We’ve only just met, but I have a confession to make: I think I’m a horrible parent. It’s not like I didn’t have time to prepare — I was in my mid-40’s when my twins were born. As an adoptive parent of preemies, I’d logged many hours of trainings and I read tons of books. So I should have been prepared. Oh, and I judged the other parents in my life and took note of everything they were doing wrong. Of all the preparation tactics I used, judging was the easiest one of all.
So here I am today, mom to the most adorable, feisty, spirited 3-year-old set of boy/girl twins you can find (except for yours, of course) and it turns out all of that preparation was a waste, because I’m convinced that I’m a horrible parent who does approximately 7.5 things wrong every day. Here are the top six things I’m doing wrong as a parent.
1. I don’t take my kids outside enough
I don’t have a yard (yet another mistake) so I can’t just let my kids play freely outside. In order for my kids to run, and swing, and roll around in the grass, we have to visit a park. But that requires that I get home from work, change out of my suit and into something more presentable than the paint-stained yoga pants I wear at home, and load them into their car seats. On days when I just can’t muster the energy, we walk around our subdivision. I know that kids are basically little cavemen and need to run and scream, but I try to ease my guilt by pointing out the airplanes in the sky and bunnies and ducks that appear on our route. As we pass our neighbors, I cringe hoping people are not judging my messy appearance while my kids wave and practice saying “Hi!” Sure the neighbors always look delighted, but I’m convinced they’re judging my outfit.
On days when either the weather or my energy level are uncooperative, my poor deprived kids are stuck inside. Sure, we read, cuddle and play “Yeti in My Spaghetti”, sing songs, and have Stevie Wonder dance parties. But deep down I’m convinced that they’re miserable and I am a horrible parent.
2. I don’t want them to grow up
I know all of you tuck your kids in somewhere between 6:30pm-7:30pm, shut the door and go about your own business, but in my house it doesn’t work like that. I tuck the two in their beds and lay with until they fall asleep. Several nights a week, one of them will awaken and call for me, and then I lay down with them until they fall back asleep. I know this is a dangerous habit and I run the risk of sleeping in their rooms when they’re teenagers, but I’m selfish. They’re growing up so fast, and I just want to cherish being able to hold onto a small little hand, or see an angelic face as my little ones they drift off to sleep.
3. I can’t operate an adjustable waistband
My sister/nanny texted me last week, asking why my daughter’s new skinny jeans had a big safety pin attached. I was forced to admit that I just can’t figure out how those little adjustable fasteners work. I can never tell which way you fasten the buttons to actually tighten the waistband. Apparently, I am incompetent and the only parent in the world with this disorder, as no how-to manual is ever included at Target or The Children’s Place.
My 3-year-old twins are only about 90% potty-trained at this point, despite multiple boot-camps, books, and videos. All of my coworkers tell me their kids were potty-trained between the ages of 6 months and 2 years. Meanwhile, we’re still using a combo of underpants/pull-ups during the day, diapers at night and on long trips, and we keep a stash of towels and cleaning products handy for accidents. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to clean up a chair, rug, or sofa. Once again, major fail on my part.
5. I’m teaching my daughter to fight back
Always the quieter and calmer of the pair, my daughter has become downright docile around boys. Perhaps it’s because she’s used to finding ways of calming her louder, bigger brother when he’s upset. She’s obviously a natural caregiver, but I don’t want that to be her defining quality. As a woman, she’ll be interrupted and ignored quite enough and I don’t want her learning that should be the norm. So when her brother grabs a toy out of her hand and she acquiesces, I tell her to grab the toy back. When her brother shoves her, I tell her to stand up for herself and occasionally shove back. It never escalates into anything serious, and her brother backs down immediately. Yes, I know I should have her use words and talk about feelings, but I’m trying to raise a confident, competent woman and I think it’s more important to teach her that she deserves to be respected just as much as her brother. Sorry, not sorry.
6. I let them watch TV
Pre-parenthood, I insisted that MY children would have very limited screen time. They wouldn’t be exposed to mind-numbing kids’ shows, they wouldn’t have iPads and they sure as heck wouldn’t have DVD players in the car. I thought it was important to let kids learn to deal with boredom; I still do. But I’m an abysmal, horrible parent so at times when I desperately need a few moments to load the dishwasher or read TMZ, I put on Nick Jr. Perhaps I’m doing this more than I realize because so much exposure to Peppa Pig has led to my daughter developing British speech mannerisms. She asks me to “mend” her toy, or to let her “have a go” at the swings. Sure, TV helped her learn her alphabet and numbers, and she now has the vocabulary of a much older child. But when your Michigan-born child is speaking like a West End Londoner, you might be doing something wrong.
I could go on and on listing my disgraceful parenting habits. But the fact of the matter is, I’m just a perplexed parent trying my best. Perhaps if we could all just learn to forgive our own mistakes, and be tolerable of the mistakes we think we see around us, we just might become better parents, and survive this crazy gig together.
Dawn Krzisnik is the bemused mother of 3-year-old boy/girl twins, and lives in Michigan with her children, her husband David, and her Toy Manchester Terrier. She works full-time as a project manager and has previously worked as a marriage, family, and child therapist. She writes about parenting and other exciting, yet challenging, life transitions on her blog, Twinsition.