In my 24 years of raising three kids, I’ve had my fair share of parenting fails. Turns out motherhood is rocket science and my first week on the job is when I found out I’m no scientist. I share my story in hopes of making all of you feel a bit better about your own mothering prowess:
My daughter, the last of three kids, fell down the stairs three times before her 4th birthday—once as an infant. The infant thing happened when I laid her on the floor next to my bed located on the second floor. My daughter hadn’t yet reached the “rolling over” milestone. Since the bed sat 7 feet from the door and the top of the staircase another 18 inches away, I felt safe leaving her so I could go downstairs to make a quick bottle.
While in the kitchen, my mother’s intuition sent up a red flare and I raced over to the steps to check on my baby. As I rounded the corner, my daughter rolled into my arms off the last step before hitting the vinyl floor. Her first “roll over” equaled a combined distance of over 8 feet with a built-in navigation system leading her precisely to the stairs. I thought my decision to remove her from the bed just in case she rolled off demonstrated on-point mothering.
After a full examination in the ER, she was fine. We were lucky.
At one year old, my daughter decided to test out the moxie of her baby walker. While I stepped away to change a load of clothes in an adjoining room, she maneuvered her walker to the basement door which opens off the kitchen. I inadvertently left it ajar and in less than a minute she managed to tip-toe forward just enough to send the front end over the edge, careening her down 15 steps onto a cement floor.
The walker stayed upright all the way down, landing on its wheels. She wasn’t harmed. We were lucky.
At age 5, while on vacation, my Princess Knievel climbed up an armoire holding a television in pursuit of a toy I purposely placed on top, out of her reach. Before she collected her prize, the dresser fell over pinning her between the furniture and the bed behind her. If not for the bed cushioning the blow, she would have been crushed.
She was not hurt. We were lucky.
My middle son fell out of his bouncy chair at four months old because I left him unattended and unstrapped on the kitchen table. His older brother let out a terrifying scream from upstairs and in a panic, I ran off to check on him. In the few minutes of my absence, my baby wound up slipping out of his seat, rolling off the table, bouncing off the chair below and landing on the floor.
After a full examination in the ER, he was fine. We were lucky.
I let my 5-year-old jump up and down on my bed without warning. He jumped too close to the edge, fell off and broke his elbow.
After surgery and months in a cast, he healed up fine. We were lucky.
If these few examples aren’t enough to make you cringe, on top of all the physical mom fails, the past two-and-a-half decades are littered with moments I’ve hurt my kids emotionally, let them down, stolen their joy and broken their spirit. I’ve erred in accusing them of things they didn’t do, screamed and yelled for no good reason, withheld forgiveness too long, gossiped about them to other people.
But I’ve also heaped on an enormous amount of love, offered grace and extended mercy. I continue to shower them in kindness, listen with understanding, hold them in tenderness and walk beside them in compassion—actions which go a forever way beyond the less than moments.
Although I’m not proud of my poor mothering moments, I have learned to forgive myself. Something all mothers need to do more of. Mom guilt goes a forever way in the wrong direction. I’ve also mastered the art of apology along the way and kids are masters at passing on the pardons.
All things considered, my three kids survived and are all healthy, happy and loving young adults now. We’re all still fine. We’re definitely a tad bit lucky too. When I look back, I can see I did plenty of things right. I for sure did my best—and that’s what matters most.
Be easy on yourself, mama. Raising kids is hard. Just keep loving, loving, loving… Love always covers a multitude of mishaps.