Coping with Guilt

“I tied the rope around Caitlin and when I pulled it the knot came undone and I fell backwards”

This was the explanation my 6 year old son, Alexander sobbed as we held him cradling his arm at the bottom of our 6 foot tall slide. At this stage I realized that the level of supervision we provided our children when they were playing in the garden may have slipped beyond what was sensible…

How had neither of us noticed that playing with the slide had moved beyond the “climb up, slide down” routine that it was designed for and had progressed to “play on the platform, together,  with a rope”?

Incidents like these leave you with guilt. Guilt serves an important biological function. It keeps people’s behavior in line with the moral standards of their community. Unfortunately it can also help you make bad as well as good decisions. In this case guilt allowed me to persuade myself that the injury was only a sprain. Two days later he was still holding his arm as if it was a family heirloom made out of spun sugar. A hospital visit confirmed it was broken. We had forced our child to walk around for 2 days with a broken arm. Cue more guilt.

How to cope with this guilt? At this point I could try and write a lengthy exposition about giving yourself credit for all the good parenting you do, about believing in yourself or something equally trite an un-British. However I have no ability or inclination to write that kind of thing. So here’s my 3 step cure for guilt:

  1. Post the story on Facebook
  2. Watch as all your friends and family reply with their own stories of parenting cock-ups
  3. Bask in the knowledge that no matter how much you screw up, you’re still a better parent than most of your Facebook friends. Just don’t tell them that that is what you concluded from their well-meant support.