only be guessed at looking back. And even then, not until the very end.

It is the responsibility of our children to do right. What we did nor did not do is just one moment in time. They have millions and millions of moments left in their lives, G-d willing, to make it right. To live right. To live virtuous lives.

We all of us are in that same boat.



Oh the evil regret! I have had so much regret over the years. If only I did this, maybe that would have helped and why didn't I do something sooner. We are all human, fallible but as parents, well intentioned. I could have done more and could have done less....but what I did do was out of love for my daughter and the rest of my family.


Well-Known Member
I have regrets, tons of them. If I would had just seen, understood, done this or that. There is no denying it, I failed to protect my child as he would had deserved to be protected.

Surprisingly my kid is much more willing to forgive than I will ever be. Part of it is his immaturity, he still has that childish illusion of omnipotence and how he should had been able to deal with all that on his own. Maybe if he ever has children of his own, he will understand truly that it wasn't he who failed to protect him but me and his dad.

However failures, and regrets, are part of life. Even when they have grave consequences, we just have to live with them. For me, it helps when I do not try to rationalize them away or deny them but straightforwardly own them. I have messed up and there has been negative consequences to me and people I love and we all have to live with those consequences. But I have also done lots of good things that have good consequences to me and those I love. We live with that too. Same goes to other people ion my family. We have all both messed up at times and done very well at others, and those things have had all kinds of consequences, and that is our life and we all have to do our best with it.

While I regret my mistakes, I can't know how my life would be without them. And in my case, when one of my bigger mistakes in life has had consequences I love more than anything (Ache would not had been ever born without me messing up big time) I absolutely have to accept the things I have done wrong as integral part of my life.


Well-Known Member
Thank you for all your wise words. Leafy I see you posted an article on regret and I need to go read that.

Insane...my regret goes way back but my focus this time was 7th grade because that is when the wall went up between us. Before that there were many issues but our relationship was close.

And I am now back home and your wisdom and some more reflection has me more grounded again.

As walrus said who we are is a jigsaw made up of many pieces...and it is a total fantasy on my part to think if I had done one thing differently all would be ok. Fact is my son was always getting into trouble because he has never liked to follow rules. And given his tendancy towards addiction I think the drugs and alcohol would have been a problem no matter what I did.

My real hope is that he will now really work through his issues and that someday we will have a closer relationship. I can and will support the heck his recovery and working this stuff but ultimately it is up to him and his choice. I can't force it and I need to give him the space to do it.

Tanya M

Living with an attitude of gratitude
Staff member
I think we can all look back and play the coulda, woulda, shoulda game. The perfect parent is a mythical creature that rides a unicorn. We have all done the best we could at the time we were doing it. Of course when we look back we can see areas of life that we could have done things differently but it is more important to live in the present moment. I also believe that even if we had a little time machine and could go back and change how we did A, B, or C, there is no guarantee that the outcome would be different and if was different it might be worse.
I really try not to live with regret, there is nothing I can do to change or alter what has happened. I can however learn from my past so that I don't repeat that which did not work out well.
I wasn't a perfect parent, I know I made mistakes. I lived through all the guilt of thinking that my son's life issues were somehow all my fault. I bent over backwards many times to try and "make things right" for him, helping/enabling him, giving him 2nd chances for the umpteenth time. In the end, I've done all I can and my son continues to choose to live his life on his terms.
I don't like it but I have come to accept it.


Well-Known Member
I think the bottom line is, I didn't give my son what he needed, and as a parent I've always believed that was my job. But that's an unreasonable expectation to have of ourselves as parents and human beings.

Also, I have come to believe that our intentions are just as important as our actions. We all wanted the best outcome for our kids. If we didn't, we wouldn't be on this forum. Truth be told, I have more regrets on an item by item basis for my actions with parenting my daughter, but she loves me not only in spite of my parenting flaws but because of them.

Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
D H and I were reminiscing the way you do when your children are having such a hard time of things and we consider, with our 20/20 sterling crystal vision hindsight, what we should have done instead of what we did. All that stuff that somehow, no matter how sure we were it would help seemed, almost in spite of our best intentions, to actually make things worse.

And we never even saw it coming.

We were still in the thick of it with daughter at that time, just on another level. (Remember that I found CD for Son's sake. I came back here, some years later, for Daughter.)

And I am still here. Because you guys are so fascinating.


Anyway, regarding Son: We concluded we should have sent Son to Military Academy. That was the thing we might have done and had not done. (By the time Son began acting out, we had already been through two treatments with daughter or maybe, three. So, while we did not know much, we did know that to send the child to treatment only made matters worse. That was because the heart of daughter's problems was more complex than we were ready to acknowledge. But we didn't know that yet, either.

Mostly, we didn't know anything that mattered, at all. The worst part of it was that neither did the professionals. So, I added alot of bad words here which I then took out. The professionals did not help us. The Police department did. The Juvenile court system did help us, so much. The probation officers daughter was assigned helped us every time, and the people assigned to come to our house at any time, and to search her room at any time. Those who did not help us were the psychiatrists and the treatment centers. They made everything so much worse, because they eroded our authority as parents, not only to our children, but to ourselves. We deferred to the "experts" who left all of us high and dry the instant the contract was up or the money ran out.

It was disgusting. I don't suppose anyone will like it that I say so. Still, when your child is in trouble, what else is there to do.

So, D H and I pretty much beat ourselves up over that one for a number of years. (The Military School thing. And for Daughter, we just beat ourselves up indiscriminately because no one knew what else to do.)
I think this site may not have existed, yet. In any event, I was not to find it for another few years.)

And then I did find the site and received much good help and began posting all the time here like I still do.

And Echolette joined us, here on P.E.

And she was beating herself up because she did send her child to Military Academy.


So, between she and I, we both were able to let go of that one a little bit. Which was a blessing, because we are so hard on ourselves, we parents. It is as Albatross posts: Her daughter loves her and forgives any parental shortcomings out of existence. (And of course there are going to be shortcomings ~ times we wish we'd known better what to do.) But Albatross' son, like each of our troubled children does too, is more than ready to criticize, to take the wild road to hold us in such contempt our heads are spinning because we love them so and we don't know what to do.

Here is a secret. Like Albatross' daughter, my daughter too, even with all the terrible things she copes with, admires me and her father. She doesn't spend alot of time picking through her childhood and when she does, she apologizes to us or remembers something totally cool ~ or, she will wish we'd known what to do about night terrors or unmanageable anxiety or the other rotten things we were soon to learn about and that she did not have words then, to explain.

Our son?

Blames us for everything.

And here is the thing, everyone. He was not that kind of boy. That these things have come to be the truth of Son's life surprises the (pick your euphemism) out of us. It is like a spooky mystery or a drive in horror flick, right? The main characters do the worst possible thing. And everyone can see it coming and no one can stop it and sure enough, the worst possible things keep happening.

I still slip into...it isn't self pity. It is more an aghast feeling of unbelieveablility that this is how the story turned out to this point. (Never write the end of the story ~ not with your kids, and not with our own lives, either.) I think that is part of our healing. We can witness our own stories without assigning blame or requiring forgiveness or explanation. The stories of what has happened to us, and to our kids that we love so much are that terribly bewildering.


For Son, and maybe a little for Daughter too, I think it has to do with what drug use does to the brain and how that changes how our children see everything. Including us. Like every responsible parent, we are going to hear them from our sane place of responsible parent. We are going to take their words seriously. Of course we are. We were good parents. But when there is drug use involved and our children seem changed ~ that is the key, I think. Personality change. Lots of kids (and grown ups too) use all kinds of substances without essential change to their personalities. But for some of us, those very same substances do cause personality change.

There is something like that going on with our Gift From God kids.

