A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend posted about a traumatic parenting incident. With a toddler at home and a job that requires working odd hours, she had dozed off while her toddler napped and forgot to meet her other young daughter at the bus stop. A conscientious mother, she felt terrible and was beating herself up a bit over her all-too-human lapse.
I sympathized, but inside I thought, “Oh honey, if that’s the worst you can come up with you’re doing pretty good…” Which leads us to our next True Confessions topic: Bad Parenting
Stormy: The little nipper – As a brand-new mother with a brand-new son, I decided to clip my newborn’s long fingernails. With 20 nieces and nephews, I was no stranger to taking care of babies, so I took out the tiny nail clippers and “CLIP!” snipped the end of my son’s thumb. He wailed, I cried, and I quickly handed him off to my husband who finished the job. A half-dozen years later, as a frugal young mom, I was giving my son a haircut once when I very cleanly snipped the top of his ear. It was one of those moments where I immediately registered what I had done but there was complete silence for about 10 seconds as my son scrunched up his face and I braced myself for what followed. He wailed, I cried. After that, I was willing to “cut my losses” and pay the Children’s Barbers for future trims.
KitKat: Just shake it off – I took pride in the fact that as a first time mom I didn’t get panicky over every little bump or fall. My son would take a tumble and I would tell him to “shake it off” instead of running to his rescue. This worked well for awhile. My son didn’t dramatize every little bump. Like most two-year-olds, he loved to run. Though still would trip over his own feet quite a bit. One day, pretending to let him win a race we were having down the sidewalk, he fell over (like many other times). He got up, I said shake it off and he took off running to win the race. Proudly, he turned around with a huge smile and blood covering his face.
Stormy: No really, I’m sick – My older daughter has an unusual relationship with pain. She has a crazy high threshold for physical pain: Shots when she was a toddler, broken bones, acute appendicitis, all hardly elicited a wince. At the same time, she has a low threshold for emotional pain or drama. So in grade school, when she told me she was sick and wanted to stay home, I chalked it up to “school-itis” and insisted she go. An hour later, I got the call from the school nurse. My daughter had thrown up in the hallway on the way to class. Discomfort and embarrassment. Way to go, mom.
KitKat: Full moon – As an over-scheduled family, we are often running out the door in a panic to make it to different events and activities. My kids learned early that they better be able to fend for themselves to get ready for anything they deemed important enough to show up on time. For the most part, they show up presentable. One Saturday after arriving at gymnastics class, I learned my daughter didn’t have on her required shorts over her leotard. She just turned five so I do usually check her out before leaving the house, but it was an extra crazy morning. It might not seem like a big deal. I didn’t think so as I sent her in with a quick apology to the teacher and took my spot with other parents to watch from behind the glass. I saw my sweet daughter run out. As she turned to face her teacher, all of the parents were faced with my daughter’s now-turned-thong leotard. I spent an hour listening to the giggles of the other parents as my daughter mooned us in a variety of positions.
Stormy: Bad day on the playground – My newly adopted Chinese daughter was 5 years old when she had an unpleasant encounter with a wood play set. We picked her up from day care and my usually sunny girl was crabby and whiney for the next hour or so (but whining in Chinese, so we didn’t really know what she was complaining about). Finally, at dinner she was scowling and wincing and gesturing to her bottom, so I took her into the bathroom and made her “drop trou.” There, embedded in her rosy little behind was a 2×4. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight. It literally was the equivalent of half a toothpick. I yelled for my husband (do you see a theme here?) who extracted the offending splinter from my grateful daughter’s delicate derriere. In fact, after removing it and washing it off, we taped it to a piece of cardboard and labeled it, for posterity. Or for posterior-ity, if you will.
KitKat: Time to learn a lesson – My son is careless with his things. Off our watch and at school it is even worse. His desk and locker is a disorganized mess. We have missed conference appointment times, homework, and teacher notes that were crumbled in his desk. Numerous water bottles and clothing items have left for school and never returned. It is a constant battle we have with him. Take care of your things. Be responsible. When it was time for a skating session in P.E. class and he wanted to bring full hockey gear, we sat down and discussed that his equipment is valuable and he has to bring it home each night. Sure enough by the fifth day he showed up at home with no gear. Instantly he started his defense, how he put it nicely away after class and someone must have stolen it. He did look for it. It wasn’t his fault. That is when my tirade started about how careless he is with his things and always had an excuse. After making him sit through a lot of talk about responsibility, telling him he could help pay to replace it and adding on the dreaded no electronics punishment – I stormed off saying maybe he would finally learn his lesson. It was a long weekend. Then, the following Monday, we got a call from school saying they had found his equipment. It had accidentally got moved by a janitor when moving some tables around and they were sorry for any inconvenience. They had found his nicely packed bag, safely tucked into the other classroom. My lesson ended up in being how to say sorry when you are wrong.
Kool-aid for grown-ups
Stormy: Putting the teeny in Martini – And my greatest shining moment, my crowning achievement of parenting, was the time my family and my sister’s tried to escape the relentless winter with a hotel water park getaway in downtown Minneapolis. After several hours in the water park, my husband was in my sister’s room watching the hockey game with my brother-in-law and the kids were in my room watching Nickelodeon. I jumped in the shower to wash the chlorine off of myself and came out to find the kids huddled around my youngest who looked positively green. “What’s wrong?” I asked my son. He responded that my petite 5-year old daughter had poured a glass of Kool-aid and wasn’t feeling well. I looked at the plastic pitcher no longer full of the bright, colorful liquid inside—not Kool-aid, but premixed Cosmopolitans. Nearly 100% booze. I panicked for a bit: How much had she drank? How would I explain this to the paramedics? I spent several minutes debating the lesser of two evils: Having the Department of Human Services questioning my obviously neglectful parenting or having my daughter experience alcohol poisoning. When I looked at my little girl, her skin was pale and her eyes were glassy–this wasn’t good. Then, she promptly threw up the bright pink poison. Immediately, the color came back in her face and her eyes brightened. Crisis averted. I could keep my terrible parenting a secret. Well, until now. But since my daughter is now a beautiful, happy 18-year-old, I managed to get her to adulthood in spite of myself.
KitKat: On the rocks – Stormy isn’t the only mom who inadvertently provided their child with a taste of liquor well before appropriate. In the summer, often after work I go up on my balcony to enjoy some fresh air, a VO Manhattan and page through a magazine. Once in awhile the kids will follow and my daughter would always ask for ice. I’d grab one from the glass and suck off any lingering whiskey (or so I thought) before feeding it to her. This would keep her quiet for a bit, which was a big deal at three. One morning, she asked for ice and my husband grabbed one out of the freezer. We were quickly told his ice didn’t taste good like Mommy’s. No wonder she was quiet! From then on I remembered to bring a cup of pure ice out with me.
Okay, it’s clear that neither of us are going to be getting Mother of the Year anytime soon. Does anyone else have a good story to share? After all, this whole parenting gig is Easier Said Than Done…