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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Sleep Is
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Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

« You are all sick. | Main | Be good, for goodness' sake »

Give me your worst parenting stories

I need them. For my mental health.

And no, not the stories of other horrible people messing up—the stories of good, virtuous you messing up.

I need to know that you can be a good parent and still deeply, deeply suck at it, at times. Today, for instance. When I yelled so loudly at my son that my throat still hurts. (Did you know that mittens are an instrument of torture? That socks are painful? Neither did I, until I met Henry.) Thank god I don't have a deadline tonight because I need this glass of wine. And I need to go to bed before 8. And wake up in a few years, when he's able to dress himself.

Speaking of deadlines, a new Wonderland is up!

And now it's time for you to share your Stories of Parental Ineptitude. I know you won't let me down.

Now that I think of it, I'm holding a contest. The Parental Ineptitude tale that amuses me most will win...something. I haven't thought that through yet. My deep and abiding respect? Something like that. I need to have more wine and think about it.

Reader Comments (240)

I just weaned my 17mo daughter. It feels like it's the natural thing to do, but I still feel bad because she's been acting like I took away her crack-pipe. I guess I could've gone on breastfeeding for longer, but man, I missed my boobs!

Now that I read that, it doesn't sound so bad, but honestly, she was so attached!

Also, I tend to get my spaz on when she pulls all the baby wipes out of the package, even though I was *sure* that I put it in a safe place.

Oh oh! And some days I don't even take her outside because it's too cold - and I'm actually HAPPY that I don't have to go out. Sometimes too cold is actually pretty warm, but whatever :P
January 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGry
2 words: Lynne Spears ;)
January 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHaley-O
I am only sharing this story because my love for Finslippy is such a very very very great, stalkerish love. But if anyone else finds out (well, other than the twelve million people who read this blog), I will deny it. DENY IT.

Once upon a time we had a VERY. BAD. DAY. My husband was out of town, my three children were tired, I was tired. There was crying involved, some of it even from the children.

I got oldest off to first grade, middle off to pre-school and sat in a stupor on the couch with three year old youngest. He picked a very large booger and he was GOING for it, he was totally going to eat it. I shreaked at him to stop. I reached for a tissue. There were no tissues. He wiped it on my hand.

I HATE BOOGERS. HATE THEM. And there were no tissues. And I didn't want to get up and get one, because I was tired.

So I gave it back to him. And he ate it.

The end.
January 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSue
In my defense, I didn't WANT him to eat it. And I was VERY tired.
January 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSue
When my son was 2 weeks old, I was bathing him for the first time, and oops, let his little mouth slip down under the water;

I also cut his finger while clipping his nails;

I was trying to trim the hair around his ears (you know, the sort of sideburny part on a little boy) and he said MAMA YOU'RE CUTTING MY EAR! and I said oh shush, I am NOT, and oops, I was!

I have, on more than one occasion, yelled at him while trying to get him out the door for school, "dammit, where's your fucking jacket? Come on, this is bullshit..."

Etc, et al. You are so NOT ALONE.
January 5, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteraimee
My boys were being irritated toddlers and I had been grumbling under my breath (mostly) all morning but raising my voice some too. We were late for something, and I had finally (finally!) gotten them both buckled into car seats. As we backed out of the garage I was hissing to myself, "Why? Why did I have two children? They're so noisey, and they can't even buckle their car seats! I can't stand this!" And my poor three year old said, "Mama, you had two children because you *love us*... Don't you, Mama?"
January 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMayhem
A couple of days ago I yelled at my kid to "stop crying, babies cry", because I thought she was exaggerating her stomach pain in order to stay up later and I'd been up with her and the newborn for what seemed like days for one reason or another. I've never said anything like that to her in her life. I was so sure she was being a drama queen that she whimpered through an entire 24 hours before she saw a doctor, and even then I downplayed it, so that they just said take her home.

