Small, consistent daily choices made as a mother created the circuitry that fired in the minds of a child later in life.



As I progress in my life as a parent and educator, questions often arise from younger students or families. They ask if I have any regrets.

I ponder that question often. Raising children in a loving home is hard because humanness gets in the way. However, one thing I regret, is the very thing that fuels my work now: knowledge.

Let me explain. I thought I knew everything about parenting because I was educated, read books, shared ideas. But it was in that very spot of all knowing that I failed. You can know a lot but if you aren’t putting it into practice and truly understanding then there is no implementation. It is just good in theory.

I knew I was supposed to spend time with my children, and I did. But I didn’t know the deep meaning to that. I knew it was what you did, and I felt compelled to, out of love, but at the young age of 24 when I began my parenting journey I didn’t know the tremendous impact of strong connections.

I didn’t know that I, as a parent was building a brain. I was responsible from the blossoming of gene expression. This would be their future operation system. Small, consistent daily choices I made as a mother would be the circuitry that fired in the minds of my child later in life.

Maybe if I had leaned down, during a hurried moment, and replied with empathy more consistently I could have done better. Maybe if I had focused on every conversation with active listening instead of correction, I could have built more critical thinking skills. Maybe if I had been more intentional about each morning and night (routines and rituals), I could have created more self-regulation skills in my children.

The curse of knowing is a burden, but it’s also a gift. If you know better, you do better.

I think I did well as I have seven beautiful children that march to their own drums and are wonderful members of society. It is human nature to regret.

But when it comes to children, they deserve that best start. Strong connections, love, compassion, guidance, positive affect and a healthy dose of boundaries.

The beautiful part is neuroplasticity. There are second chances, but it is so much better to do it right, at least as close to right as you can, than have to undo hardwired programs as an adult.

So, to the younger parent, knee deep in the thick of it all, take time to connect, listen, validate and respond to that little life entrusted to you. Ask yourself if it is worth it to raise your voice or to be angry. Will this matter in 20 years? Can I do this differently with a better outcome?

All good things take work and the work, early, makes life much better than having to undo. Breathe. Relish the moments because tomorrow will be fleeting and soon you will see the fruits of your labor. I am enjoying that part now along with the burden of a healthy dose of regret.

Catherine Dennis is an early childhood specialist and adjunct faculty in the ECE Department at Walla Walla Community College. Her work is her passion and so is being a mom of seven. Dennis can be reached at