The mistakes are endless. If you think you haven’t made any, or that none were made while raising you, you are wrong.
I was older when I had Nick, in my 30s. Still, I made a ton of mistakes. We all do. And of course everyone jumps right in with their corrections.
“How could you let him roll off the bed?”
“Um, I didn’t let him… it just happened. It was without my permission.”
I knew about babies. I had babysat most of my life and people used to call me a natural mom when my little sister was born and I hovered over her every little move. Once when my mom yelled at her for something like spilling milk, I looked at my mom sternly and said, “She’s just a baby.” That was a bold move to make with my mother, but she retreated.
When Nick was a few days old I asked the hospital nurse to bring me a bath for him, and she said, “Yes, we will have someone show you how to bathe him.”
I said, “No that’s okay, I know how to bathe him, I don’t need a lesson.” They stood there and watched me anyway. Then ooh'd and aah'd when I didn’t drop or drown him.
I made big mistakes though. I fought with his dad in front of him. I drank and had hangovers and was cranky for no discernible reason. I smoked around him—a lot. When his grandparents treated him like the Prince of Japan, I over corrected and always knocked him down a peg. “No you are not the smartest kid in the world. You’re just very smart.”
When he mowed the lawn, instead of thanking him I would say, “You missed a spot.” It was thoughtless really. I wasn’t always thinking about self-esteem or self love--or loathing. I just wanted the lawn mowed or the bed made.
“Take your stinky shoes off outside please.”
Please don’t bleed on the carpet, I’ll bring you a Band-Aid outside.
“I’m too tired to play Nick.”
I quit drinking and smoking by the time he was 4 and 5 respectively. It helped some, but not for everything. I was less cranky, but still tired. A single mom is always tired, I guess. There are no breaks. There is no, “Go ask daddy to read you a book.”
Once when we were driving down the street I saw a woman in the car with four kids, none of whom were in car seats or seatbelt, and all of whom were hanging out windows. At the stoplight I rolled down my window and yelled at her. “Put those kids in car seats or I’m calling the police!”
“Sorry, if I embarrassed you, Nick.”
“No problem. Actually mom, I’m proud of you.”
That was the first time I thought, maybe I’m doing this right.
When he was about 3 years old his dad and I took him to a fair and we got him a churro. He had to go potty so I told him I would hold it for him while daddy took him.
“Promise me you won’t eat my churro mom.” He knew me well.
Then I ate it.
Ding Ding Ding
We bought him a new one of course. But, he still tells that story, almost 27 years later. Ooops.
As the years went by, I made a million more mistakes and did a few things right.
Last night when he was here for Christmas dinner he told me, he just told his friend a story of when one time when he was about 8 years old we were at the bank and found some money at the ATM machine. He told his friend, “It must have been so hard for my mom who was dead broke back then to walk me inside the bank and have me give it to the lady that worked there.”
Parenting is moment by moment. You can have a grand plan but chances are each kid will be different and each response will fit the moment. The day I walked him into the bank I was broker than broke. I’m sure I thought, if just for a second, about the pair of shoes I needed, or the coat he needed, or maybe some groceries. The fact that he not only remembers the day, but also recounted it to a friend means it was a parenting moment success. A rare pearl.
Recently, my son informed me he is going to be a dad. I know he will be a good dad and he will also make some mistakes, like I said, we all do. But, I have faith that he has a few pearls of wisdom he can share with his son (or daughter) to make up for the days when he’s tired or cranky or just says something stupid.
I know he remembers the time when he was 8 years old and I woke him up at midnight to go to Madrone Canyon and watch the meteor shower. Or when he was about 11 and I took him to San Francisco's Ocean Beach to watch the waves crash over the wall and the cliffs. Or the time we found a place called Skylonda and laughed so hard saying "I live in Skylonda man" like a stoned out hippie. Little pearls. I can't wait for him to have this joy.
I hope my skills as a grandparent are better than I was as a parent. Perhaps I’ll be the one to make him feel like he’s the Prince of Japan, and his mom will get him home and say, “We don’t have princes in this country but you’re the Prince of your Room.”