A few hours later, she started clutching my arm frantically and began moaning continuously. Turns out she wasn't being dramatic, she was very ill (and doing much better now). I don't know how she'll ever trust me again.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie
Do stories about pet-parenting count? It's all I have to offer.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie
As a mom of 4, I've got my fair share of stories. Let's start with this week alone. The 10 year old has not only strep but chicken pox. Since he can't go anywhere, and the dogs are so much more important, we let him home alone for two days in a row because dogs needed schlepped here and there. Yeh, we're that kind of parents.

The last 4 entries discuss the dogs and boy in detail.

And there's also the wonderful time that I had a 4 month old, and was given some cans of baby formula for him. As I was leaning down to pick up the carseat the bag swung around and the cans smacked him full force on the head IN THE DOCTOR'S OFFICE. It left a mark, a bump and thankfully no permanent record.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKaren
A few weeks ago, on a particularly trying morning, I told my 3 yr old that her attitude sucked. And I really, really meant it.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLeta
Okay: Yesterday it was 9:30 in the morning, I had been up since 5:30 with my 3 year old boy (who has the nonstop talking virus) and my 2 1/2 month old girl. I had breastfed the little one multiple times without getting anything in my OWN mouth and had just sat down in the living room with my bowl of Kashi. My son was running around the room, talk talk talking and begging me for my cereal. I stood up with tears in my eyes (SOOOO HUUUNNNGGRY!) and stated that "FINE! MAMA WON'T EAT! IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT!" and then...he knocked into me and the kashi FLEW everywhere. All over the rug, the blankets I just washed and folded and, of course, my DAUGHTER who was lying on the floor. My son and I looked at eachother and then he laughed and I think the top of my head popped off and steamed poured out, I swear. My baby was screaming and covered in cereal while I dragged him into time out (laundry room) then proceded to clean up my baby and the carpet all the while listening to my son scream out in remorse "EAT YOUR CEREAL!!! I AM SORRRYYYY!!! JUST EAT YOUR CEREAL!!!"I am stil finiding bits of Kashi everywhere. Then I let him stay in time out for ten minutes instead of three.This is the story that is freshest in my mind, but oh my, there are many others. This is the best post ever. Makes me feel like I am not a crazy person, just a very very tired mom.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
Ok, second comment on this entry!I just trutned around and smacked my 6 year old, HARD on the legs, because he was making annoying noises and it was bugging me while I was... trying to read the other comments on this blog!!!All you other mamas are making me feel better, as I nod my head and go "OMG I remember when I did that!!!"Ok, I'm going to go an play "UNO" with my son now to try to make up for yelling at him all morning...!
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFrankie
Thank you so much for thinking of this post. I'm 7 months pregnant with my first child and I'm terrified of losing my temper with my child. Its so wonderful to see that it will happen eventually and we'll both live through it.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBecky

I too have a five year old. So you know the kinds of battles I'm having right now with her; you are living through it.

However, I realized when she was 2 years old that I could not spank her. She was touching the water dispenser (Alhambra) after I'd asked her numerous times not to. Finally, she was touching it, yet again, and I hauled off and slapped her little hand as hard as I could.

I'm sure she doesn't remember it, but I remember the absolutely terrifying feeling that I had just lost all control and hit my daughter. With all of the strength in my body. I cried with her, and vowed at that very moment that I would never spank her again. I couldn't trust myself not to lose it and cause her serious damage.

It's worked too. Now I use other methods of discipline. That day I felt like I'd been reduced to mud. Other than that, I'm an okay mom.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMommyofOne
Delurking to offer up one of my many bad parenting moments. I swear a lot in front of all my kids and I tend to find it really funny when they imitate me. So one day when we were shopping in costco my then two and a half year old starts saying oh for fucks sakes. I couldnt stop myself from laughing and the more I laughed the more he would say it getting louder each time. The other people in the rows with us just looked at me like I was the worlds biggest asshole. Not one of my finer moments.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChrissy
I have two for you.

My 4-year-old son came home during the recent holiday season asking what a "talon" was. I explained to him that it was a big claw, such as you would find on an eagle. That seemed to perplex him more. He then wanted to know why a talon would be gold. Now I was pretty confused and asked him where he had heard of gold talons. Turns out they were singing "Go Tell It on the Mountain" (Gold Talon on the Mountain) for their Christmas program. I laughed merrily and explained what the song was actually called.

