I think there’s a moment in every parent’s life where you realize it’s too late to improve certain elements of your parenting.

Who am I kidding? I think most of us live in that state from day one. From the day you find out that for some inexplicable reason you have been given the immense responsibility of raising a brand-new human being, you find you can’t swaddle them the right way. My kids always looked like that section of the big box store where the customers have tried to refold the shirts.

Then four years later you’ll finally get a lesson on proper swaddling with a misshapen watermelon and a cotton blanket and you think “fat lot of good this is going to do me now.”

So I have a pretty high stack of mom things I could have done better. I could have done meal planning and saved us from a decade of the same four meals every week. I could have started a little garden in the backyard (with a 10-foot high fence because deer) and raised veggie-eating children. And I could have cut back on the need for praise.

I’m confessing this right now: we are praise-aholics around here. I didn’t realize how bad it was until my husband, Adam, who had returned from a trip, failed to notice the incredible amount of laundry I had done. Not only had I done laundry, I completed the herculean task of PUTTING IT AWAY. As in out-of-the-basket-and-in-a-drawer away.

Seriously. I can send you pictures if you want.

Anyway, when he returned, I had already left for the day, so I was unable to bask in his appreciative astonishment. So about halfway through the day I texted him a cryptic “did you notice anything?”

He had not. I encouraged him to look around, particularly upstairs. Apparently, he had things to do, so it took a few hours before I finally got the call and the praise came in. But it didn’t dawn on me that we were praise-aholics until I got home.

“Did you notice I did the dishes?” asked Mireya. “And no one even reminded me.”

“Hey! Thank you, that’s great,” I replied. Then it hit me. I have passed on my addiction to my daughter. She is hooked on atta-girls, just like me. She too wants to bask in the warm glow of appreciation.

I reflected back on my parenting and realized that it was too late. I couldn’t turn back the clock, I couldn’t recreate her childhood where chores were not the kind of thing that were praised but were more, I don’t know, maybe like they were in pioneer days. Of course, they also had to milk cows daily, so maybe that’s not something to aspire to.

There’s no doubt that in the years that come I’ll spot dozens — okay, more like hundreds — of things I could have done better. Some days based on the things I see on social media I think my highest accomplishment as a mom is that they are both still talking to me. Because surely that is worth an atta-girl, right? Right?

Winter Prosapio is a writer, working mom and Corporate Director of Communications and Government Relations for Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts.

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