You've probably heard the saying "you can't change the past." While that's true (unless you have a time machine lying around) - it's not exactly helpful in and of itself. I remember telling my 10-year old daughter that you can't change the past. She stared at me blankly and said, "duh."
🙄 I realized that I needed to unpack that a bit more.
So I explained that since you can't change the past, you shouldn't dwell on missed opportunities or past mistakes because that will only make you depressed and remorseful and make you wish you could do things differently. But you can't. So, don't waste your energy on something you can't do anything about.
"...she understood that you can't change the past. But that wasn't enough to change how she felt in the present."
Feeling like that was that, I went back to scrolling through mind-numbing social media. Well...my "helpful explanation" must not have been quite as good as I thought because when I looked up from my phone I saw my daughter right where I had left her. Still clearly beating herself up internally over the very things in her past that I attempted to help her "get over". I love my daughter and hate seeing her in any kind of distress. So I started thinking about how I could help her feel better and move on. Raised in the 80's to be self-reliant and "fix problems instead of dwelling on them" - my mind instantly jumped to a handful of things that might help her move on. Thankfully I stopped myself before digging a deeper hole. I reminded myself that she had a different way of processing things than I did. She looked at the world differently. She had a shorter amount of life experience, and no amount of me telling her to just "get over it" was going to help.
So instead, I began replaying in my mind the events that led up to this moment. She had said "I wish I spent more time working on my art in the past. My drawings are terrible. They look like a baby made them." I had attempted to use "adult logic" - saying that we can't change the past. Etc. That clearly didn't help. And then it came to me - she understood that you can't change the past. But that wasn't enough to change how she felt in the present. So I tried a new tactic....
I sat down on the floor next to her and shared a story with her about myself. I told her about a time when I was mad at myself for missing out on an opportunity in the past. I wished that I had done things differently. I wished that I had taken action instead of letting that opportunity pass me by. She stopped me at that point and asked... "so, what did you do after feeling bad for yourself?" I looked at her and said..."well, I told myself that it wasn't too late. I could still take action and change the future. Sure, I missed out on changing the future when I was younger, but I still had a lot of life ahead of me. And sweetheart - you're still so young that you will have plenty of time to take action and change your future."
"She knew the future result she wanted, put in the work to improve, and changed her future."
She slowly nodded her head. She understood my point. Looking at me hopefully, she said, "so... I guess I should start working on my art now. And if I work hard at it, maybe I'll be proud of it in the future." I smiled at her and gave her a big hug. This child managed to work through and learn a life lesson that many adults still struggle with. She'll probably have to re-learn that lesson down the road, but the fact that she understood this soooooo much earlier than I ever did was reassuring.
And, as they say - "the proof is in the pudding." Fast forward 3 years, my daughter entered a drawing competition with some of her friends...and won! She knew the future result she wanted, put in the work to improve, and changed her future. Because she knew she couldn't change the past.