He looked at me like I was batshit crazy and started a 10-minute-long argument to prove to me that the song was actually about Gold Talons. The insane part? I PARTICIPATED FOR THE FULL TEN MINUTES. I argued like frickin' Clarence Darrow on behalf of Go Tell It. With a four year old.

The other is not mine but happened to me. My childhood best friend and I had families who were also close friends, so we often vacationed together. One summer, when BFF and I were probably five or six, we were all visiting a quaint lakeside town with many galleries and other things that would not in any way amuse five year olds. I'm sure we were being total pains in the ass. Anyway, both sets of parents, BFF's and mine, kind of went temporarily insane and dropped us off at a local playground where we could amuse ourselves. And then they left us there, alone. The playground was located just on the other side of the highway leading into the town.

They came to their senses about a half an hour later and rushed back to pick us up. BFF and I had of course been terrified--after a brief feeling of freedom--and were much more cooperative after that. But we can still guilt our parents about this, some 30 years later, whenever we mention that playground in Bigfork.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
This is about my mom, not me. And I may have gotten some of the details wrong, as I was pretty young when this happened. But the important points of the story are real.

I was six or seven, the youngest of five kids. We lived in South Dakota in a little town about 25 minutes from the nearest city, Winner (by "city" I mean "town with at least 1,000 people and a couple stores and a bank"). We went to school there (one room schoolhouse, believe it or not); my mom would take a break from work after school, take me to the library and my older siblings to the library or rec center.

On this day in November (remember this is South Dakota, so it was already coooold), the older ones went to the rec center and I chilled at the library. I became totally absorbed in my books without even noticing that 4:00 came and went without my mother ever showing up with my siblings to take me home. In fact, I didn't notice anything until 5:00 when the library closed and the two librarians kicked me out (good citizenship for the win!). They were nice enough to let me call home first, but there was no answer. So they set a six-year-old out on the front steps in the middle of November. Awesome!

I kept it cool for a little while. I walked a block over to the rec center to see if my siblings were around. Nothing. I walked another block to my mom's work. Office dark and closed. Our giant station wagon was nowhere to be seen.

I came back to the library, sat on the steps, and sobbed for twenty minutes. Then I heard a familiar engine. A big, rattling, muffler-free car.

I looked up and literally danced in the middle of the parking lot. I had never been so happy in my life.

My mom was distraught. She was way more upset than I was. I don't know how no one noticed I was missing, but somehow she picked up the others at the rec center and got home without anyone noticing I was gone. I hold it over her head to this day. It's awesome.

And I've never not loved my mom or needed therapy. If that's any comfort.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWallydraigle
There are definitely too many to count with 3 young boys one of whom is particularly challenging. Yes, not only are mittens and winter coats torture devices, but so are jeans, any pants with pockets, socks with seams, socks that do not pull all the way up to the knees, mom's breath and any number of other things in my son's immediate environment.

Anyway, my most recent "mommy needs to get a grip moment" happened when I found myself yelling "USE YOUR WORDS" and then realized I was talking to the 10 month old who doesn't talk yet! duh!!! great role model
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarol Anne
I posted once before, but the cutting the noodle reminded me of another incident that happened not to long ago.

We were moving from Missouri to Virginia, and the movers were coming within days. I was trying to clean out a closet or something, and all day the kids had been fighting over this ONE damn baloon. Constant non stop fighting. Finally, in a fit of rage, I grabbed the balloon, took a pen and popped that God damned ballon. The sense of satisfaction I got from that pop noise was quickly squelched by the looks on my kids faces, who are seven and three.

They were wide eyed, lips aquivering, tears pooling in the eyes, and they both simultaneously howled in pain and horror. My son, who is usually laid back and easy going at three, was down right HURT. He ran around in a daze, wailing "Why? Why would you do that? Why mommy? Why would you POP my balloon?" My dramatic seven year old wailed "My balloon friend" over and over. And yes they too tried to patch together the balloon.

