Photo by: Mary Widdicks

Five Parenting Mistakes I'm Doomed to Repeat

Photo by: Mary Widdicks

I consider myself to be a fairly quick learner. I’ve memorized the names and faces of every engine from Thomas and Friends, all the cars in Disney’s Cars and Cars 2, about 40 species of dinosaur, and more space facts than I could list here. Keeping up with my three year old is better than Sudoku for keeping the mind sharp. It helps to counteract the brain cell death from chronic sleep deprivation, excessive whining, and Mickey Mouse Club House.

However, for some reason there are lessons that just never seem to stick with me no matter how many times I learn them the hard way.

Five parenting mistakes I’m doomed to repeat:

1. Bathing with the kids – When my first son was born it seemed like the perfect way to ease him into his first bath, score some extra bonding time, and save my back and knees from bending over the tub trying to hold a squirming infant. Genius, right? Wrong. My oldest son used to poop EVERY time we put him in the bath until he was about 6 months old. It was sort of like the timer letting us know that bath time was over. Damn, he pooped. I guess it’s time to get out.

It was like the mustard yellow cloud of doom and it was only a matter of time each night before I’d get bombed. Yet, for reasons I can’t even begin to defend, I still bathe with both kids. Luckily the baby doesn’t have his brother’s affinity for pooping in the tub, but we still have the occasional blow out. Would it kill me to lean over the tub and bathe them from the outside? No, of course not. Would bathing them from outside the tub drastically reduce the number of times I get pooped on? Yes, of course it would. Do I stop bathing with the kids? No. Apparently I’m a glutton for punishment.

2. Running a quick errand without the diaper bag – I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve thought, Well, I’ll just be out for half an hour, I don’t need to lug the diaper bag. It’s like the parenting version of saying It’ll be a piece of cake or What’s the worst that can happen? It’s the kiss of death for anyone with young children. No matter how quick your errands are, there is always time for a massive poop explosion or severe wardrobe malfunction. Often times, the two go hand in hand.

I once took my baby to an insurance meeting. I knew the meeting was only going to last a few minutes so I left the diaper bag at home. Of course, we ended up waiting for half an hour in the lobby and the moment we sat down in the agent’s office my son turned that tell-tale shade of purple. The benefit to having an extremely foul smelling child with you at an insurance meeting is he didn’t try to sell me anything and I was out of there in three minutes flat. Unfortunately, I had to change my baby’s diaper in the trunk of my car, wipe him with an old towel I found under the front seat, strap him into his car seat naked from the waist down, and just hope for an uneventful drive home. I still haven’t learned to keep a spare diaper in the car. Old french fries: yes. Anything useful: nope.

3. Planning to do ANYTHING productive during nap time – Almost every day I make plans to fill my “free time” when I put the baby down for his nap. I intend to take on a ton of housework, the yoga I swore I’d do last night at 2:00am while I couldn’t sleep, the blog reading I need to catch up on, the blog writing I definitely need to catch up on, and the relaxing I really want to do. There’s also the little detail of the three year old I should be spending quality time with. It’s a completely reasonable, not at all ambitious, itinerary for the hour and half that the baby usually naps.

Except the moment I make plans, the moment I choose to play with the kids while in the morning instead of doing my chores thinking I’ll have time later, the moment I get cocky about how well my baby sleeps, that is the day he decides he no longer needs to nap. So then instead of accomplishing even one of those tasks I end up listening to the baby scream on the monitor for half an hour before eventually giving up and rescuing him from his crib. Then I have a cranky baby, a messy house, an attention starved three year old, and a flabby tummy. Epic failure.

Of course, this lesson goes both ways. If I ever make plans to go somewhere because I figure the baby won’t need or want to take a nap that afternoon, then he’ll sleep for 3 hours. Every time. And instead of taking advantage of the unexpected free time, I sit and stare at the monitor certain that he’ll be awake any minute. I really am a slow learner.

4. Letting the kids eat their weight in fruit – Fruit is healthy, right? So if your kid wants to sit and eat an entire box of blueberries as a snack, you should thank you lucky stars it’s not Cheetos and tell him to go nuts? Well, as it turns out there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, even fruit. When a 20 pound baby eats 2 pounds of blueberries bad things happen.

Remember that horrible black tar-poop that babies do for the first couple days after they’re born? Well, imagine that only three times bigger, smellier, and riddled with entire blueberries that I guess the baby just couldn’t be bothered to chew before swallowing. You’ll never see blueberry cobbler the same way again. However, the next day when the three year old asks for strawberries I’ll once again set him down with the entire bowl, knowing I’m going to regret it later when he has to poop all night long.

5. Traveling with children – Once you have children, the very high risk that your flight will be delayed, or that you’ll have to sit on the runway for an hour upon arrival, or that someone will vomit on you during the flight becomes more consequential. No one likes sitting around with nothing to do in a crowded airport, but a toddler and an infant go completely nuts. Fueled only by twizzlers and potato chips from the vendors at the airport, the children refuse to nap, quiet down, stop vibrating, or listen to a single word you say. It’s Hell with an audience of crabby wannabe travelers ready to glare daggers in your direction until you change seats.

Then once you arrive at your destination, assuming you’ve all survived the initial traveling, your children will once again refuse to sleep. They’re either jet lagged, over tired, under tired, whacked out on sugar and adrenaline, or just plain stubborn. Either way, they’re not sleeping. So you know all that sightseeing or visiting with friends you were planning on doing? Well, now you’re going to have to sleep in the bed with your restless toddler all night long while he kicks you repeatedly in his sleep. You could do that at home.

The next morning it will take everyone until 11am to wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, get undressed again after the baby inevitably smears avocado all over everything and everyone in the room, and convince the sleep deprived toddler that there are better things to do than watch traffic out the hotel window. Once you’ve accomplished every one of those tasks and are finally ready to go enjoy the vacation you’ve worked so hard to take, the baby will yawn and it will be time to put him down for his nap. It’s just not worth it for the hour a day you manage to spend doing something other than sit in the hotel room.

I’m sure there are many other parenting lessons that seem to just go in one ear and out the other, but these are the ones that I seem doomed to repeat for all time like some sort of gypsy curse. What are your parenting lessons you’ve learned (or not learned!) the hard way?

Mary Widdicks is a 30-year-old mother of two boys, two male dogs, and an ever­ changing number of gender-­indeteriminate fish. Her husband calls her ‘Honey’, the three-year-old calls her ‘Mommy’, the baby calls her ‘Milk’, the dogs call her their Indentured Servant, and she’s pretty sure the fish have no idea who she is at all. She is also the writer of the humorous parenting blog You can also find her on Twitter.

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