What I Don’t Regret: From the Parent of a Prodigal

by | Apr 10, 2024 | what you can do

photo cred. Mark Tulin on unsplash

“I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you. I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t understand what you were going through. Please forgive me.” I’ve spoken these apologetic words to my now 37 year old daughter more than once. Have you said them too? Or something similar?

“I’m sorry I yelled.” “I’m sorry I reacted like I did.” “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you. I’m so sorry I didn’t understand. I did the best I could.”

My daughter struggled with cutting. Freaking out the first time I discovered her wounds, I handled the incident poorly threatening her with counseling. Years later, when I learned she was experimenting with pot and alcohol, I resorted to angry lecturing and every form of discipline I could think of. Desperate to protect her and keep her from destroying her life, I made many mistakes. There is a lot I regret. But there is also a lot I don’t regret. Here’s my list. Maybe something will resonate with you as you reflect on the experiences you’ve had with your troubled son or daughter.

What I Don’t Regret: Written to My Daughter

  • Choosing to be a stay-at-home mom so I could be more involved in your life.
  • Teaching you about God and how much he loves you, no matter what you did or what was done to you.
  • Helping you learn the Word of God to understand how you could know Jesus personally as Savior and Lord.
  • Praying for you as you grew up and teaching you how to pray.
  • Saying “I love you” and showing affection daily.
  • Making fun memories with you and our family.
  • Exposing you to wonderful people who were great role models.
  • Taking you on the mission field; expanding your view of the world.
  • Letting you see me cry; when my parents died and during your dark times.
  • Guarding my marriage, staying strong as a united front.
  • Learning all I could about mental illness, self-harm, and substance use.
  • Attending support groups that helped me cope and keep my sanity.
  • Setting and keeping boundaries—one of the most difficult items on this list.
  • Forgiving you whenever you asked and asking forgiveness for myself.
  • Allowing you to come home when you pursued sobriety.
  • Loving and accepting you in your times of reoccurrence.
  • Never giving up on you. Believing for the life you could have.
  • Prioritizing my own recovery so I could be as healthy as possible.
  • Believing our relationship could be restored. (It is!)
  • Trusting God was powerful enough to redeem everything. (He has!)

Of course we all have regrets. We’re not alone when we feel that way. That’s normal. We didn’t know what we didn’t know and that’s okay. However, regret over not being the perfect parent can turn into guilt and shame. No one is perfect at anything. Guilt and blame can cause tremendous amounts of damage to us that we can live without. Read one of my blog posts on guilt for more helpful insights on overcoming this problem.

Dear friend, let’s shift our attention from mentally listing what we regret to what we don’t regret. Let’s stop beating ourselves up over past mistakes. The longer our second list becomes and we act on those desires, the better off we’ll be, no matter what our child chooses to do. They will know they are loved and we will know we’ve done our best. We’ll have no more regrets … at least we’ll have fewer of them.

photo cred. Mostafa Meraji on unsplash


What do you want to start doing, or do more of, from my list of what I don’t regret? What would you add? Ask someone to be an accountability partner with you. Maybe they could be another hurting parent who wants fewer regrets, like you do?

Let’s pray.

Dear God, you know how we’ve struggled with our children. You’ve seen all of our hurt, disappointment, and embarrassing moments. You know everything we’ve done or haven’t done that’s on our list of regrets. But we also have a list of what we don’t regret. We pray that list will grow longer. Help us focus on the positive instead of the negative. Protect us from falling into a pit of guilt and shame. Thank you for understanding our weaknesses and wanting to help us grow stronger. We rely on your help. We need you so much. With your help we can be the person we truly want to be. In Jesus name. Amen.