My 3 Biggest Parenting Fails and What I Learned From Them
I’ve been wading through my role as a Mom for 8 years now. Over the years I’ve adopted a baby and a toddler, added a baby girl who was very much planned, and then had a baby boy who was not exactly planned. There have been twists and turns around every corner, and I’ve just had to keep adjusting my game.
With parenting comes so many highs and lows. I’m happy to say that the good moments have outweighed the bad. You never forget the first time your child says “Mama”; or the first time your baby smiles at you, or watching your kids hold their new baby sibling for the first time. These are moments so full of joy you feel like your heart just might burst.
But what about the lows? There are certainly some Mom moments I’d rather forget. When I think about mistakes I’ve made, my inclination is to cover them up and pretend they never happened. At the same time, I realize we all have struggles as parents, and if no one talks about them then we’ll feel like the only ones floundering.
Parenting is hard, and sometimes we fail. I try to teach my kids that failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. So it’s time to take my own advice.
Here are my 3 biggest parenting fails and what I’ve learned from them.
1. That time I forgot to pick up my kid.
My oldest child has always been an anxious kid. Fear and nervousness are her default when going into a new situation. When she went to kindergarten, it seemed like every day she had a new complaint.
- The cafeteria is too loud and crowded for me.
- The kids are too naughty and I don’t like when they get in trouble.
- I don’t like being near the big kids, they’re too scary.
I did my best to mitigate her fears and keep her anxiety at bay- until the week of parent-teacher conferences came.
Given that my oldest child was a kindergartener, every event at school was a first for me. I didn’t always know the ins and outs of the school, but I tried to stay on top of news by going through her daily folder. Being a slacker mom, I guess I wasn’t always 100% successful with this.
Somehow I missed the memo that they have early dismissal during conference week.
I got the call when I was 30 minutes away from the school. “Hello? We have your daughter here in the office? School got out 15 minutes ago, ma’am”. (Adding insult to injury, I got “ma’am”ed!)
Picturing my daughter alone and afraid sitting in the office, worrying that her mother had forgotten her brought me to tears as I rushed to the school. Normally I cut myself a lot of slack, but that day I felt like the WORST. MOTHER. EVER.
What I learned: Your kids will love you anyway.
I’ve had 3 years to reflect on that epic Mom fail and I learned a few good lessons.
My daughter did look worried sitting there in that school office. But as soon as she saw me, her face lit up. She came over and gave me a huge hug. I held her tight and apologized that I didn’t realize I had to pick her up early. And she forgave me.
Juxtaposed with feeling like the worst mom ever, I felt like I must have done something right to raise such a kind and understanding kid. She wasn’t upset with me, not even a little bit. Maybe she was more resilient than I had given her credit for.
My kids know I’m not perfect and I definitely make my share of mistakes. But at the end of the day, they know they’re loved, and they love me back. When you make a mistake, your kids will forgive you and love you too.
2. That time I was sure my son was the worst behaved child on the planet.
My son Z has always been a challenging kid. As a toddler, he figured out how to climb over his crib when he was way too young. When I moved him to a bed and put a gate on his door, he figured out how to climb the gate. He was ALWAYS in motion and never afraid of bodily harm.
In addition to the constant physical activity, Z also had tantrums that were like nothing I’d ever seen before. He had the stamina to just continue on, and on, and on when other kids would tire themselves out.
All of this was difficult and of course exhausting for me, but my frame of reference was pretty small. I only had my oldest to compare him to, and she was the exact opposite of him with her patience and fearful nature. Every time I talked to other moms about him, they just chalked it up to him being a boy and “that’s how boys are”.
Well he didn’t seem like any other boys that I saw, but what did I know?
When he was 5, I enrolled Z in a gymnastics program thinking the gross motor movement would help with his energy level. The first few sessions went great and he really seemed to enjoy it. Then one day it all went wrong.
