I do not care what anyone tells you; no parent anywhere has an ever-loving clue what the hell he or she is doing at any given time. Decent parents will approach every decision they make with respectable intentions while crossing their fingers that the grand plan in their heads work out.
And most of the time, those plans do work out for the best.
But sometimes, we make epically dumb decisions that seemed like good ideas at the time. I know I have. In fact, I can think of seven of them right now.
1. Pavlov’s Mom.
It started out easy enough. The kids were tired and kind of whiney after a long day, so to cool their hot tempers, I offered up some extra snacks. It was nothing fancy or extreme, just a small plate of crackers and cheese and a few grapes. Slowly, over the course of a few weeks, those little devious hellions I love so dearly had trained me to dole out snacks every single time they whined.
2. The Lure of Washable Crayons (And Markers).
When my burgeoning Picasso took up an intense interest in art, I got very excited and ran out and bought every color washable marker and crayon known to man. As a trained artist myself, I was quick to want to encourage artistic interest in my children. So, of course, I allowed my kid to color all over the refrigerator. And the floor. But only in the kitchen. And then one day I went into his bedroom and noticed the ENTIRE wall by his bed was covered in drawings. Whoops!
3. Giving The Kids a Swear Word.
I read a trendy parenting book about how French kids are so much better at damn near everything. Since I obviously want my children to be so much better at damn near everything, I applied some of the advice in this book to my parenting style. I let my oldest child have a swear word that could be his. He could use it whenever he felt necessary and no adult could tell him not to use it. Well, that was stupid because suddenly everything and everyone was “stupid.” The worst part? Once you let that can of stupid out, you can’t put it back.
4. Mom Will Do Anything for Ease of Mind.
That’s right. Mom will help you get dressed well into your fourth year of life — even though YOU KNOW HOW TO — except that you are SLOWER THAN SLUGS at doing it and therefore it’s the MOST FRUSTRATING part of 6:30 a.m. When will I learn to not get in the way? Seriously? I’ll be that crazy mother who does her child’s laundry well into his 20s.
5. PBS = Housework.
Part of the genius of PBS is that every show is 30 minutes long, which means that I can schedule out the household chores based on what my kids like to watch. The problem? They suddenly are not OK with just watching Wild Kratts for a full hour, they also want Curious George, Peg + Cat and effing Caillou, Canada’s worst export. One might think that my house is spotless with all of this PBS love happening, but no. I end up playing referee to the remote control and snacks.
6. Car Seat Snacking.
I don’t know a parent who doesn’t do this one, but good lord, I wish I had never started this craze at my house. Letting the kids eat in the car seat now means that my car will forever have a funky smell of stale Cheddar Bunnies and old sippy cups that may or may not have contained dairy products.
7. Water Pistols In The Tub.
Dumb, dumb, stupid, dumb. Tubby time is now all-out war at my house. Why? Because I brilliantly said, “Yes!” to my oldest child, who begged and pleaded and carried on with a full week campaign to paleeeeeeeeeeeease let him shoot a water gun in the bathtub. Now he feels that he is entitled to this water play at every single bath. This also means that now we suffer big fat temper tantrums when I say, “No!”
There is a balance somewhere that allows for parental peace of mind on one side, and the wild child’s freedom to explore and express on the other. I have yet to find that balance. Every day feels like a tug of war between my rules of sanity, safety and good manners versus my 4-year-old’s Kung Fu nation and ceaseless demands for snacks and PBS.
But that balance is somewhere. I just know it. And until further notice, I will keep looking for it!