When we were nearly at term with our second child, we put our 2 year old in the stroller and went for a walk at the zoo. He loved the zoo, but we were there for more than the animals this time – we needed to pick a name for our baby-to-be and the zoo seemed like a great place to walk and think, while entertaining our soon-to-be big brother at the same time. We didn’t know if the baby was a boy or a girl, but we had already picked a boy name and needed one for a girl. It was somewhere near the gorillas that we decided on the perfect girl name. It had to be a name with an “M” sound for my late grandmother, with an option for a cute little girl nickname that we and her friends could call her, and it had to be professional sounding so when she grew up she would be proud of the name plate on her door. That was almost 22 years ago; a very memorable day for us.
I give a lot of seminars for Children’s Hospital of Colorado, one of my home institutions for the past 30 years. Yesterday, my seminar was at the same zoo, one of the hospital’s favorite venues for community programs. My presentation was in their beautiful conference facility with windows overlooking the promenade leading from the entrance toward the most popular animals. In the middle of my talk, as I paced across the front of the room, I paused at the window and watched as dozens of moms, a few with dads, pushed strollers past the lions. Among them, a mom who looked a lot like my wife did 22 years ago, pushing a little boy who looked about 2 years old. The mom had a noticeable baby bump on her belly, and I had a noticeable nostalgic lump in my throat. I explained to the audience how warm and wonderful nostalgia can be for parents, but how important it is to have no regrets. Nostalgia means times past were good, regrets means you wish you would have done things differently. Nostalgia is good, regrets are not.
Do it the right way now, the No Regrets Parenting way, so when your kids are grown someday and you go back to the zoo, you know you did everything you could when you could.
As I drove home, I thought about that young mom. I wonder what name she picked.