The Thing About Choices

Let go of the past and know you did your best at any given moment.

Today I responded to a post on a FB group for parents of children with OCD and anxiety. A mother was requesting advice with regards to her son who was being bullied at school. She was considering pulling him out of school and wanted others to weigh in.

My reply to her post was rather long, because her situation was one that I was presented with not too long ago when Jake was in high school. Now that Jake is nearly 22, he and I have had several conversations about our decision to homeschool.

What parent hasn’t questioned the choices she’s made for her children? Add special needs to that equation and the ante has just been upped. The choices seem to carry more weight. What if I make the wrong choice? What if I ruin him? What if I’m wrong?

The What-If game is a dirty game to play. It’s a game I own a lot of stock in and, let’s just say, the return on my investment isn’t going to make me rich. I have wasted so much time and energy rethinking my choices for Jake over the years. Come to find out, so has Jake.

He often talks about all the things he missed out on by not going to a brick and mortar school. School dances. Class trips. Clubs. Basically any kind of socialization. This was a huge topic of conversation when we made the choice to homeschool Jake. I knew he would miss out on some key high school experiences, but I also knew that he wasn’t learning anything at all, and he was having trouble finding his tribe. I also argued that not all forms of socialization are good. And I firmly believed in every word I said, every argument I countered.

I made every effort to replace those experiences with local groups. But they all fell short. Jake was just too smart, and on such a different social path than his peers. He is an old soul. He doesn’t really understand his generation and the way they act as a whole. I wonder if it would’ve been any different if he’d remained in school?

The things that I didn’t consider that he’d miss out on were tests, taking notes, and homework. None of those seem like such a big deal, right? But going to college has forced him to learn those skills rather quickly. And they are skills. He’s doing just fine it just took him a minute to get up to speed.

So when Jake and I talk and he says that he “missed out on so much” I feel like I let him down. I made the wrong decision, and he’s paying for that in spades. But then I think of all the things he gained from being homeschooled. He was able to follow his passions (higher maths, and sciences like Quantum Physics) and focus on them. He didn’t have to deal with all the extra stuff being fed to him. He was able to learn at an accelerated pace, rather than following the pace of an entire class. And these are things he’s grateful for.

And yet I still feel guilty. The only consolation that I have is that I made the decision that was right at that moment in time. It was a mutual decision. It was what Jake wanted, and it was what I wanted for him. And, honestly, that’s really all that matters.

As parents we spend so much time second-guessing ourselves, beating ourselves up, and carrying the weight of regret around like it might make up for what we now feel was a “bad” decision. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m here to tell you, eight years later, it doesn’t. There is no relief that comes from feeling regret. It changes nothing. All is does is make you physically, mentally and emotionally sick.

What we have to remember is this: at the moment of your (now regrettable) decision, you made it feeling wholeheartedly like you were making the best choice out of the options available to you.

There is a line from the song “Move On” in the musical “Sunday in the Park with George” that is what I want you to take away from reading this.

“The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not.” Read that several times. Let it sit inside your heart and offer relief.

No matter how you feel, no matter what you think in this moment, the choosing that you did for your child was never wrong. It came from a place of love and that’s all that matters.

Remember that. Every time you find yourself feeling guilty remember that. Every time you feel like a bad parent remember that.

Be kind to yourself. Make the right choice today for you, and choose to remember that.

And if you’re interested here is the song in full.

He’s Not Broken Excerpt

EPSON MFP image

An excerpt from my upcoming book, He’s Not Broken: A Mother’s Journey to Acceptance

I have a photo of my son Jacob in the pilot’s seat on his first flight. He was six-years-old. His hands are on the controls, with the pilot’s hat perched on his head. It’s one of my favorite pictures of him because you can see how happy he is. His face was alive with excitement, no trace of anxiety or sadness to be seen, no sign of Tourette’s, or OCD. In that frozen moment, he was just a regular kid having the time of his life. 


We got in on a Thursday and everything was going fine. By Thursday evening Jacob’s mood had darkened. As we were getting ready to go to dinner, he started crying.


“Momma, I can’t not love you and Daddy, right?” 
“What do you mean, Jacob?” Warner asked.
Jacob’s voice cracked and his eyes darted frantically from me to Warner.
“Right? Right? Tell me. I can’t, right?”


Warner and I exchanged a confused look. I walked around the bed to Jacob. Before I could reach out to him he dropped to the floor and buried his face in his hands. He began to rock back and forth and between sobs he repeated, “Right? Right? You know that, right?”
At that point it became pretty clear that he needed a definitive answer to put his mind to rest. He looked up at us, his face a sticky mix of snot and tears. Warner knelt down on one side of him, me on the other. He wiped Jacob’s face and assured him. “It’s okay, Jacob. Of course you love us. You have to.”


“And we love you too. So much.” I added as I wrapped my arms around him.
He wriggled out of my embrace, stepped around Warner and began to pace the floor.
“But my head is thinking things I don’t mean.” He began to hit the sides of his head. “AHHHH! I CAN’T MAKE IT STOP. THEY WON’T GO AWAY.” He fell to the floor once again. 


Warner and I stood over him, wiping away our own tears and searching for composure. We were lost. How do you explain to a six-year-old that his mind is screwing with him? I sat down on the floor and held him while he cried. Warner sat with us, his arms around me. And we sat there, the three of us in our buttoned up coats, locked in an embrace and an emotional battle we didn’t understand. 


After 30 minutes Jacob had calmed down enough for us to go to dinner where we sat trying to forget the scene that had just played out—trying to blend in with the other families that we saw—the families whose lives seemed so perfect. 


I had pretty much convinced myself that the excitement of the trip was just too much for him, and nothing else.