I talk a lot about how moms are far too hard on themselves. It's true: we expect (and, often, are expected) to be perfect and then beat ourselves up when we fall short of a ridiculous and impossible goal. But everyone makes mistakes! To prove it, I asked some dads to break down and admit their biggest parenting mistake. Some of these are doozies, folks.
This isn't to hate on the "teh menz" or hold ourselves superior to them. All of the mistakes my buddies here have made could just as easily been made by a mom. I've done a bunch of these myself, if I'm being honest! And looking back at some of the mistakes I've made that I still feel bad about (there are plenty, to be sure, because there is a lot to learn when it comes to parenting and you have to do it all while exhausted) my kids don't remember any of them. Well, for the most part anyway. My boy has a memory like a steal trap and a genetic predisposition to grudges and vendettas.
But even big mistakes, the ones that will stay with them for life, can be overcome with effort. Because lucky for us, children are remarkably resilient and parents are, with effort, tremendously adaptable.
While most of the dudes I spoke to requested anonymity (parental judgment is not just for moms, apparently!), here are their confessions of varying degrees of seriousness.
"I once left my son in the car. Nothing happened — he didn't even wake up — and I realized it within five minutes, but that was a huge mistake from early on that I don't think I've ever topped. Whenever someone talks about hot car deaths and how negligent those parents must be, I tell them that it can happen to anyone, especially someone who's sleep deprived."
"I made my son get a haircut. It's a symbolic failure, even if it doesn't have long-term consequences. It goes against everything I wanted to teach him about bodily autonomy and I'm really disappointed in myself. Looking back I don't even know why it was important to me, but I got a bug up my ass about it."
"I clipped his fingertip off when he was an infant; it was my greatest fear and it happened. It didn't actually come off but there was a lot of blood."
"I bonked her head so hard putting her into her car seat that she had a goose egg for days. The fact that she was pitching a fit at the time should make me feel better, but it makes me feel worse, because I was frustrated and angry. The result of her flailing plus me shoving equaled damaged toddler. I still feel like sh*t about that."
"I left her unattended on a couch and that's when she decided to learn how to roll over. That was a fight, though less of a fight than just my wife screaming at me (understandably) while I sat there taking it and feeling terrible."
"We circumcised our son, which my wife and I both really regret. For one thing, we had a ton of problems with healing and basically needed it redone, which I didn't even know was a possibility but it happens more than you'd think. We also didn't put much thought into it initially — we just did it because we bought into the 'uncircumcised penises are yucky' thing, which is a dumb reason to permanently alter a baby."
"I left the baby gate open because I was bringing some heavy boxes upstairs and while my back was turned at the bottom my son went tumbling down the entire flight. He wasn't even a year old, and it was the scariest thing I've ever been through. We rushed to the ER and he was totally fine. He didn't have a scratch on him."
"Everything I did until I got and stayed sober. I missed my first child's entire infancy. Drug addicts aren't bad people, and drug addicts can do the work to become good parents, but when you're getting high every day you can't be there for your kid and that's the biggest mistake I think any parent can make. They need all of you."
"My daughter does this thing, whenever we're out, where she'll say she has to go to the bathroom when she doesn't just so she can use the hand dryers. So one night we were out to dinner with my family visiting from Colombia. She told me she had to pee and I didn't believe her and then she peed at the table. Oops."
"I had to learn how to be a good co-parent after our divorce. I was angry at my ex and would take that out on our kids. It's hard to admit I was verbally abusive, but I was. Family and individual therapy helped a lot; we even have Shabbes dinner together every week."
"I found out a month in I'd been mixing their formula wrong and putting in half the powder you're supposed to. It did solve the mystery of why they were so hungry all the time, though."
"I spanked my son once because my dad pressured me into thinking it was the only way to discipline him and the betrayed look on his face told me immediately that my dad was wrong."