Hey guys: did you know new parents have no clue WTF they're doing? I know, right?! Shocking, but true. However, amid those moments of complete and utter cluelessness that we all more or less expect, there's a particular instance that stays with moms and dads forever: their first official "screw up" as parents. You know, the moment when everything we're afraid we're going to do wrong, actually happens. We freak out. Our partner might freak out. Our kid might freak out. But, chances are, the pediatricians, experienced parents around us, and general experts will shrug and say something like, "Meh. You screwed up, but it's no big deal. Want to go get a drink to commemorate this milestone of yours?"
Your first screw up as a parent is sort of like getting the first scratch on your new car. It's upsetting, it looms large in your brain and heart for a while, but ultimately you realize that it's, a) inevitable and, b) probably doesn't really matter. A huge part of parenting, especially in the early days, is figuring out what's a big deal and what's a typical run-of-the-mill parenting casualty. (Spoilers: in my experience it tends to fall in the latter category.)
I don't think I could tell you which of my parenting mistakes came first. Maybe it was when my son fell off my bed when he was around 3 months old. (I didn't know he could roll yet!) Perhaps it was when I clipped off what I thought was his entire fingertip while clipping his nails. (It was just a flesh wound.) Guys, they all came so close together it's hard to keep track.
Point is, "oopsie daisy" moments happen to the best of us, including the following 16 parents. I defy anyone to tell me they can't relate.
"Our oldest was a couple weeks old, after putting him to bed, hubby and I decided to run to grab an ice cream cone. We jumped in the car and drove about half way down the block before we remembered we forgot the baby."
"When my first was around 4 months old, I had one of those pacifier clips that I thought I was clipping to her clothes. (The part that clips on is metal, with sharp "teeth" so it doesn't fall off.) Anyway, as I clipped it, my daughter screamed like I had never heard her scream before, and I realized I had clipped it to a chunk of her skin on her chest, too. It left a mark for days, maybe weeks. I felt AWFUL. Also, once she was calm I clipped it to my own skin to see just what I had done. That sh*t HURTS!"
Driving him to the pediatrician's office and realizing (when we got there) that we had never buckled him in to the car seat.
"When my son was probably less than 2 months old, I insisted on having him sleep on my belly because it was warm and adorable, until I was jolted awake and flung him off the bed. Luckily, the neurotic first-time-parent in me had preemptively stacked pillows on the floor next to the bed so he was fine, but you haven't felt guilt until you've woken up to see your kid flying through the air as a result of your involuntary movement.
Epilogue: he's 3 now and does this to himself on purpose, so I'm pretty over it."
"My 5 month old was teething and so miserable so I had been alternating Motrin and Tylenol. One night she was a crazy person. Wouldn't sleep and was just wired. As I was changing her diaper I realized I had used the Tylenol dropper for the Advil and had given her FOUR TIMES the recommended dose."
[Writer's note: Tracy has assured me that poison control was called and they assured her that her daughter would be OK, but to never do it again.]
More of an 'I just didn't know how dangerous it was' situation but an oopsie nonetheless. My first was not an easy sleeper for the first couple months. We discovered, out of pure desperation, that if we propped her up in her Boppy in between us in the bed that she would sleep. I cringe when I think about how unsafe that was.
"Sigh. So many to choose from. When my daughter was about 9 months, I had her at the pediatrician. I was also watching my 9-month-old nephew at the time, so he was with us also. Being only a mother of one at the time, it felt so overwhelming to have both of them with me. At the end of the visit, she was still up on the exam table and I turned my head to look at what my nephew was doing and she fell off the table and landed on the floor at my feet. Needless to say it was a pretty convenient place for such an incident; the doctor had just left and he turned around to come back in to give her a once over."
"I was rocking the whole breastfeeding thing, and I was feeling like a rock star because I was able to do this while multitasking work, eating, you name it. Well one evening I was trying to eat dinner — specifically, chili — while nursing my oldest when one of us twitched and, in what felt like slow motion, the chili came splattering down on him, on me, and all over the couch. (In hindsight, I don't know why I ever thought eating chili while nursing was a good idea.) He screamed, I screamed, my husband saved the day and I cried for hours thinking I permanently damaged my son. He was totally fine, thankfully. Now, with three boys in tow, they get hurt all the time and the shock value is mostly gone."
Dropping my baby's car seat and thus jettisoning her into a tree...because I didn't have her strapped in...because car seats were kinda new in the world and I didn't know that's what those strappy things were for. Hey, it was the '80s.
"My first tilted her head to the side slightly. It was not noticeable when she was laying down or being held. So, we really only saw it if we propped her up to take pictures. My husband and I thought she was posing for us and thought it was so cute. Yeah, no. She had congenital torticollis and her neck muscle was too short for her to hold it straight. She needed hours of physical therapy a day over months and months to correct it. Oops."
"It was Christmas Eve morning, when my younger daughter was 1 month old and my older was almost 2.5 years old. We were leaving a stressful visit with my mother-in-law and I just wanted to get to the car as fast as possible. I was carrying the car seat and holding the toddler's hand when, halfway to the car, the toddler refused to continue walking. In my haste, I popped her onto my other hip instead of stopping and asking my husband to take her. A few paces later, my toe hit an uneven spot in the sidewalk and I wiped out. The baby's car seat rolled into the parking lot, the toddler hit the ground, I badly scraped my knees. it was awful. My husband was rightfully furious with me for trying to do it all myself and not letting him help."
I took my first to one of his very early-on pediatrician appointments — like one of the very first ones where they document everything. She noted that he had a birthmark under his arm. I hadn't noticed it, but it was a large-ish, dark birthmark. When we went for a subsequent appointment, the birthmark was gone. Pediatrician was flummoxed. I had to say the words, 'It was just dirt, possibly poop. Sorry.'
"Road trip. Middle of nowhere. My 3 month old poops. We pull over into a gas station and I grab a diaper and wipes out of the diaper bag, snuggle my baby up to me, and run through the cold into the gas station bathroom. I get in there and lay him down only to discover he has had a MASSIVE BLOW OUT. It was covering him and it was all over me. I had to throw away his outfit and rinse him off in the sink. So then I was stuck in a gas station bathroom on a freezing cold day in the middle of nowhere with a baby in only a diaper. Thankfully, my husband came looking for us and was able to go back out and get the diaper bag with clothes for him. I never left the diaper bag behind again."
"I used to put [my son] in his car seat on the floor while I took a shower in full view of the baby. But, I didn't strap him in because he was too little to move out and we weren't in the car. One day I forgot and picked up the carrier handle (which was not locked in place) and he fell out face first, luckily into a pile of dirty clothes. Being a sleep-deprived disaster those first few months had its merits! Had I been a more organized mom, it would have been a much worse accident. Lesson learned."
My husband and I both gave my daughter her epilepsy meds one night, so she was double dosed. It was the night before my new job started, and we spent all night checking on her with poison control calling every two hours.
"I shudder to look back on pictures of my firstborn in his car seat. I had him strapped in completely wrong. Oops."