11 Mistakes Parents Make (Even The Perfect Ones)

ellen-seidman-1000-perplexing-things-about-parenthood-1.jpgMy 7-year-old sat in the back seat of the car, screaming her head off. We’d just visited the ice-cream store and as I handed over the cone I’d bought her, I took a lick. Just one little, innocent lick. “YOU TOOK A LICK!” Sabrina wailed. For the next few minutes, she whined about my crime. By the time we got back to the car, she was in tears. I told her that I was going to toss her ice-cream if she didn’t clam up. She didn’t. And so I plucked it out of her hand, walked over to a trash and tossed it in.

Sabrina sobbed even harder. Me, I was distressed but proud: I am not always good on following through with consequences. True to form, that evening we ended up at the frozen yogurt store because my son wanted some. And I let Sabrina have fro-yo, too — with chocolate sprinkles (forgive me parenting gods). You know, because it wasn’t ice-cream.

Bad, bad Mommy.

This is imperfect parenting, the only kind I know. As much as I try to enforce rules, limits and structure, at times I give in when I shouldn’t.I make mistakes, I learn from them. I’m guilty of repeat offenses. I’m pretty sure they’re not the kind of slip-ups that will necessitate years of psychoanalysis. I hope. All I can say is, I’m human. (Well, most days.)

These are the mistakes I’ve made in my ten years on this parenting gig. Can I get a raise for good effort, please?

  • Parenting Bad #1: Not following through on consequences 1 of 11
    Parenting Bad #1: Not following through on consequences
    I sometimes suck at this (see: fro-yo), but I'm newly inspired by my friends Bari Nan and Jeff, who live in Utah. This summer, they took their two kids on a trip in their motor home. Within the first hour of being on the campsite, their youngest was jumping around inside their RV and causing general mayhem. He didn't heed his parents' warnings. And so, Jeff packed up their bags and they went home. As he told Bari Nan, "If we do this, I can almost guarantee it won't happen again." Ever since, their child has been amazingly behaved. And Jeff and Bari Nan are my new parenting heroes.

    Photo credit: Flickr/slightly everything
  • Parenting Bad #2: Letting the kids perma-crash in your bed 2 of 11
    Parenting Bad #2: Letting the kids perma-crash in your bed
    Kids are better than bed bugs, because they're cute and cuddly and all, but the two share a common trait: Once they're in there, they are hard to get out. My husband and I let my son, Max, start sleeping in our bed when he was a baby. In the ensuing years, we've tried all sorts of ploys and tactics to get him out. There have been periods of success, and then, the two years where we gave up and put him to sleep in our bed. I finally tricked out his room, complete with a glow-in-the-dark turtle. That did the trick. Kinda sort. My son wanders into our bedroom at 4 a.m. My husband and I lack any sort of willpower in the middle of the night. Where's the app for that?

    Photo credit: Flickr/atkinson000
  • Parenting Bad #3: Bickering in front of the kids 3 of 11
    Parenting Bad #3: Bickering in front of the kids
    Mostly my husband and I argue in the car, when I tend to gripe about his so-called driving skills and he tends to gripe about my so-called backseat driving. This, we realize, isn't good for the kids. And so, we've learned that if we sing what we want to snipe, it spares us all grief: "Daaaaa-vid," I'll croon, to the tune of Roxanne, "You need to stop for the red light! Daaaaa-vid, you are causing me real fright." It may feel ridiculous, but it works.

    Photo credit: Flickr/KWDesigns
  • Parenting Bad #4: Making promises you don’t keep 4 of 11
    Parenting Bad #4: Making promises you don't keep
    A couple of years ago, for reasons still unknown to me, I got the kids an ant farm kit. It's been sitting in our playroom ever since. "Mommy, can we order the ants already?" Sabrina asks on occasion. "Yes," I'll say, "after we get back from vacation!" or "Yes, when school starts" or "Yes, when it's not so hot!" The truth is, I don't want the damn ants in our house because I just KNOW the kids will figure out a way to let them escape. Sabrina has called me on this. "You promised to get ants and you never do," she's said. I'm tempted to lie and say they no longer sell ants, but then I'd be committing Parenting Bad #5.

