One of my favorite contradictions is something I heard my parents tell me growing up and other parents have told me when I ask for advice: “Kids don’t come with a handbook.” I appreciate the sentiment since every kid is different, and there’s certainly no guarantee what works for one kid will work for another. However, if you type “books on raising kids” into Google, you’ll get about 100 million results. It turns out there are quite a lot of handbooks on raising kids; far too many for any one parent to read. But even those overachievers are sure to make dozens of parenting mistakes.
The hardest part for me in writing this article was narrowing down the new parenting mistakes I made and choosing which ones were entertaining instead of the ones that could be mistaken for low-level crimes. Those mistakes can be fun to laugh at now. But at that moment, I remember questioning why I thought I would be a good parent. We’ve all been there.
Just Roll With It
I remember visiting my sister in Philadelphia when my daughter, Adley, was about seven months old. I was changing her diaper on the guest bed and turned my back for a split second to get an extra wipe. At that very moment, Adley decided to show me the improvements to her rolling abilities and rolled right off the bed onto the floor. She started to cry, and I started to panic. Did I destroy my child’s future over a wet wipe?
Luckily, the floor was carpeted, and she was back to normal after a couple of minutes. My wife also got the chance to throw in an “I told you so” since she had reminded me to be careful with Adley’s rolling five minutes earlier.
Being the responsible father I am, I waited an hour to share my mistake. And we all lived to tell the tale.
My most memorable parenting mistake doubles as the most disgusting.
Poop is something you become very familiar with as a new parent. You see it a lot, deal with it a lot, and inevitably talk about it far more than you ever imagined. It becomes a way of life.
By the time Adley turned one, we had a pretty good handle on the poop situation. The topic became as benign as asking each other, “How was your day?”
I felt like an expert and was pretty sure I had seen it all. But one October day changed everything, and I found myself without answers.
We had just moved to south Florida, and I was in my first couple weeks as a full-time stay-at-home dad. Adley wasn’t feeling well and was running a 102-degree fever. I called the pediatrician, who recommended a lukewarm bath to help cool Adley down and make her more comfortable.
She hadn’t slept much the night before and spent most of the day clinging to me between meltdowns. We were both exhausted, and I was ready to try anything. So, I ran a bath.
We Have a Big, Stinky Problem
She splashed around and acted more like herself, showing me her rubber ducky and spraying water with her baby shark toy. I was relieved the bath seemed to be working, so I sat down and opened my phone to answer a few text messages I had missed over the last couple of hours. I looked up every 10 seconds or so to see Adley smiling and enjoying her bath.
After about a minute, I put my phone down and focused on my daughter. We made eye contact, and I noticed she was contorting her face. That’s unusual, I thought. Then I heard her grunt.
I noticed the water beneath the bubbles darkening.
This isn’t happening.
Then the smell hit me.
I immediately picked her up out of the tub and held her away from my body. I froze.
She was confused by my sudden action and gave me an unsure look which was quickly followed by whines and a loud cry. I stood there with my hands underneath her armpits, completely lost about how to handle this situation. Looking into Adley’s eyes, I could almost see her thinking, “You think you’re ready to deal with me full-time? Ha!”
After what felt like an eternity, I propped Adley up against the side of the bath, grabbed some toilet paper, and started wiping everything. I drained the tub and took Adley into another bathroom, where she got her first shower. If you haven’t tried to shower with a 1-year-old who can’t walk, you haven’t lived. Add in the decontamination, and you have yourself quite the adventure.
I’m unsure if my mistake was looking at my phone or holding my wet child like a bomb for 30 seconds, but it all feels like one gigantic, stinky mistake.
Smile, It’s Just a Mistake
There are dozens of other examples of my new parenting mistakes.
One tough night, I told my then three-month-old daughter to shut up after she screamed for more than an hour. It felt wrong as soon as I said it. My wife, who overheard it on the baby monitor, agreed and had some choice words for me when I came back to bed.
Other mistakes feel more like learning experiences, like remembering your toddler isn’t the only one who may need a change of clothes at the airport.
Words cannot describe the look I got from the 20-something cashier at the gift shop as I approached the counter covered in vomit and holding a “Welcome to Miami” T-shirt.
Much like raising kids, mistakes come in all shapes and sizes. The only thing consistent is we all make them. Using them as learning experiences is important because your child isn’t the only one growing and developing. It’s something we, as parents, do every day.
That’s why it’s essential to acknowledge your parenting mistakes and look back at them with a smile. I’ve found it’s one of the best ways to see your progress.