I’ve been a parent now for six years. You would think that in that time I would have learnt from my mistakes. But no. It seems there are some mistakes that I am destined to repeat, even when they are easy to avoid.
In my desire to make parenting easier for everyone, I’ve written down my top mistakes, so that you may sidestep some obvious pitfalls.
1. Sleeping in an extra half hour on a week-day
Every night I set my alarm to 6am.
6am is the time I know I need to get up in order for us to get out the door in time for school, daycare and work.
But sometimes I think an extra half hour won’t hurt. Sleep, after all, is so important for our well-being.
You know what’s also good for our well-being? Not running late, especially when running late with small children in tow normally means someone will say they need to do a poo right when you’re about to leave.
2. Breaking the morning routine
Waking up at 6am is part of the morning routine, but there are other parts of that routine that you don’t want to mess with.
When you have to get children dressed, fed and out the door by a certain time every morning, chances are you’ve worked out a formula to make that happen.
Children will inevitably mess up that formula. They’ll spill their breakfast all over their clothes, lose their school shoe or cry until you find that special tiny toy in the pile of other toys.
Listen to Kinderling Conversation:
The secret here is not to sabotage yourself.
If dressing your children as soon as they get out of the bed is what works for you, don’t divert from your tried and tested plan. Not even as they look at you with their sweet sleepy heads and ask to eat breakfast first.
This is a military operation people, no dissenters allowed!
3. Giving them a choice of food for breakfast
While it might be a good idea to give a small child options when it comes to their clothing, food is another thing entirely.
My son is incredibly indecisive. Poor little mite, I get it, I really do. He takes after me. But some decisions should be easier than others. Like what to eat for breakfast!
And yet every morning I will ask him what he would like – cereal or porridge – and the time he takes to decide could probably be spent doing the dishes, washing the clothes and making the beds.
Choice at breakfast time is over rated.
4. Staying an extra 10 minutes at the park
The sun is shining, the kids are playing beautifully, and when they ask for “just 10 more minutes” you think… why not? Life is here to be lived, right?
Wrong. While 10 minutes extra pre-children made no difference to the time you got home, ate dinner, watched your favourite TV series and got to bed, 10 minutes extra with children can be the difference between sanity and madness.
These extra 10 minutes will happen at the end of a playground session, which often occurs right before the midday nap, or (god forbid) right before witching hour.
Push a child into that time-zone and you’re asking for trouble.
You’ll have tantrums on the way to the car, tantrums as you put them in their car seat, and possibly a total devilish breakdown as you try to get them out of the car at home so you can make them lunch/dinner or get them to bed.
Any acknowledgement of your largesse at allowing them an extra 10 minutes will have evaporated on the last push of the swing (and your calm enjoyment of the afternoon).
5. Congratulating yourself too soon
Chances are when you were basking in the sunlight, looking at your kids playing in the park, you may have allowed yourself a moment of pride.
Look at you, parenting like a winner. While other afternoons have been marred by you cutting the sandwich the wrong way, swearing when you trod barefoot on Lego or bribing them with chocolate to get in the car - this afternoon has been an example of how well you’re dealing with it all.
This is a classic mistake.
Because as soon as you think everything is going along beautifully, the universe will throw something in to shatter your illusions.
It can happen at any time. In the morning when you think you’re going to leave on time. In the afternoon when everyone is being an angel. At night when you decide to go out for dinner.
Save your congratulations until they’re in bed and have been asleep for at least one hour.
6. Dinner in a public place after six o’clock
I often make this mistake while on a wave of goodwill on a Friday night.
It will most likely follow on from an event; a school fete or a childcare centre exhibition.
We’ve been together as a family, celebrating a child’s achievement, why not continue the good times to a local restaurant as a treat?
What I always forget is that my children have an internal timer. At about 6.30pm there’s a switch that turns from ‘sociable human’ to ‘demon child’.
No one minds a demon child when you’re all outdoors and there’s space for burning off aggression and tired tantrums. Put said demon child in a well-lit, relatively peaceful dining area where the rest of the inhabitants are definitely tuned to ‘sociable human’ and it’s a different story.
7. Saying yes to a cartoon on the iPad before bed
My son loves to watch a cartoon or two on the iPad. He’s only four, and so often at bed time you can tell he’s shattered from the day. At this point, I know my husband has been lulled in to thinking he’ll fall asleep before the 15-minute cartoon has ended.
But of course, this rarely happens. I’ll be reading to my daughter on the top bunk when I hear my husband arguing with the four-year-old saying they’d agreed to just one cartoon.
Ensue wailing and general rebellion about going to bed.
Never make deals with a four-year-old. They have the memory (and commitment) of a fish.
So parents – go forth and sidestep these easily avoidable parenting pitfalls.
Then again, if you don’t avoid them, may you rise up out of them with grace.
Parenting is an imperfect experience, and sometimes you’re too busy juggling to see the holes before you step in them.
I’ve already made two of the mistakes above and it’s not even lunch time.
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