We all make mistakes as parents. It’s just part of the deal. But what most new parents don’t realize is that the most far reaching, life-altering mistakes you make are not things like putting a diaper on wrong, poorly baby-proofing your house, or choosing a sippy cup that leaks. No, the biggest mistakes are always the most well-intentioned.
Here are a few regrets that you should have, that should keep you up at night with worry about how you broke your child.
Sure, some people say that fine motor skills form the foundation for many critical skills to follow, such as handwriting, grasping a spoon or fork, and zipping up their own stupid jacket. But trust me on this one, think twice before you go blindly helping your child form strong monosynaptic connections in their nervous system, or you may find yourself on the receiving end of a child who wantonly picks his or her nose and eats it. Don’t believe me? Try doing it without using fine motor skills.
So yes, maybe your kid can write you cute notes and draw pictures of the family making a snowman and help you sort your collection of Perler beads by color. But is it worth it, knowing that it’s your fault your kid can also dig for boogers? Gross.
Speaking of gross, if you’re one of those parents who took your kid to the park, or let them frolick in the yard, in an effort to help them develop the motor skills necessary to stand up, walk, run, and jump, well, nice job endangering your kid for the rest of their life. Remember those halcyon days when you could lay your baby down on the floor and pop into the other room without fear that you’d return to find them climbing the bookshelf or exploring the inside of the fireplace? I do. And I miss them dearly.
I mean, sure, there’s a chance that they would also be in danger if for the rest of their life they mostly lay where they were left in a lump. But take it from me: the kid who can’t walk won’t cross the street without looking; the kid who can’t run will never run away; the kid who can’t climb stairs will never get into your stash of near-mint comics hidden in the attic; the kid who can’t swing a sword will (probably) not be seen as a threat during a hypothetical nighttime raid by ninjas. Teaching your kid how to control his own head, arms, legs, and general stability is a one-way ticket to putting them at terrible risk.
Okay, so maybe it’s too late, and your kid can already get himself to a flat surface and grasp a drawing tool. Unfortunately it’s hard to turn back time. Just don’t make the same mistake I did, and go trying to teach your kids how to actually draw.
Trust me, whatever feelings of pride you may feel when your child reproduces a slightly recognizable representation of a real or fictional person, place, or thing will be immediately dashed when he starts doing it with Sharpies on the oil painting you inherited from your dear departed grandmother.
(And not to rub it in, but he would never have gotten into the Sharpies in the first place if you hadn’t gone and let him gain the ability to stand on a stool, idiot. See: Regret #2)
I know what you’re thinking: “What about hearing them say ‘I love you!’? What about that turning point moment when you realize that your kids are capable of actual conversations?”
I see your point, but it’s a dumb one so shut up. Listen, maybe this is just obvious to me as a Parenting Expert, but if you find yourself getting all upset when your kid talks back to you, or says “NO!” to everything you say, or calls their little brother a Big Poopy Head, or just won’t stop jabbering about the differences between Lion Force Voltron and Vehicle Force Voltron… well, you have no one to blame but yourself. Nice going there, doing whatever you did to encourage development of the Broca’s area of their brain.
Okay, now this one IS obvious.
Want to avoid fights between your kids over who got more M&Ms or pretzels or fish sticks? Want to be able to extend “just a minute” for as long as you please? Want to write tongue-in-cheek blog posts about kids, without them knowing what you’re saying? Well, then you’d better think twice before teaching your kids how to read or count.
In fact, you’re better off avoiding giving them an explanation of numbers and letters entirely.
Oh, sure, maybe it’s simply magical to hear your child’s first solo in church. And yeah, maybe singing the Toothbrush Song made setting a tooth-brushing routine easier, as children learn better through music.
But it is a fact of life that kids are more William Hung than will.i.am, so the next time you’re stuck in traffic with a pounding headache wanting to end it all rather than hear one more off-key verse of The Wheels On The Bus, or your toddler has once again turned some random household item into a makeshift djembe remember that this is just one more way you broke your child and something you should feel bad about.
You know what young kids love to eat? Two things: any combination of carbs and cheese, and any combination of carbs, peanut butter and jelly. And you know what those things have in common? You can whip them up super fast and get lunch on the table without breaking a sweat. Easy peasy.
But noooooo, you had to go and get your kid into kale chips, didn’t you? You went and seasoned his baby food with cinnamon, or cumin, or garlic, or Herbes de Provence, and now he’s just as likely to ask for some doro wat or a visit to a local sushi joint as he is to be happy with his white bread with Jiffy and Smuckers. Way to make your job way harder, genius.
Society would have you believe that social skills and the ability to build and maintain relationships can have lasting influence on the overall success of an individual at this thing we call life, and, like fools, most parents take this to mean that it’s actually beneficial to help their child learn these skills. We introduce them to our friends’ kids and hope they hit it off, and we put them into group activities where these skills will develop.
How naïve we are.
You know that one kid, who your kid always wants to play with, but you just know would be a terrible influence on them? Yeah, me too. I hate that kid. But you know how the whole awkward situation of having to find ways around letting your kid play with that kid can be avoided? By never teaching your kid how to interact with other human beings. Trust me.
Here I am, thinking that getting my kids interested and proficient with technology would give them a leg up on future careers in science and engineering like my brilliant wife. But now my kid goes and decides he wants to be an astronaut. Do you have any idea how much we are going to end up having to pay for the education involved? Yikes.
One caveat to this: don’t fret over your kid having too much TV or video game time. Those things make amazing babysitters, freeing you up to shower, nap, or mix yourself a well-deserved White Russian. Though when it comes down to it, I have to admit, just once it would be nice to get to use my tablet and find that my preschooler didn’t go and spend all of my virtual coins in Nutty Fluffies Rollercoaster.
This is a tricky one, because there are a lot of ways you can find yourself on the slippery slope to having an imaginative child. A lot of times the “gateway” to this problem is reading to and with your child — you would be shocked at how quickly they become addicted — but don’t discount imaginative play (I mean, it’s right in the name), doing silly dances, making up rhymes, and telling stories. Before you know it start doing these things independently.
I know, I know, you think that a quote-unquote healthy imagination will give your child better tools to express himself, be more self-confident, and improve problem-solving abilities. But what is rarely talked about is the very real and very serious danger that your child will put on a cape and jump off a building because he thinks he’s Superman.
Do you want that on your conscience for the rest of your life?
If you do not have children yet, or they are still new and unbroken, please, don’t make the same mistakes I did. You may have convinced yourself that you will merely help guide a child through normal developmental stages, but let’s face it, you will have created a monster. An adorable, adorable monster.