Instead of feeling bad, I covered my mouth, and ran into the bathroom, and laughed.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSAndi
I have four children, between the ages of 15 and 9, and have many bad mother moments, that my memory seems to have blocked. However, I do recall one Christmas morning when my toddler-aged children were cranky from being kept up late at my mother-in-law's Christmas Eve party the night before, and how I deliberately fed them chocolate for breakfast so they'd wake up and be more cheerful. Indeed, chocolate for breakfast has become a method I use sometimes for impossible children that I just want to get out the door and off to school.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterpatience
These are great stories! I'm laughing my ass off.

Here's mine: My then 4-year-old daughter has a wheezy cough. As the day goes on it gets worse and worse and my mother (who we lived with at the time) suggests I take her to the ER. I poo-poo her suggestion several times (notorious worry-wart). Until! It's 2am and the "cough" has gotten so bad that my daughter and I get in a warm shower in an attempt to ease what I still think is normal congestion. It's not until her back is resting against my chest and I feel her shallow breathing and hammering heart that I hie-us-hence to the hospital. It is, of course, an asthma attack. My mother, to her credit, does not say "I told you so".

January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKate C.
I have two shining examples of horrible mothering.

First, my mother. I was nine, and had been very recently hospitalized for flu complications. I had been severely dehydrated and had a fairly traumatic time in the hospital. Shortly after I was released (I'm talking somewhere in the space of a week), we went on our already scheduled vacation to Florida. We drove. From Michigan. At one point in the three-day drive, we were sitting in a booth in some little restaurant, and I just closed my eyes for a few seconds. I didn't whine or moan or hold my head or anything dramatic. Just sat there with my eyes closed, maybe for ten seconds. My mom said, very loudly, from across the table, "Would you quit acting like you're gonna die and just eat you dinner!"It was quite possibly the meanest thing ever to come out of her mouth, but I mentioned it to her recently, and she doesn't even remember it. My dad does, though, and says that he was furious at her for it.

Now for me: My eight year old daughter let our newly-adopted greyhound out in the backyard without realizing that my five year old had left a gate open. Of course, the dog got out and was long gone by the time we figured it out. I screeched at my poor daughter for about five minutes--things like "How could you??" and other awful things that made her think it was all her fault--all the while driving around with the windows down, trying to find the dog. The poor kid sat in the backseat and sobbed, calling the dog's name in a horribly sad little voice.We did eventually find the dog, safe and sound in a nearby backyard. And even though I felt absolutely terrible for yelling at her, I never did apologize to my daughter for being so completely awful. And I still feel horribly guilty.

January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie
OK, here's mine. When my dd was 3 she had a very small two-wheeler with training wheels. She could pedal slowly, or I could push her with a stick, but she was totally unable to steer. I remember one memorable time when she begged and begged to ride the bike to the park, only to crash into the curb every couple of yards. LOOK UP! I yelled. Watch where you are going! LOOK UP! Quit watching your feet! LOOK OUT FOR THE CURB! I was furious and I just couldn't understand why she couldn't do something so simple as steer the stupid bike!! By the time we got home I was so frustrated I totally yelled at her and actually threw her beloved bike into the garbage can right in front of her.

Turned out that she was blind in one eye! No depth perception! And poor vision in the other eye too! She couldn't see past her feet! Makes it hard to steer! Hahahahaha! Oops.

I still feel bad about that one, though I take comfort that I finally got her vision sorted out and with a little patching and glasses she can ride her bike fine now.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlb
Take Your Sick Child to Mass Day -- my son passed such horrific gas at Mass this morning that the man behind us made an audible groan. Mother of the Year! Here I am!
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
During the holidays this year, my three kids were driving me BONKERS screaming, yelling, fighting, crying, whining. I made them eat lunch in shifts. Seriously. Like, "You can eat from 12:15 to 12:30, and then you have to go back to your room."

And if their food wasn't finished? Too bad for them--there's another shift coming up and I wasn't about to endure two at the same time.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

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