I got a call from the teacher telling me I had to come pick up my son right away. At first I panicked thinking he was hurt, but she said no, he was fine. He had wanted to do the climbing ropes when it wasn’t his group’s turn to do them and he’d thrown a huge tantrum, throwing all of the gym equipment, hitting, and eventually biting the teacher.
Of course I was completely horrified. I knew his behavior was sometimes out of control, but my son had never physically hurt anyone before. I ran to pick him up and went over to the teacher to apologize profusely. Before I could even get the words out, she started yelling at me about what had happened, pointing at my son and saying how she never wanted to see his face in that gym again, and making me feel like he was some kind of monster who would surely end up in jail someday.
I looked over at my little 5 year old boy with the same face he had as a baby, and to me he just looked afraid. He knew as well as I did that his behavior was completely unacceptable, and I could tell he was ashamed. Instead of being mad at him, I just felt sorry for him. I realized that he was truly unable to control his body and that we needed to do something about it.
What I learned: When you’re feeling like it’s too much for you, get help.
In our case, it was professional help that we needed. I started Z in therapy and he was diagnosed with ADHD and a mood disorder. He started medication which helped him a lot. Once he was able to keep his body under control, he was more responsive to learning the skills he needed to manage his emotions.
I still think about that day at gymnastics and how overwhelmed I felt. It seemed like my life was spiraling out of control. If I couldn’t control a 5 year old, how could I be tasked with running this family? Now when I get that feeling, I know it’s time to ask for help and take a break.
My husband and I prioritize date nights to get a breather from the kids and stay connected. In the evenings and on the weekends we trade off watching the kids so the other one can have free time to exercise or do anything else that reduces stress. We are lucky enough to have family nearby that helps out with the kids when we need a break, too.
Even with kids who don’t have behavior problems, parenting is still exhausting and overwhelming. We all deserve breaks and should never be ashamed to ask for help.
3. That time I had to save my child from drowning.
It was the beginning of the summer, and my husband and I took the kids up to the pool for the first time all year. They had all loved swimming last summer and couldn’t wait to jump in that water. When we got there, we soon saw friends of ours and started talking while the kids ripped off their cover ups and jumped in.
We were standing right on the edge of the pool talking, just an arms reach away from the kids. The lifeguard was stationed only a few yards away as well. Suddenly I looked down I saw my 4 year old, trying to tread water and completely sinking. She was underwater, limbs flailing. It took me a split second to register that she was drowning, then I let out a shriek and grabbed her.
This was a child who, the previous summer, was jumping off the diving board into deep water and swimming to the side unassisted. She loved the water and did swimming lessons every day. But during the winter, she had completely forgotten how to swim.
What I learned: Don’t point fingers at parents when things go wrong. It can happen to anyone.
I always thought of myself as someone who is diligent about water safety, and yet that day at the pool was a huge wake up call for me. It only takes a few moments for a child to drown, and even if you are standing right there you could miss it. Luckily I saw my daughter in time and she was fine, but it was extremely scary for both of us nonetheless.
This incident reminded me of all the many articles I’ve seen going around Facebook when tragedy strikes a family with a young child. The masses are always there ready to blame the grieving parents for not watching their kid closely enough. I remember when a family lost their toddler to an alligator attack at Disney World and the media jumped all over the father for bringing his son near the water. Was that man trying to do anything other than play with this son? Did it ever cross his mind that he was endangering his child? I’m sure not.
The point is, there are no perfect parents. We’ve all made mistakes and some of them have had more serious consequences than others. Little kids are unpredictable, and often times Moms are juggling several of them at once while trying to manage other tasks as well. They say parenting is the hardest job in the world for a reason- because it is!
The next time you have an epic Mom fail, go easy on yourself. Despite what social media may try to convince you, there are no perfect parents out there. Every day of parenting brings new challenges, and we are all just trying our best. The important part is that we are trying, and every single day we get another chance to do better.