Backing Up

By Contributing Author, The Major of Kay Nou=Our House

Do you remember when we were kids and we had the option of getting a do-over? Don’t you wish we could go back to that as adults?

Whether it’s on the job, as parents, or simply running a shopping errand, there are often times when I wish I could back up an hour or half an hour and do it all over again. This time around, I would do it the right way. You know — the way in which you don’t make any mistakes, and more importantly, you don’t leave scars on the people around you.

Unfortunately, this is not always a realistic option in the modern world. Life is fast paced. Decisions are often snap. We have demanding bosses, kids, and others who wants answers immediately.  Quite often, I find myself reliving these choices at 1 o’clock or 2 o’clock in the morning. And, it’s the blown calls that keep you up at night, not the wise selections.

As an adult of a “certain age,” I am more aware of my strengths and my weaknesses. I know I am possessed of a personality which tends to come on a little strong at times. In the heat of emotion, I often find that I have painted myself into a verbal corner.

It’s at these moments that I have learned to give myself a do-over. I will stop what I am doing and change direction. I have found that this has made a big difference in achieving my desired outcome.

Sometimes, the do-over is as simple as asking your spouse, child, or other party, “Can we start over again?” If the person on the other end of the transaction is completely taken aback, I may add, “I’m sorry. That just didn’t come out the way I wanted.”

Gentle readers, some of you may know that my wife and I adopted a child from Haiti a few years ago. My six-year old son is wonderful. Nevertheless, there are times when I want to choke the life out of him. Particularly in the morning. I am in charge of getting him out of the house and off to school on time.

Most forest fires begin with a simple spark. A casual action leads to a burning conflagration that envelops everything around it. And so it goes with my son and me in the morning. “Yes, you have to wear THAT coat. It’s 20° outside, and you cannot wear a spring jacket.”  The situation then escalates and I end up screaming at my child at the top of my lungs.

The solution is simple: back up, and try a calmer approach before you reach the boiling point.

To my great delight, I have found that this new way of doing business is remarkably effective. However, it takes a little practice. People who know you well may be shocked at first. However, most people will eventually come to the realization that you are being reasonable and trying your best to get the situation right.

But, a word of caution is in order. As we say in the legal profession, “past results do not guarantee future performance.”

Today, I was in the park walking my new dog. The fact that I have a new dog at all is a testament to my new philosophy of the do-over.  I have changed course on my past categorical denial with regard to all things canine. Oh well, we all grow.

Anyway, I was in the park giving the dog a little bit more leash to take care of his bidness. The dog went around a tree and wrapped the leash around its trunk. Instead of calmly telling the dog to back up, or showing the beast the proper way out, I attempted to yank the pooch around the tree.

I ended up pulling the collar completely off the dog’s head. Suddenly, the new family pet was unmoored, naked, free to run off into the woods and possibly never to be seen again. This probably would not have played well at home.

I took a deep one.  I calmly talked the untrained pet into my arms. I reapplied the collar (correctly this time), and continued our walk uneventfully.

It’s almost never too late to consider a do-over.


The Major is an attorney and former Army officer.  He and his wife (and fellow blogger) Running Girl are doing their best to raise a family of five in Western New York.  Please visit their family blog at  Kay Nou = Our House




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