Parenting Failures: They Happen to All of Us

Irony can be a cruel knife. As I sit to write this post on parenting failures, I am still seething from the bajillion, and mostly minor injustices that my kids inflicted upon me tonight as I parent without my husband, who’s away on business. Why do my children have to act so…childish?! 
Being frazzled, under pressure, and without my usual relief, I reacted in a most unkind way. Mostly by being rude and ridiculously impatient with them, and giving them “The Eye.” You know, the exact kind of behavior I reprimand them for showing me any other day.
parenting failures
Now that I’ve scared them into bed, smacked the light switch off and slammed the door, it hardly seems appropriate I now have to teach a lesson that I’ve just failed at. But, (bonus plot twist!), it actually happens to be the first point I planned to make: All parents have parenting failures. Those who claim otherwise are either lying, delusional, or brand new parents. 
Parenting failures can be minor, and happen despite our best efforts: kid answers questions in grunts half the time, you had to brake hard in the car and scared the baby, gratuitous farts (your kids, not you, although that’s something they never tell you in pregnancy books). Or they can be major, like you just can’t stop at a glass or two of wine, you’ve found an eviction notice on your front door, your child requires repeated disciplinary action at school, or you realize you have a serious anger problem.
parenting failuresI’ve had my fair share of parenting failures, despite (or sometimes because of) my status as a former over-achiever. I’ve forgotten swimming lessons and vaccinations. My kids get in trouble at school. (Yup, my kindergartener got suspended from school. He learned it is not okay to ask friends to play by hitting them with a jump rope in the face.) I bought a piano four years ago so my kids could take lessons; I haven’t even had it tuned yet, let alone begun lessons. There have been times I literally couldn’t remember the last time my kids bathed. I once missed 80% of my daughter’s class play (in which she had the starring role) because I got the time wrong. Oh, and two out of three baby books are mostly blank. 
Even when I’m trying my best, I still fail from time to time. I have no other option but to accept that occasional failure is part of parenting. None of us are perfect, and we all have limited time, money, patience, willpower, or all of the above. So now what? Shall I resign myself to a life of failures? Of course not, because experiencing parenting failures doesn’t make me a failure unless I give up completely. To overcome these, I have to learn my lesson, let go of what I cannot control, and move forward with what I’ve got left. 

Here’s how I recover after I mess up; maybe it can help you as well when things go bad: 

  1.  Calm myself by getting some space and time to do whatever I can to dissipate those strong emotions. (Try these five-minute stress busters.)
  2. Reflect on what happened, if I learned something, and how to prevent it in the future.
  3. Apologize if necessary, and make it right, especially if I’ve wronged my kids.
  4. Forgive not only others, but myself as well.
  5. Let it go. I don’t let this failure define me; I leave it in the past.
I value the relationship I have with my kids. It’s one of my top priorities. So after I screw up, or I discipline them after they screw up, it’s important to me that we resolve the all negativity between us. I’ve experienced the effects of letting animosity snowball because I’ve neglected to resolve it, and it’s difficult, time-consuming, and painful to unravel. Heal from your mistakes by making sure your kids know that you love them, and break up any grudges before they start.
If you do have serious issues that impact your parenting, and you want to find help, here’s a handy list of family-focused resources for a parents in the Portland Metro area. You can also talk to your doctor, religious leader, or your kid’s school counseling office.

What have you learned from experiencing parenting failures?


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