Photo: David Prahl/Shutterstock

10 Parenting Mistakes Everyone Makes and Why It's Okay

by Claire Litton Cohn Apr 12, 2016

No idea why baby is crying.

My husband and I made a lot of jokes about abandoning our baby for the wolves when she was a couple months old, because we just couldn’t figure out WHAT WAS WRONG to make the crying stop. We fed her, changed her, took her sweater off, put her sweater on, burped her, patted her, bounced her, you name it…sometimes, babies just cry. It doesn’t make you a failure as a parent. Sometimes they are itchy but don’t understand the concept of “itchy”, sometimes they just saw a cow for the first time and they still need to process it, sometimes they have a tiny invisible hair wrapped around a finger or toe and it hurts, or they need to fart and can’t or maybe they’re just in a bad mood, because god knows, even adults wish they could throw a fit occasionally. It’s okay for a baby to fuss, too, even if it does grate on your nerves.

Bashing the kid’s head into a doorframe.

My daughter has a tendency to throw herself backwards when she’s pissed off, even if you’re carrying her, which has resulted in her head bouncing off doorframes, shelving units, her own crib, and the wall. Fortunately, their memories are still forming and they fall down a lot anyway as soon as they start learning how to walk, so one more instance of getting their head whacked will just blend into the background music of personal violence that is toddler life.

Forgetting them somewhere (often because you’re sleep deprived).

Before you become a parent, you absolutely know you would never forget your child anywhere. In this magical scenario, of course, you get an uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep a night, eat meals whenever you need them, and aren’t having your nerves shattered on the regular by persistent non-stop whining or crying (both of which are designed to aggravate your autonomous nervous system). Studies show that chronic sleep deprivation leads to breakdown of your neurocognitive abilities and executive functioning, the negative effects of which accumulate over time as you adjust to feeling sleepy; that is, you can feel like you’re not sleepy, but be functioning as though you’re drunk. You’re also more prone to microsleeps or blackouts, as well as memory loss…all of which can lead to momentarily forgetting to take the carseat out of the car (with the baby in it), or driving away from the park with your 5 year old still happily playing on the jungle gym. Please, I beg you: take a nap. Even if you feel like you don’t need it.

Cutting the tip of your baby’s finger while trimming their nails.

I have still never done this, but that’s because I deliberately have never trimmed my kid’s nails with anything except my teeth…which is going to look weird when I’m chasing her down the walkway to first grade, nibbling on her fingers. For most parents, though, this is often the first pain their child experiences, since they come out of the womb with horrifying sharp claws that need to be trimmed early on. Their fingers are so small and even the nail trimmers with safety handles are sharp. Don’t worry, even if you draw blood; both skin and baby memories heal fast. You’re going to remember this for much longer than they will.

Not being consistent.

Sometimes I tell our kid to stop pushing the kitchen trashcan into the middle of the room; sometimes, I just don’t have the energy to say “No!” twenty more times. Eventually, consistency does work, on the bright side: we had to reinforce “don’t take people’s glasses” for months before it finally clicked, but she has totally stopped doing it. Of course, it could have been a developmental thing, and she would have stopped anyway. Honestly, kids change so much so fast that a little inconsistency is just water under the bridge; it won’t kill them to occasionally hear mixed messages. The world is full of them. Still, try not to threaten punishments that will be terrible for you to endure as they get older; saying “Clean your room or no TV for three days!” sounds like a good threat until you realize that you like it when they watch TV so you can drink your coffee and read a book.

Kid falling off the bed (or changing table or whatever).

Unless this had catastrophic consequences, like your bed is right next to a window that opens into the Grand Canyon, this has happened to every parent that I know at least once. Nobody likes to admit it, because we feel like it makes us sound negligent for not staring at them every second of the day. Turns out, though, babies and toddlers (most of the falling happens around diaper changes) are fast little suckers, and also have absolutely no sense of self-preservation; I once turned around to get a sip of tea and my daughter climbed across the sofa to stand on the glass end table, and was gleefully flicking the overhead fan on and off. Don’t feel bad if your kid takes a header (or a side roll) off a high surface, and remember that kids are resilient and growing so quickly that even a broken bone can heal as fast as 3 weeks.

Laughing when they do something naughty.

A friend of ours had a rule with her son: you’re allowed to swear around him, but you can’t laugh if he repeats anything you say. This led an entire car of people to be shaking with concealed laughter for twenty minutes while her kid asked her to break down why people say “bullshit”. I accidentally cracked up once when our daughter collapsed onto my husband’s junk, and then thought that junk-punching was a great way to get a laugh. You just can’t help yourself sometimes; kids are absurd, and it’s difficult to school your face before they look to you to see the results of their actions. There’s a great rule about kids eating healthy, which is that you should look at their diet over a week rather than a day; if they take in some healthy fruits and veggies at some point during the week, you’re doing great. Same with parenting: if they take in a regular diet of good behaviour cues, it’s okay if you slip up occasionally and give them the moral equivalent of chicken nuggets for dinner.

Dumping them out of the stroller.

Given that many kids scream like they’re being boiled alive when you fasten the straps to their strollers, it’s only natural to occasionally just…leave the straps undone. And then all it takes is one patch of rough sidewalk for the stroller wheels to stop and your kid to get pitched like a shovelful of snow. It’s not far to fall from stroller to ground, so they’ll be more scared than hurt. Give them a hug and move on as best you can.

Forgetting to buckle the car seat straps.

We don’t have a car, but this is something I hear over and over again from one of the forums I visit: arriving somewhere to discover your child either totally or partially unbuckled in their car seat…or the car seat not effectively buckled to the car. Obviously, this one can have disastrous consequences, but if you discover the problem after safely arriving, don’t make yourself crazy worrying about what might have happened. It didn’t, and you’re all okay now. That’s not to say buckling a child up isn’t important: it is. But it really is okay to let go of something that might have happened but didn’t.

Overestimating your child’s ability to handle something.

The first movie I ever saw in the theatre was Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I was 7 years old, and pretty mature for my age. We had to leave the theatre early because (spoilers) the end where Roger almost gets mowed down by an evil guy driving a steamroller was waaaaaaay too scary for me. Even if you were watching Star Wars when you were 5, your child may not be able to handle the same level of emotional roller coaster as you, and could have the pants scared off them even by an experience that you thought would be totally benign (spinning teacups amusement park ride?). You might feel like you’ve scarred them for life, but don’t worry: you haven’t. I remember that experience with great fondness for my mom, actually; what really stuck in my mind was how she took me seriously when I was scared instead of ignoring me or telling me to get over it.

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