Accidents Happen, but Parents Still Beat Themselves Up

What’s the worst thing you ever did as a parent? What’s the judgment call you would give anything to reverse, the regret that keeps you up at night? We’ve all got them; it goes with the territory.

Some of the sharpest are medical, when a parent feels responsible that a child is sick or hurt. As a pediatrician, I have sat with parents who were beating themselves up over and over for the choices they had made: I took my eyes off my child for a minute, and something terrible happened: my child ran into the street, stuck his hand into the machine, fell down the stairs.

Whenever a child has an accident — and children do have accidents — there is a parent standing by to regret some or all of the choices and permissions that put that child right there at that moment, wishing, as almost every parent does, to shoulder all the pain and suffering. And when children get sick — and children do get sick — parents feel responsible and guilty and blame themselves for everything from infectious exposures to genetic propensities.

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