Anyone who says they have mastered the art of parenting is lying. Being a parent is a continual experiment, full of twists and turns and learn-from-your-mistake moments.
If my role as a mom were written like a resume, my seven years of experience would boast a few successes.
To date, my three children are still breathing and have not committed any major crimes. But, if I am being honest, my parenting history would be highlighted by a lot of colossal failures.
Forgotten school pickup
I was eager to catch up with a good friend during lunch one week.
As we chatted, I glanced at my watch, noting that I had to pick my preschool daughter up at 2:15 p.m. Seeing that it was only 1, I relaxed into the conversation. I glanced at my iPhone, which instead glared 2.
I went from sheer confusion to utter panic in about half a second. I had been in California on business earlier in the week, and neglected to set my watch back to Arizona time. The restaurant was at least 25 minutes away from school.
I envisioned my poor 4-year-old stranded on the side of the road, by herself, contemplating filing for emancipation before her fifth birthday.
I immediately grabbed my purse, ditched out on my half of the check, barely said goodbye, and dialed the school’s front office as I raced to my car. As I explained my shortcomings to the office manager, vowing to never be late again, she sounded less than surprised.
She said not to worry, that this happens all the time, and they would be sure to have someone wait with my daughter until I got there.
Crying it out
My son was about 1 when he started having a major sleep regression. He would wake up three or four times a night in tears, only to giggle at us when we came into the room.
We decided it was time to let him cry for a bit to learn that the middle of the night is not playtime.
We were two nights into our tough-love approach when he woke up and began crying, as usual. I turned down the monitor and set the alarm for an hour later. After 60 minutes passed, I saw him on the monitor sound asleep, curled up in the corner of his crib.
Proud of myself for being so steadfast in our decision to let him cry, and convinced that our methods were working, I bounded into his room to wish him good morning.
I was met with a look of confusion from our son, who had vomited all over his crib. The night I chose to let him cry just happened to be the night he got the flu. He woke up not because he was testing us, but because he was puking his guts out.
My husband isn’t immune from these disasters, either.
At age 7, my oldest felt like she was the last first-grader on the planet to lose a tooth. All of her friends, and even her younger cousin, had been visited by the tooth fairy at least once.
When her first wiggly tooth finally broke free, she was elated. I put the tooth (which is about the size of a grain of rice, by the way) in a small cup on the kitchen counter to keep it safe while she got ready for bed.
My husband was dutifully cleaning up the dishes. Our daughter came out with her tooth fairy box and asked for the tooth. The cup was no longer on the counter.
My husband, in his hurry to get the kitchen clean, dumped it without looking and threw it in the dishwasher.
My daughter was hysterical; convinced without a tooth the tooth fairy would never come to visit her. Feeling like the worst dad ever, my husband proceeded to take apart the entire garbage disposal, sink and dishwasher in an effort to find the tooth.
We never recovered it, but the tooth fairy left our daughter a note explaining she found it in the dishwasher and took it with her.
The good news
In all of these “Oh crap, did I really just do that?” moments, no one was ever seriously hurt, and I think my kids all still think I’m an OK mom.
I’m sure I’ll have several more parenting mishaps in the years to come. I just hope they are all innocent enough to make me (and the kids) smile about them one day.
Kristen Hellmer is a Scottsdale mother of three, a wife and a full-time public relations professional, not necessarily in that order.