If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming a mother, it’s that no matter how hard we try, there are some mistakes we will make as imperfect parents. The most we can hope for is that we will learn from them, they will be minor, and they will be humorous. You may even get to write about them one day and impart your newfound wisdom onto other parents in the form of unsolicited advice. Here are some of my favorite mistakes that I’ve made in my early days that I can now look back on as a more seasoned parent and find the humor, if not the life lessons in the process.
- Forgetting to Take Pictures.
It’s cliché to say, but time is a thief. When I look back at baby pictures of my children, I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t take more pictures of them. I’ve taken thousands over the last four years, but somehow there just doesn’t seem to be enough. I’m sure I would say that regardless of how many I had in fact taken. When my kids were all shiny and new, I remember thinking to myself that I needed to be present and in the moment for every second I held them, fed them, comforted and snuggled them because that first year goes by so quickly. But in truth, it was also mottled with sleepless nights and days without showering or any real time to myself. It’s difficult to cling to every precious moment when your child is a baby when you also just want to speed up time so they can pour themselves a bowl of cereal and wipe their own rear. That being said, I still wish I had taken more pictures and that I cherished that new baby smell just a little bit longer because now that those moments are gone, I really do miss them.
- Swim Diapers are NOT Absorbent.
That’s really all anyone needs to know. I remember thinking I was inventing new baby hacks when I decided to dress my nine month old in her swim diaper and swim suit on our way to the splash pad so I wouldn’t have to dress her in the heat once we got there and we could get right to the fun part of enjoying the park (and taking lots of pictures). What actually transpired was trying to figure out why my baby was sitting in a puddle of pee when we got to the park because she’d peed her swim diaper on the way and not only did I have to put her in a new diaper, but since I didn’t bring her a spare swim suit (why would I?) she had to enjoy the park clad only in a new swim diaper and flip flops. Her towel also had to double as a car seat cover on top of the one she soiled since I don’t travel with spare car seat covers either. What I now know is that swim diapers are only meant to keep poop out of the pool, but are comparable to swaddling your baby in off-brand paper towel in terms of absorbency. Luckily, it was a mistake I only made once.
- Never Filling out Baby Books or Growth Charts.
I believe I spent more time on Etsy, Amazon, and Zulilly shopping for my daughters’ baby book of firsts, monthly milestone stickers, and wall mounted growth charts than time I’ve spent filling any of them out combined. I keep telling myself that I can easily get a growth chart from my doctor’s office to mark up the one hanging on their wall and surely I can remember when my kids walked and their first words…at least enough to half way fill out a book for each of them…
It feels like that time in college when I had to write an essay on Moby Dick, but suffice it to say I may or may not have actually properly read the entire book so I was in fact writing the essay while speed reading the sections I missed and trying to piece together an essay that wouldn’t reflect that I hadn’t put in the proper amount of work at the beginning of the term. In my defense, it was 800 pages of about 5,000 pages of assigned reading I had that term and that first year of childhood is one year in eighteen years of their entire life, most of which is recorded on Facebook.
- Trying to force my kids to let me do their hair.
Neither of my kids will sit still long enough for me to do their hair in any thing more intricate than hair clips. Ponytails are out of the question, let alone French braids, layered ribbons, or unicorn rainbow glitter highlights (or whatever the basic toddlers are sporting these days). I’m lucky if the routine hair brushing I force both my kids to endure makes it to preschool drop off. After four years of begging my kids to let me style their hair, I’ve quit trying. When people make comments about their wild and crazy locks I insist it’s a reflection of their personality and that my children are basically feral. I’ve also found it helps if you put them in graphic tees that say “Messy Hair Don’t Care.” People tend to stop asking questions at that point.
- Forgetting picture day.
This is really only a problem because of #4. More time and effort goes into picture day than on any other school day combined including what my kids will wear and how much time, effort, and hair spackle (aka detangler) will be used at the start of the day. I usually try to schedule an appointment for my oldest to have her mane tamed the week prior to picture day to help minimize what I like to call “the towhead effect.” So when I forget picture day (which so far has only happened once), it involves turning my car upside down looking for hair clips, water bottles to wet hair with, and using my fingers like claws to somehow smooth out my daughter’s tresses all while cursing the fact that more breakfast and toothpaste ended up on her face and shirt than in her mouth. Even with all these well planned (and spontaneous) tools employed, I usually find myself wondering how the heck other parents are able to get their kids to school with all their hair in place, brushed, braided, and beribboned. I’m guessing their children spend less of their time wrapped up in blankets, rolling around on the ground, pretending to be a burrito.
- Swearing in front of my kids.
Please note this says swearing IN front of my kids and not swearing AT my kids. I reserve that for my internal monologues. I wish I could say that I never use bad language in front of my children, but that’s just not the case. I tend to drop F-bombs when I’m stuck in traffic (especially when I’m late and also have to pee), when I collide crotch first into the corner of the kitchen table, when I can’t find my phone or my keys, when I’ve venting on the phone to one of my other mom friends, and when I’m rage cleaning before company is coming over. Basically I only curse on the days that end in “y.” This really only becomes a problem when your kids inevitably end up picking up on your vernacular and yell out in frustration at their behavioral therapist, “These F-ing shoes!” (I can neither confirm nor deny this happened in real life and that she used her f-bomb contextually correct).
- Buying too many toys.
I’m going to be honest, my house looks like Toys R Us vomited in here. I tend to overdo holidays and birthdays but I don’t regret it. Yes, we could be focusing more on the “spirit” of the holiday and my kids participate in toy drives and giving back when an age appropriate opportunity presents itself, but I also selfishly enjoy watching my kids open presents and play with their toys. I don’t buy them toys to buy their affection. I do it for the same reason I should have taken more pictures and for the same reason I try to stop and play with my kids and to be present with them every day. Yes, these are material things, but one day I won’t be able to make their day any more just by surprising my kids with a brand new five pack of play-doh and taking an hour out of my day to enjoy it with them. And when you’re three there is nothing like the smell of a fresh can of play-doh. I fully understand that one day they will outgrow their childlike wonder along with their childhood play things and I want to make the most of both while I can.
- Wanting to be done with xyz phase.
There is a season of each part of childhood that is just plain hard as a parent. Between cluster feeding, colic, four a.m. feedings, and diaper explosions parenting through those infant years is exhausting. And then of course comes the toddler years. There’s a reason why they call them the terrible two’s, threenagers, and horror-fours (ok, I made that one up). The toddler years come with their own brand of turmoil between temper tantrums, potty training, and getting them ready for kindergarten. But the truth is as many times as I’ve wanted to be done with “this” phase (this being whatever phase my kids were currently in), it would also mean that they would be one step closer to being grown up and I’m not ready for that yet either. As much as I would love to be out of the diapering phase of parenting, I’m not ready to say goodbye to little toddler feet and baby curls. As much as I loathe the fight several times a day, every single day to physically put two toddlers in car seats and physically buckle them in, I’m also not ready for the day when they ask to borrow my car yet either.
A lot of the mistakes I make as a parent make me both cringe and smile. They’re a reminder that although we all want to do the best by our children, we’re also all human and we’re not going to get everything right all the time. Let’s try not to be too hard on ourselves. Just remember the big things: correct your kids when they don’t use their F-bombs grammatically correct, make sure your lies are believable if you’re not going to fill out their baby books until they’re thirteen, and don’t put a swim diaper on them until they get in the pool.
Oh….and don’t forget to take the picture.