“I was a wonderful parent, before I had children.”
We all make mistakes in life right? No one is perfect right? There’s no such thing as a perfect parent…right?
With Mother’s day just oh so briefly behind us I got to reflecting on my own stardom in the motherhood realm. And just as I consider all my kids successes, I know that I epically failed more than a couple of times.
I know. We all try really hard to get parenting perfect and no one is immune to messing up occasionally. Thankfully I am now in a place where I can laugh ( a little) at my stupidity or shall I just say…naiveté. I started parenting 32 years ago so I think I have evolved a bit from those crazy, sleep deprived years.
And I’m pretty sure which episode counts as my all-time biggest blunder, but you’ll have to wait for it. Let’s do this in reverse order.
PS. I’ve made MANY mistakes but these are the five that have stuck with me for decades.
5. The tooth fairy
I lied about the tooth fairy. Yes, of course I lied you may say quite rightly. After all the fairy isn’t real but like Santa and the Easter bunny, we tell our children an innocent and quite lovely lie in order for them to get excited about magical possibilities. The tooth fairy figured prominently for my first 5 kids, but once my 6th one lost her teeth, I just simply kept forgetting to put a quarter under her pillow. I was pretty tired of the whole thing actually, and subconsciously that must have been why things played out in this way.
Each night my youngest placed her little tooth in hopes of a surprise, and though I intended to reward her, I forgot. Each morning as she threw off the pillow to reveal her treasure, the darn fairy just took a hiatus. I remember telling her, “Well it’s because you didn’t put it far enough under the pillow,” or the following night it was, “The tooth fairy must have been too busy last night,” and so on. I think it was 4 nights of her dutifully placing it under her pillow until I went to bed on the 5th night and just before I closed my eyes, I remembered! I leapt out of bed and found a $5 bill and gently tucked it in. I have to say, I felt kind of guilt about tainting her experience that for a long time. Perfect parent NOT.
4. Sun fever
We experiment on our oldest children. This is inevitable as we navigate how to do everything and while wanting to ensure that we get things right, we may actually not see the forest for the trees.
It was 1985 and my oldest was a 2 month old baby. Our friends invited us to a picnic on the beach so off we went and I placed him under a beach umbrella, bundled up so he wouldn’t get sunburned. Apparently, they didn’t make sunscreen back then because I would have used it right?
When we left the beach about 3 hours later, we went to my mom’s and as soon as she saw his face, she questioned me ( some might say screamed) as to why it was so red. I hadn’t noticed before but apparently your sun umbrella back then should NOT have been white. All those rays got through anyway despite my pathetic new mom efforts. I anxiously watched him for days for blistering and peeling on his beet red face which miraculously didn’t happen but to this day, he is the only kid we have with freckles…. Note to self…sunscreen…sunscreen.
3. The Runaway
Apparently, I am also a neglectful mother. So neglectful that she allows her two year old to run across busy streets and be picked up by strangers. I know what you’re thinking. If this is number 3, what is number 1?
Here’s the story. I had been shopping with the kids, and we brought bags of food into the house. Right away they went off to play while I started cleaning up. About 15 minutes later, the front doorbell rings, and there is my 2 year old in the arms of a strange (but nice) older man who says, Does this one belong to you?
I remember feeling like an idiot that I wasn’t watching my child who put on his little rubber boots and went outside through the open garage door and walked across the busy street. He was found down the road and the only thing he could say to identify himself at the time was to point and say, ‘Daddy’s boo tuck!” So, this man figured he belonged at the house with the blue truck. Thank God. I never left the garage door open again.
Disclaimer- I really thought he was playing with his older siblings…
2. Great balls of fire
When I first had my oldest, my husband worked away for weeks at a time and my parents were on vacation in Europe. I became exhausted at being up all night and day and took any opportunity to nap whenever my colicky baby would allow it.
I routinely sterilized plastic baby bottles on the stove in a pan of water for a few minutes, and then let them dry before filling them with formula. You know, I did this because everything had to be perfect. The trouble came when I had to wait for the pan of water to boil.
II though, “I‘ll just lay my head down for a minute” … Well the minute must have become an hour when I awoke to the smell of smoke. So much smoke, that I could barely see as I ran down the hallway to the kitchen as I tried to lift the burned out handle and the pot disintegrated in my hand. I flew open the windows and checked on the baby who was sleeping soundly. This might be understandable if I didn’t do this 3 more times in the eventual weeks and even once at my mother’s house while she was out playing golf. I am just totally lucky that the entire house did’t burn down and that someone didn’t perish.
Actually as I write this, maybe this event should be number one…
1. Backseat baby
Well, here we go with the one that makes me shake my head as much as the last one.
My daughter always had singing lessons on Thursdays during noon-hour so I would drop off her 2 youngest brothers with my mother in law who would watch them for me. This was the routine. It was automatic. I didn’t have to think about them or worry over them as they were safe with their grandma. This went on for several months until one day, grandma said she couldn’t watch the baby because she had a doctor appointment and could only handle the one toddler. No problem.
So I put the baby in the back seat, strapped in and cozy in our -40 degree winter and left to pick up my daughter at school. We arrive as usual at the music conservatory, and go into her lesson where I take notes on her practice technique for the week. 35 minutes later, as we approach the car, I think to myself, ” Okay, now it’s time to go to grandma’s and get the babies,” when I suddenly remember that I have one baby today and he was left in the car!
I remember screeching, “Oh my God!” as I raced towards the vehicle and threw open the door. There he was, happily sleeping away. It was amazing that it was so very cold and that he didn’t wake up. I don’t think I have ever thanked God so much for one thoughtless act, but to this day, I am so grateful that he didn’t wake up and cry, signaling the world to my stupidity and horror.
I think I had a lot on my plate back then with 6 kids and not having had a solid night’s sleep in many many years. That’s my excuse anyway.
Thankfully, they have all survived my exhausted and neglectful parenting practice to be healthy and happy.
I have come to realize that being perfect is not possible. And being perfect wouldn’t have taught me anything about parenting.
So there you have my 5 parenting disasters. I would love to hear yours. Please tell me I’m not the only one!!