My Top Parenting Mistakes of All Time
I don’t mean to brag, but I was once the best mother in the world. I knew exactly how to train a baby to sleep through the night. I knew how to stop a tantrum from happening on a plane or in a restaurant. I had high standards for homemade organic snacks, and no tolerance for kids who insisted on “kid food”.
But that was all before I actually had kids.
It turns out that parenting real live children is actually quite different from just observing your friends and siblings with theirs. And as someone who’d always measured achievements by grades in school or promotions at work, suddenly working for a mini-tyrant in diapers was humbling, to say the least.
It’s fair to say that I’ve made a lot of mistakes. And it’s the mistakes (unlike the victories) that always seem to get stuck in your memory and teach you to do better. So, let me share some of these mistakes with you in hopes that you can get all of the gain with none of the pain.
That time I became the warning sign...
You know how on all changing tables there’s a warning sign that says “Do Not Leave Child Unattended” and then there’s a picture of a child falling head first off the changing table with a big red X over it? Well, reader, I am the mom that still left her 6 month old baby on the changing table and quickly ran across the room to grab a clean onesie only to turn around to see him topple over in slow motion off the table. (He was fine. I was not.)
That time I told my kid to hide from cops...
Then there was the time that I forgot that my kids’ daycare closed an hour early on the second Tuesday of every month. (I mean, really? Are they trying to set us up for failure?) Well, on this particular second Tuesday of the month, I showed up to the daycare thinking I was heroically 20 minutes early when actually I was 40 minutes late. And per the rule at many daycares in our area, I owed $1 per child in cash for each minute I was late. Now it’s not the 1980’s and I don’t carry cash with me, so all I could offer on the spot was a huge apology and an IOU.
As I did the walk of shame to my car with my 4 year old and 15 month old I realized that I had forgotten to reinstall one of the car seats after the weekend. With heat rising in my cheeks from being hit with one failure after another, and the realization that I was stuck with two kids and only one car seat. I strapped my 15 month old into the car seat andbuckled the 4 year old into an adult seat belt. I looked him in the eyes, and in the calmest voice possible I said, “We are only a mile from home, and it’s going to be totally fine, but if we drive by a police car, I may tell you to duck, ok?” We made it home without incident, but like any good mom who’s had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, I cried about it for hours.
In the grand scheme of things, though, these were pretty minor mistakes. Looking back, I laugh when I retell the stories and the lessons learned. But when I think about the mistakes that have really taught me something lasting, there’s one in particular that comes to mind.
That time I...oof...just read
It was a few years ago and my oldest son was trying out for the travel soccer team. If he made the cut, he was placed on a travel team. If he didn’t, he was placed on the town intramural team. He was in 3rd grade, and to be honest, I couldn’t help but think that 8 years old is a little young to start separating the wheat from the chaff.But what do I know?
A few weeks after tryouts I got the email with the team announcements, and he did not make the travel team. I knew he would be really disappointed, especially since all of his friends had made the team. I dreaded the thought of him feeling sad and embarrassed. In fact, I dreaded it so much that I kind of sort of didn’t tell him that he didn’t make the team. Before he left for school in the morning, I told him that the soccer teams had been announced and that he was on the Tigers. I didn’t mention that he hadn’t made the travel team, and that the Tigers were actually the intramural team that anyone could just sign up for. I just gave a little “Go Tigers!” and left it at that.
I know what you’re thinking right now. Didn’t she think he would figure it out when it was clear that the team wasn’t a travel team? Yes, of course! (And now might be a good time to remind you that the title of this post is My Top Parenting Mistakes of All Time.) But I thought I’d have time to explain before the first practice. I thought I could figure out a way to break this to him without destroying his confidence. I definitely did not think that he would come home from school that day and tell me that all his friends were talking at lunch and he realized that they had all made the travel team and he hadn’t. So now, not only was he sad about not making the team, but he had to deal with that sadness at school in front of his friends instead of at home. I did my best to do the right thing at that point. I explained that he could still have a really great season on the IM team. I told him it was ok to feel disappointed for a little while but that he could use that feeling as motivation to work hard and improve his skills. I apologized for not being straightforward with him and he forgave me (man, I love that kid), but I knew I had messed up big time.
On the bright side though, I learned what I think is my single most important lesson since becoming a parent. Our job as parents is not to stop bad things from happening to our kids. It’s just not possible. Our job is to equip them with the skills to handle bad things and give them the support they need to get through it. And hey.There are no grades, no marks to achieve, no promotions when you’ve done a good job. That’s because the job is never done.
So today I’m focused on raising kids who are resilient and can get back up when they get knocked down. I’m standing on the sidelines of the soccer field, cheering my son along on the travel team. Because while he didn’t make the team that first year, he didn’t give up and tried again the next. So maybe there is a small victory in this story after all.
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