How to Fail at Parenting: Thanks, Kid!
by Julie Harris
This post is dedicated to my own mother. Thanks, Mom! Happy Mother's Day!
Let’s face it, being a parent can feel mortifying at times. No matter how wonderful a parent you are, there will always be times when you find yourself standing at the precipice of failure. Or at least you’ll sure-as-hell feel like it.
For instance, take our youngest child. Last week we found out that, unbeknownst to
us, he has been eating breakfast at school.
This wouldn’t be a problem if he wasn’t already eating breakfast at home
every morning: a wholesome, balanced breakfast where he's offered fruit,
yogurt, juice, and organic whole grain cereal.
Before you picture the stereotypical twigs-and-rocks type of organic
cereal, know that the kind he gets mimics many of the more popular brands of “kid
cereals” on the market today.
So, for Lord only knows how long, we have unwittingly been paying for him to eat an extra breakfast, probably appearing as though we forget to feed him in the morning here at home. When asked why he has been doing this, he replied, “Because I like the Cocoa-Puff breakfast bars they have at school.”
This morning, after he ate breakfast (the first of probably two, mind you), I reminded him that we needed to change the large band-aid that protects a bad scrape on his elbow he got from falling off of his bike.
“I’ll just get it changed it at school.”
This coming from the same child who hugged me through tears after I dressed the fresh wound a few days earlier sniffling, “Mom, thank you! You always make me feel better.”
Apparently, nothing beats an excuse to leave class to visit the school nurse, even though it will probably make the nurse wonder why we aren’t on top of our child’s injury, sending him to school with a dirty band-aid.
Our oldest child also seems to have orphan syndrome. Just by way of him being on the planet longer, his abandoned-orphan history is even lengthier.
When he was a toddler and going through potty training, we tried every trick in the book to encourage him to use the toilet, desperate to not have two kids in diapers (he and his brother are almost three years apart, so it wasn’t an unrealistic goal). I remember being on maternity leave at the time, exasperated that I would never be able to get him out of diapers before I had to return to work.
Following the advice of several potty training resources, I urged him to consider that “Poo-poo is bad for your skin. It’s disgusting to have poop rubbing against your bottom when you go in a diaper, so using the toilet is better for you. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“I’m disgusting!” he proclaimed.
My eyes widened in shock and horror upon this misunderstanding. “No,” I pleaded, “not you. Poop!” I abandoned the potty training effort for a few more weeks, out of fear that I was doing some sort of long-term psychological damage. We changed more diapers that spring than an actual orphanage, I swear.
More recently, our oldest told us at bedtime one night, “By the way, I need to bring in a costume and props for our presentation at school tomorrow.”
“What?” I was stunned. My husband eyed the clock to check if there was still time to run out for a costume of sorts. It was nine o’clock at night. In April.
“Remember how I am going to be Harry Houdini for the 4th grade Wax Museum show? We have to bring in our stuff tomorrow morning.” Our son seemed pleased that he had remembered to tell us before it was too late.
So, at 9:05 pm, we scrambled to find the chain and lock and black shirt he specified that he needed for the next day. Luckily, we had those things at home. As we tucked him into bed, he said, “By the way, the show isn’t until next week.”
Annoyed but oddly relieved, I replied, “We know that it’s next week because we saw it in the newsletter, but isn’t it a dress-rehearsal tomorrow?”
“No. We just have to bring our stuff in.”
The other surprise came a few days later when one of his teachers wrote us a note letting us know that if it was okay with us, she was providing a magician hat and rabbit to embellish his costume for the show. Our son never mentioned that Houdini also needed a hat and rabbit, two things we already have at home.
Just as there have been past incidents of parental “failure” on our part, I’m sure that there will be countless more in the future. But because we love our children more than life itself, we wouldn’t change it for the world.