I Should Have, But I Didn’t. What I Did Do, I Live With.




I married young. And although happily married, there are times when I think I should have done more.

I should have gone to Africa first.

I should have written a book first.

I should have gone more places, gotten to meet more people, first.

I should have spent more time with my girl friends, just giggling, talking, dreaming.

Or maybe hubby and I could have waited before having our first child first.

We could have gone to Africa together first.

We could have gone to more places, gotten to meet more people together, first.

We could have hung out more with friends, done more without the responsibilities of having a child limiting us.

But I didn’t.

We didn’t.

And we’ve moved on.


These are all legitimate feelings, and I acknowledge them when I need to. I mean, we all have our what-ifs no matter how good life is today. It is a mark of maturity to know this. I struggle with it.


My boys are getting older. In a month or so, both of them will be old enough to stay home on their own. When this dawned on me, I asked my oldest son if he thought I should start working again. He chewed on my question for a bit then looked at me, “I guess, Mommy. I can boss E around. But I kinda like coming home and knowing you’re here waiting for me.”

I brought it up with the hubby. He told me I could do whatever I want, but the boys should always be our priority.

So working outside the home, or going to school full-time, or volunteering somewhere, these are possibilities. As long as our family takes priority.


I have heard that the older our children get, the more they need us. And no matter what I want, and with the freedom the hubby gives me to go for it, I allow my responsibilities as a wife and mother to set the limit/s.


Because I was the one who decided to say yes to the hubby’s “Will you marry me?” question.

And I was part of the decision to have a child when we did. And then another.

And when we talked about how we wanted to raise them, we both chose the path that made our family what it is today.

It’s called facing up to the consequences of my decisions, and knowing duty for what it is. It’s called holding on tightly, with eyes closed if need be, when the going gets so much tougher.


Times like these, I find myself thanking God for Anne. Her life keeps my feet planted on the right path.

I’d like to share excerpts from Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery.

Anne, I hope you would know, was an orphan given a home by Marilla and her brother Matthew. Two sad events happen toward the end of the book: Matthew dies from a heart attack and Marilla is in danger of losing her sight. The situation becomes impossible as Marilla realizes she can no longer manage both her household and the farm, especially after Anne leaves for college.


On making choices: Do the right thing.

“When Marilla had eaten her lunch Anne persuaded her to go to bed. Then Anne went herself to the east gable and sat down by her window in the darkness alone with her tears and her heaviness of heart. How sadly things had changed since she had sat there the night after coming home! Then she had been full of hope and joy and the future had looked rosy with promise. Anne felt as if she had lived years since then, but before she went to bed there was a smile on her lips and peace in her heart. She had looked her duty courageously in the face and found it a friend–as duty ever is when we meet it frankly.”

On sticking with it: Listen to those who matter.

{Mrs. Allan was the pastor’s wife and Mrs. Lynde their good neighbor. Both women had become Anne’s friends.}

“When it became noised abroad in Avonlea that Anne Shirley had given up the idea of going to college and intended to stay home and teach there was a good deal of discussion over it. Most of the good folks, not knowing about Marilla’s eyes, thought she was foolish. Mrs. Allan did not. She told Anne so in approving words that brought tears of pleasure to the girl’s eyes. Neither did good Mrs. Lynde.”

On living with your decision: It gets better.

“Anne sat long at her window that night companioned by a glad content. The wind purred softly in the cherry boughs, and the mint breaths came up to her. The stars twinkled over the pointed firs in the hollow and Diana’s light gleamed through the old gap.

Anne’s horizons had closed in since the night she had sat there after coming home from Queen’s; but if the path set before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would bloom along it. The joy of sincere work and worthy aspiration and congenial friendship were to be hers; nothing could rob her of her birthright of fancy or her ideal world of dreams. And there was always the bend in the road!

`God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world,’ whispered Anne softly.”

{Wasn’t that beautiful? I wish today’s youth would somehow find their way to books like Anne. But I digress.}


One other mark of maturity is knowing well enough to distinguish between what is done with and what still could be, the could-have-been and the can-have-it.

I’m also working on this.


We have dreams, and we had dreams.

Some of those dreams we had, those that we could afford as singles, are no longer ours to pursue as parents.

Oh but you say, anything is possible and you are willing to sacrifice. Nay, it won’t be you paying the price.

When parents pursue those dreams they should have pursued while single, they do so at the cost of their children. And children were never meant to pay for the consequences of their parents’ decisions. They were never meant to pay the price for their parents’ lost dreams.

Many times in a day we fail at this.

But when it comes to the big picture, the way we plan and live our lives, the future should be our biggest consideration. As in, our children’s future.


I struggle with doing the right thing all the time. Maybe you do too. So here’s one final reminder:

“…But it ain’t our feelings we have to steer by through life—no, no we’d make shipwreck mighty often if we did that. There’s only the one safe compass and we’ve got to set our course by that—what it’s right to do…” – Captain Jim (Anne’s House of Dreams)


Let me end by completing the title:

I should have, but I didn’t. What I did do, I live with. And that has made all the difference between emptiness and significance.

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