If Only I Could Go Back in Time…

By Michael

I had some time on my hands last week, so I stopped in at the library, pulled a book off the shelf and read it. The book was written by a man with regrets, who wished his life had been different as he was growing up.

He made arrangements to go back to kindergarten, summer camp, prom and various other experiences that he blew the first time around. Parts were funny, but parts were creepy, as well. Not in the child molester, voyeur sense, but in the way that people acting outside their proper age range can be just plain icky.

It was also interesting to contemplate the impact this man was having on all the children and teens around him. Several kids understood that he was coming back as an adult because he felt he screwed up the first time around. Particularly for the pre-teens/teens he encountered, did he teach them life is so full of regrets that they are unlikely to be happy as adults? How many of the children already want a do-over, after seeing his?

The most telling part of the story came at the end, in a single paragraph, where he says he didn’t think about reliving any of his successes as a youth because he couldn’t think of any. And so we see the challenge of our own lives and our own children.

If you had the chance, would you ask for a do-over? Looking at your life today, is there anything that is so painful that you would risk giving up your current life by traveling back through time? (Remember the butterfly effect. You won’t be able to change just one thing.)

Every child gets bullied and belittled; even the cool kids get their turn at some point. All of us can remember something from fifth grade that still makes us cringe. At the same time, it’s pretty difficult to grow up without doing something right, whether we give ourselves credit for it or not.

Children are complicated. Simply telling them they did something great isn’t a magic incantation that transforms them. Like us, they can look back on a time we think of as happy, but wish for a do-over. It’s not always in our power to change those perceptions for the better.

Looking back at something that still makes us wince, how could we have looked at it differently or responded differently—then or now—to make it less an issue today? How can we help our children avoid the urge to volunteer to relive high school?

No answers today, just a ton of questions.

Michael Rosenbaum is 5 Minutes for Parenting’s first dadblogger. He is a business consultant, playwright and author of Your Name Here: Guide to Life.

Michael blogs on life issues at Your Name Here Guide to Life and manages the Adult Conversation discussion group on Linked-In.

4 Responses to If Only I Could Go Back in Time…
  1. Kelly
    March 2, 2010 | 3:42 pm

    Fascinating question. I can’t think of that many things I’d change in my younger years. Certainly, there are actions I regret. But not enough to risk the butterfly effect and the annihilation of the universe as we know it.

    I think part of maturity, by definition, requires that we learn from the past and then focus on the present and the future. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like too many adults today are “stuck” in the past, almost obsessed with it. I wonder if it partly comes with our society’s focus on youth. “High school is the best time of your life,” and all that garbage. It wasn’t, it rarely is, and if it is, then that’s incredibly sad. I’m happy to be in today, with the wisdom of the past under my belt.

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