Regret when we all ~ parent and child alike ~ feel badly for the way things have happened feels one way. That is how it feels for us with daughter, and you all know the terrible things that have happened with daughter. She can be manipulative and awful and etc, but she always loved us and felt badly for what she'd done and where she wound up and so on.

She did what she did anyway, but she seems not to hate us at all.

With our son, for whom the main problem as near as we can determine is drug use, the situation is different. The regret for D H and I there is a piercing, self-accusatory thing. We don't know whether it is true or not that, as Son claims, I psychologically abandoned Son and that is why this happened. (But what we do know is that is the fulcrum from which Son manipulates me. I didn't learn that in time for it to help any of us either. But I know it, now.) We don't know why this happened to all of us. Regret when we feel badly for the way things have happened but we can't say for sure how and the child responding with some version of damn right, we should feel badly...that is the feeling we feel from Son. That is the way we feel when our children have been addicted to something that alters the way their brains see things ~ their childhoods and their parents included.

Still we wish we had known to do things differently.

But even today, even knowing now things I had no clue about back when all this started happening...I still don't know what I would have done differently. Although there are so many things I would have done differently because what I did do didn't work.

So, I would have done everything exactly in the opposite way of what I did do.

This is true.

This is why we are at a disadvantage around parents who have no clue what we've been through. They do not see their parenting as something they would change if they could. How damaging is this, for us?!?

That is one of the reasons I feel badly for myself and D H, too.

That we do know, and that we do not feel comfortable with our parenting. Though I believe the truth may be that we were and are amazing parents.

Every one of us, here.


But who could say whether that would have helped any of us. That is one of the values of CD. I hear the stories of parents who did those very things I beat myself up for not doing. But here you guys are, too. Just like me. So, that thing, whatever you did that I did not do ~ that wasn't the elusive something I should have known but did not.


That wasn't it, either.


D H and I were taking about this very thing a few weeks back. We could have moved with our kids to some farm somewhere. (Know where that idea came from? We are sort of seriously considering doing that, now. Buying a farm somewhere and having everyone come and live there until the money runs out. Which would be such a bad way to do things.) We could have homeschooled. These terrible things might still have happened but at least we would have known that we did everything we knew to do. But here is the thing: Those choices we did make? Were the best thing we knew, too. This was true of myself and my D H, and it is true for every parent here.

As I am coming back to myself (which I am, finally, after all this long time), I feel something like a deep and abiding compassion for me, for D H, for our kids. It has been a rough, rough ride. It is still pretty rough, as we face terrible choices like the choices Copa has had to make ~ and like we all have had to make ~ about our own children that we love so much and cannot seem to just stop loving them more than ourselves long enough to get a handle on what it is we need to do.

And then, we have to live with those things that seemed so right at the time, but that we would give almost anything to change.



I am posting more for me than for you at this point, so I will stop.

Mostly what I hoped to tell you is that where we are is an unfolding. We deepen and ripen and at the end, there is compassion for all of us.
For our children, and for ourselves. Not just "Oh, you poor thing." compassion. Compassion of the kind where every ugliness is known intimately and the pain of it and the confusion and the survival.

It is the puzzling compassion of one human for another between parent and adult child.

And also, we walk alone, in this thing that we know.


I am still so much in love with my family.

So we don't need to fear our own anger over what has happened. We need not retreat into anywhere where we were perfect and the kids were poops. I think I had to reach that place of "I don't know." before I came to this place I am now, though. But I think too that when our kids are in trouble, we force ourselves to be people who do know. We will not, we tell ourselves, be taken by surprise ever again. We become whizzes at internet research and community referral and self-help groups and books. We become super-competent in our own lives.

Remember when that wasn't true about us?

Remember when we trusted the day we were in?

That is where we are going, all of us. To being okay with "I don't know." Or, "I only know I love you, and I feel so badly this is happening. But for your sake and mine, you need to work it out for yourself and I know that you will."

At first, it was really hard to say those words. I felt like such a failure, because I did not have ten thousand answers at the ready. I didn't know and I said so. But the kids did work things out somehow.