    Photo credit: Flickr/Theresa in MS
  • Parenting Bad #5: Lying to the kids 5 of 11
    Parenting Bad #5: Lying to the kids
    Now, I don't consider telling my kid the tooth fairy exists a lie, which I've done, but some people do. The one actual lie I have told, and more than once: "Chuck E. Cheez is closed today!" I believe this is known as self-preservation.

    Photo credit: Flickr/lance.long
  • Parenting Bad #6: Too. Many. Toys. 6 of 11
    Parenting Bad #6: Too. Many. Toys.
    I am a sucker for educational toys. And for games I had when I was a kid, like Monopoly and Trouble. And for craft activity sets. And for science kits. And for anything Play-doh. And for those yes-I-am-a-sucker-toys you grab with claws in arcades. When I die, I will surely be buried in a toy chest.

    Photo credit: Flickr/garryknight
  • Parenting Bad #7: Fighting battles you don’t need to fight 7 of 11
    Parenting Bad #7: Fighting battles you don't need to fight
    Sabrina can't stand girl clothes; all she wants wear is leggings and her brother's t-shirts. I have tried mightly to get her into dresses, letting her have free reign at Target and anything her heart desires online. No go. Once, in an act of desperation, I offered her ten bucks to wear one to a family party. She turned me down. I've since made peace with my tomboy girl. I still stare wistfully at other kids in their adorable sundresses and say things like "They look so cute!" But I no longer grovel. (I will, however, draw the line if she wants to wear leggings and a t-shirt to her wedding.)

    Photo credit: Flickr/D. Sharon Pruitt
  • Parenting Bad #8: Letting the kids stay up too late 8 of 11
    Parenting Bad #8: Letting the kids stay up too late
    Not only am I guilty of the deadly sin of lying, but I am also guilty of greed. Yes, I am exceptionally greedy about spending time with my children—especially during the weekdays, when I don't get home from work until 7:00. And so I've been known to let them stay up a lot later than they should. Weekends are often a bedtime free-for-all. This sometimes has the opposite effect, as extreme crankiness can set in when they're weary at which point I'd really like to give my kids away. But I can't help it: I want to hang with them.

    Photo credit: Flickr/mahalie
  • Parenting Bad #9: Cursing in front of the kids 9 of 11
    Parenting Bad #9: Cursing in front of the kids
    So, yes, once in a while I've let a "sh*t" fly, because sh*t happens. The honor of worst offense, however, belongs to my husband, who said the f-word and then tried to back out of it with the most ridiculous cover-up ever. Happily, the kids haven't taken to cursing like sailors. Yet.

    Photo credit: Flickr/bowler1996p
  • Parenting Bad #10: Keeping junk food in the house 10 of 11
    Parenting Bad #10: Keeping junk food in the house
    We're a soda-free home, with healthy snacks on hand like seaweed sheets and baby carrots and hummus. But we have junk food, too: potato chips, candy, and, because the kids beg for it, whipped cream. Only once you have a canister of the stuff in your fridge, as it turns out, your children will eagerly request it on everything:

    "Mommmmmy, can I have whipped cream on my pancakes?" "Mommmmmy, can I have whipped cream on my Rice Krispies?" "Mommmmmy, can I have whipped cream on my meatloaf?" [TRUE STORY]

    The best advice, as with co-sleeping: Just don't do it.

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    Photo credit: Flickr/mollypop
  • Parenting Bad #11: Being a fool for kisses 11 of 11
    Parenting Bad #11: Being a fool for kisses
    I am powerless against my children's kisses, and they know it. They use it as Mommy bait. "Noooooo," my son says as I kiss him at bedtime, then points to the TV (translation: I'll let you make out with me if I can watch my magic tricks DVD one more time). "I'll give you a kiss if I can play with your iPhone!" my daughter will say. Oftentimes, I give in. Because I am weak. So weak.

Photo credit: Flickr/CCK_Mom


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