Parenting requires so many decisions, it can sometimes become mind-numbing. How to respond to discipline issues, what to do about kids’ friendship struggles, which sports to encourage them toward and what other activities to enroll them in. We have so much information and so many opportunities at our fingertips, it can be hard to sort through it all. And we as parents often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to “get it right.”

We want to parent without regrets.

But the reality is, we’re human. We’re going to make mistakes. And we’re going to miss out on some things (which plays into the biggest fear I often hear from other parents – regret for what they or their kids or their family missed). Yet there is a way to limit the regrets we experience as parents and as a family: priorities.

If you will take the time to spell out what you really don’t want your kids to miss out on and what you don’t want to miss out on together as a family, you can live with fewer regrets.

In other words, your family bucket list (and your individual lists) can serve as a reminder and a decision-making tool to help you live according to your priorities. You won’t be saying as often “I wish I had…”

I can think of at least one regret I carry that would have been avoided by my kids keeping bucket lists sooner. You see, my middle daughter really likes the fairy tale books written by Gail Carson Levine. Books like Ella Enchanted, Ever, and Fairest. While in elementary school she apparently read through every Gail Carson Levine book she could find in the library. And when my cousin bequeathed a set of Levine books to my three girls, the middle one claimed them all. So when she heard that Gail Carson Levine would be coming to our fair city to do a book signing at our local independent bookstore, she asked if we could go.

I told her no. I can’t even remember why I said that now. I don’t know if you had to purchase book signing tickets or if the hardcover book price seemed to out of our budget. But whatever the reason on the surface, underneath I reasoned that it wasn’t worth it.

Had I known at the time that Gail Carson Levine was my daughter’s absolutely favorite author, I would have responded differently. After all, when what you’re buying is the chance of a lifetime to meet the one author you’d like to see more than any other, what price is too high? If it’s a bucket list experience, then you’re paying for more than a book and an author signing.

Sure enough, when she created her bucket list and considered who she most wanted to meet, Carson Levine ranked at the top.

Cue the mommy regret. I don’t want to make that mistake again. Thankfully, now that I know which people each of my girls wants to meet (and places they want to go, things they want to do, etc.) I am better able to prioritize and make decisions. And with our family bucket list I have another matrix by which to decide. As long as I haven’t passed up opportunities that relate to that list, I should experience far fewer regrets in my parenting.

How about you? Do you parent by trying to avoid regret in general? Or do you parent by a set of priorities? How would (or does) having a bucket list make some decisions easier for you?

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