Family / Kids / Parenting

Worst Parenting Choice So Far

I really messed up as a parent this Christmas.

No, it wasn’t in the gift department.  Sassafras loved all her gifts.  And I don’t even consider the fact that she ate only jelly for breakfast, only gummy lifesavers for lunch, and had a less than 40 minute nap as messing up. Heck, even SuperParent has to concede to the rigors of the day.

No, I messed up in the last 2 hours of the day.

We took our sugar-fueled, nap-deprived toddler over to our good friends’ house for Christmas Dinner and Movie watching that evening.  My child was running on determination and inertia alone.  I figured that the magical sleepiness of turkey would overcome those forbidding obstacles and lull my child into dreamland for me.  As we tromped down the stairs to watch the final installment of Pirates of the Caribbean, I wasn’t worried about the inappropriateness of the show: the violence, the scariness.  No, I figured, as soon as we curled up in the giant beanbag she’d be out for the count.

Oh how I misjudged the strength of her determination.  She didn’t fall asleep, and as I tried to coax her into dreamland, while selfishly watching the movie, I realized how badly I messed up when she looked up at a battle scene and began narrating, “he’s dead, and he’s dead, and he’s dead, and he’s dead.”  All four of us adults present began talking about how it was all pretend, and how silly it was really, as my 2 year old stared at the screen in captive horror, pointing at the “scary octopus” (Davy Jones) and talking about how the pirates were going to bite her foot.

We packed up and left, movie unfinished.

I read her stories that night and we talked about lots of different things trying to get the movie out of her head.  But still, at 3 am, Klove and I were woken by her screams of terror.  When I went into her room, flipped on her lights, she was huddled in her bed.  As I knelt by her she looked at me and said, “there’s too many babies, mom.  Too many babies.”  Tears streaming down her face.  I would never have thought that a well-loved and cherished 2 year old could know hopelessness and despair, but it was there in her voice and my heart broke because I had let this happen to her.

The “too many babies” comes from her favorite movie, Shrek the Third, but she’s never been even a little bit afraid of the Shrek movies.  The scene where Shrek has the nightmare about babies is usually her favorite scene.  She shrieks “too many babies!” with glee as the babies pour through the window.  But in thinking about it, and the scenes she saw of pirates and monsters overwhelming ships and people in the first half hour or so of the Pirates movie, I can see the similarities and see how her dreaming mind could combine the two.  She didn’t ask to watch Shrek once yesterday.

I’d say that the next morning everything was fine, but she still talks about the Octopus she saw on our friend’s T.V. and she still talks of Pirates biting her foot.  With as imaginative as my daughter is, and as long a memory as she has, I think it’ll be quite a while before the threat of pirates and octopi fades.  And there’s nothing I can do about it, but reassure her of our love and the imaginariness of the monsters.

***

Too often, in our fight for equality and respect, we gild our parenting skills; we laud our wisdom and foresight in how we planned and researched and raised our children.  But we’re only human.  We mess up.  This does not make us less worthy parents.  True equality will be manifest when we can ‘fess up about our mistakes – the times when selfishness, laziness, ignorance, impotence, frustration, impatience trip us up.  I don’t know about you, but when I mess up, I feel paralyzed inside.  Too busy battling the internalized homophobia that says I’m inherently unworthy to parent a child (and that this mistake is a sign of that unworthiness) to really live in the present for a while.  My mistakes eat at me and wear me down.

So this is my confession, and my resolution: I am not a perfect parent, and I do not have to be.

Join me.  When have you messed up, and how?

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6 Comments

  1. Ah the holiday season and its sugar-fueled poor parenting choices. Our most recent one: treating our kiddo to sarcasm beyond her ability to comprehend.

    In a misguided attempt to get a super-cute Santa photo, we took her to the local Santa breakfast. While she enjoyed the food, she was not going anywhere near the big guy. Since we’d already paid the big $2 for the polaroid, M and I sat on Santa’s lap sans-Kiddo.

    As we were buckling her into the carseat, she asked for a candy cane, the ones that Santa was handing out. “Too bad,” M says, “you didn’t get one because you didn’t sit with Santa.” “Yeah,” I misguidedly chime in, “sucks to be you.”

    Who AM I? I can’t believe I just said that to my kid.

    As this is dawning on me, I turn around to see her in that horrible pre-cry stage. Her cheeks are turning red, her eyes are squinted up, her tounge is starting to quiver… Wow, we suck. Especially me.

    I tried to fix it by taking her back in, getting a candy cane from Santa, and letting her eat the whole thing in the car. I think she’s recovered from the trauma, but I haven’t yet.

  2. Oh Dear…the many things I wish I could take back.
    I fostered a little girl for a few years waaay back and once made her finish a full glass of chocolate milk that she made herself. My idea was a lesson in “not wasting” until she puked it all over me, the carpet and herself. And another time? I thought I was taking her to a cute little witchy movie – there were teenage girls in it – how bad could it be? It was “Craft” or something and every parent glared at me while we walked in and when I finally figured out I had ruined her for life, we crept out of the theater. I was mortified.
    Maybe this is why they don’t let us foster in our state…
    🙂

  3. There’s a worldwide club called “The Bad Parents’ Club”. Well, if there isn’t really, I’m hereby officially naming it. Join me, Bad Parents of the world. Yes, you. And you, and you, and you . . .

    When Rocky was a few years old, she hit the dog. I whacked her on the butt. “Don’t hit!” I said sternly.

  4. I’m not a parent, but I still make lots of mistakes with the children I love.

    But more importantly, where have you gone to?

  5. Wenda, good question! Can’t say for the other sisters who post/ cross-post here, but I’ve had a hell of a time making it through our first year with two kids. Somehow, I finally gave myself permission to be overwhelmed by it all, which realization ushered in a small mountain of Things It Was Perfectly Okay to Let Slide.

    I’ve checked back here often to see whether the other LesFam gals have been as overwhelmed/ distracted as me. I know Liza has been epically sick (though, with the help of antibiotics, I think she’s on the mend).

    Hopefully things will pick up now that we’re nearing the cheery Spring Has Sprung season. Sez me in sunny CA.

    Thanks for writing in!

  6. We can never be a perfect parent to our children it’s really impossible. What we could do is to have a resolution to counter the mistakes we have done and to be more careful next time by accidentally repeating those mistakes.

    -Jan

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