So now, I feel better saying those words.

And I realize they are true.

I don't know.

I never did.

I only know that I love my people. That is the only thing I know, for sure. And I know that whatever they do about that is up to them.


The thing that most amazes me is how much I do love my kids. After all this, after everything I have had to come to know about contempt and manipulation and hope and betrayal.... I am still so pleased to hear their voices, so happy to think of them, to know they are in the world, however impossibly hard their paths. That part, when I first see them or when I first hear their voices on the phone, only lasts for a second or two. But you know? It is as pure a joy as any I have felt.

So, I'll take it.

Remember when Headlights Mom posted to us about relishing deep gratitude for having known even the smallest smatterings of joy in the past "lest I grow bitter".

I have never forgotten that post.

So, I think that must be where we all will get to.

I may not be ashamed, anymore. There is no changing what is past. So, it just is what it is.

Maybe, that is the difference, now.

And it is just like they say in all those goofy love songs.



Well-Known Member
For Son, and maybe a little for Daughter too, I think it has to do with what drug use does to the brain
We don't know whether it is true or not that, as Son claims, I psychologically abandoned Son and that is why this happened.
Cedar, your son shows unrequited love. He is like Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities, who wildly and bitterly rushes around Paris, until he finds focus by his love for Lucy Manet. "Oh Miss Manet, I would give my life to save a life you love."

I have remembered that like for 50 years for this moment.

Your son is a wild romantic. I believe him, that he felt bereft when your attention to him was mildly deserted. But that would have happened, one way or another.

He had to grow up. Now I am thinking of Peter Pan. Who refused to grow up. A natural leader.

There is no fault here. It is his life. It is your own. I want to recommend here the book I am reading. A woman in White by Wilkie Collins. If you have a kindle you can buy it free on Amazon.

It is considered to be one of the first, and possibly the best of all mysteries ever written. The organization is that several participants write accounts looking back. There is no omniscient narrator. Only various perspectives.

In that it is like life.

Cedar, son must write his account of his own life. His role in his own life, how he sees it, must change. When he is able to do that, write his own narrative of his life, his own account, tell of his role as the dominant character, from a place of acceptance, he will change.

That is the necessary and unavoidable error we make as parents. For years and years we have narrated the development of our children. It is our voice who has decided much of the story and narrated it, both to them and to ourselves. At some point that changes. It must change.

We do not know any of us when that transition comes, when we lose our right and obligation as a principle narrator with respect to our child's life. They fight us for it. Sometimes they only want to narrate part of their story.

Sometimes they want to narrate our own, too.

Nothing changes their need, and the responsibility of all of us to own our own stories.

That is what CD is about at the end of the day. For me. Learning and accepting that. For myself and for my son.
So, I would have done everything exactly in the opposite way of what I did do.
And how would this have helped, if the whole thing was not about the content of the story, but about who tells it.

If you had done the opposite, he would have opposed that. Your son is resisting owning his story. It is not the story that is important, it is owning it.

Is he Peter Pan or is he Sydney Carton waiting for Lucy Manet. I am not sure. Maybe he needs to write a book. In any event, you are out of it. You know that.

But we are still all of us, each of us, still struggling with the pain of this. Or is it the doubt? Or is it the not knowing? The lack of control. The struggling with doing or not doing something? Even though we feel better.
We could have moved with our kids to some farm somewhere.
Angela Lansbury when her kids fell into drugs moved to Ireland. I wonder how that worked out?
I think too that when our kids are in trouble, we force ourselves to be people who do know.
Less, internet scholars than knowingly bitter and rejecting. Sure that our kids are wrong, bad, difficult. At fault.

And we have turned into unrequited lovers. Bitter. Sure and certain in our knowing that nothing ever will turn out good. Afraid. Rejecting. Locked in our secure castles guns at the turrets, protecting ourselves from our beloveds. While we wait for them, like golden princes, to return to us.