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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

Some Books
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Sleep Is
For The Weak

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 haven't read all of the comments yet but I've read a lot of them really needed this today. I have spent the whole day feeling like I am the worst mother in the world and thinking that I should have never had children. Reading all of this makes me realize that maybe the kids (and I) will survive. Thank you all.

I have many stories I could share but I was up from 2 a.m. until 4 a.m. with my 2 yeard old last night and then up at dawn with my 6 year old and his friend who slept over. I am no thinking clearly.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterVikki
Delurking to share two:

Most recently when my 2 year old was kicking her 4 month old sister's car seat repeatedly and saying to me "Do you see me mama? Do you see I'm kicking baby's seat?" I screamed, "If you do not stop, I promise I will hurt you!" while lunging into the back seat to put a death grip on her leg. DH was kind enough to point out "Do you hear yourself? You're out of control." Um, yes.

Another show of incredible incompetence was when I took my 2 year old and then 2 month old to the children's museum by myself. With NO diapers or wipes. NOT ONE. Needless to say, everyone had to ride home sitting in their own excrement. Then, horrible diaper rashes and terrible colds were enjoyed by all! Who the hell takes an 8 week old to a Children's Museum? And without any supplies??An idiot, that's who.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDiane
De-lurking to add that I am due to be induced with my first child on Wednesday and these stories and confessions are giving me peace of mind. I know that I will lose my shit with my daughter more than once throughout the years.

She'll get through it just fine...probably better than I will.

Thanks for the laugh and the reassurance, everyone!
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea
I still feel bad about the time I roared/screamed at my baby son (then less than a year, now 6) in frustration... because my computer was slow. Roared so loud at him he cried. Awww... poor kid.

The other thing I still feel bad about is the time I unceremoniously chucked him into his crib because he wouldn't stop fidgeting around in the bed with me. See, we had just moved and he was freaked out about being in a new place in the dark so he'd been sleeping with me. I had asked him nicely about 10,000 times to be still which progressed into annoyed snaps of "knock it off!" and "stop it!" and "be still, dammit!" Finally, I'd had it and just plopped him into his crib. His crying sounded so terrified and bereft I ran back to get him after about 30 seconds and just held him and rocked him and cried myself. He calmed down even more quickly than I did, though, and went right to sleep.

I can't think of anything specific that has happened recently, I think I've kind of gotten a handle on remembering not being too peevish with him when I lose my patience because of how *I'm* feeling out of proportion to anything he is doing and I've been known to warn him that I'm feeling cranky and to keep pushing me is a bad idea.

I also know that I have screamed at him unnecessarily and found myself apologizing for overreacting. Thank God he's a much more easy-going, flexible, happy child than I ever had any right to expect.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTitanKT
Not Remembering That Little Ears Are Always, Always Listening

I was sitting at the kitchen table with my three year old, who is obsessed with letters and sounding out words. He asks me, "Mom, what does God begin with?"

As my external voice is sounding out the G, my internal voice is nattering on proudly: "He's curious about God! We're raising a child of faith even though our church attendance is pitiful! Yeah us!"

Then my sweet son asks, "Mommy, what does Dammit begin with?"

I blame his father.
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarrieP
I have many stories, but the one that comes to mind most quickly is when our son was about 7 and being extremely difficult one evening (this was before the ADHD/dyslexia diagnosis) where I just absolutely LOST it because he was not listening to me - probably trying to get the kid to bed or something, and in my fury I slammed my fist down on the back of his hand right on our granite countertop in the kitchen. When I did that, he just looked at me with the most pained expression as if to say, "why would you hurt me?" and immediately just as quickly as my anger had flared, my remorse bubbled up, and I just hugged him so tightly in my arms murmuring my horror at what I had done. I was scared that I would have to take him to the emergency room and that they would take him away from me since of course I would have to tell the truth about his broken hand. Fortunately I am not that strong, and nothing happened to his hand, but I will never forget that feeling of pure rage and its companion, deep regret, for my inability to control my temper that evening. He is 16 now and still can really drive me nutty, but that was the last time I really lost it. I have occasionally screamed bloody murder of course or slammed doors. I think it goes with the territory!
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteramy
I guess nobody would be impressed if I pointed out the two bits of missing enamel on the stop of my stove, souvenirs of one of the many times I hollered at my kids, this time smacking the stove top with a spatula to EMPHASIZE my POINT.

The thing that has stopped the hollering? Not becoming a better person, and not drugs. It's self-interest. I realized that as a singer, I can't afford to screw up my vocal chords for days and days.

(Does Henry have any other sensory issues? My kids both have Asperger's Syndrome and had problems with loud sounds ... and my son had a problem with the labels in his clothes. They both grew out it. It was more like a phase where I thought they were just being difficult. You know, to torment me. But these things were actually bothering them a lot. Even though their unempathetic mother thought they were a couple of whiney crybabies. Yep, winning sensitivity awards all over the place, that's me.)
January 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPoppy
My sister and I used to share a room when we were young. My sister had problems with her tonsils when she was a baby and used to wake up screaming, which of course would set me off. One night my mother, in an attempt to get my screaming sister out of the room before I woke up, grabbed my sister under her arm and ran for the door. Unfortunately she miscalculated the distance in the dark and slammed my sister's head into the door jamb. We still tease her about that, especially when my sister does something stupid ("Look, Mom! You broke her brain!").
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
I told my younger daughter, who's 9, that Father Christmas wasn't real, this year. To be fair, I thought she already knew, because she knew about the Tooth Fairy; but when she asked why I wouldn't let her look at some mail order catalogues, I said that it was because that was where FC got his presents from. "What do you mean?" she said; and then she got it, and two big tears welled up in her eyes.

I have plenty of losing-my-temper moments from when they were younger, such as when I shut the older one in the garden, when she was about 3, because she was winding me up so much that I thought I might permanently damage her if I didn't (and she's now 13 and she remembers, oh yes); but for sheer underhand bad parenting I think telling my child that Father Christmas isn't true is a low point in my life.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAlison S
Oh heavens. I got me 6 kids the oldest 22 and the youngest 4.....I could write you a book that would make you feel better. Making the boy walk around the state fair while telling him off for whining the whole time ( turns out he had a broken leg!)I have more melt downs over my 6 year old getting dressed than anything else, who knew that socks could be so evil? The seams, they hurt, make them go away they are TWISTED. He is autistic and clothes and getting dressed are his 'thing' same outfit every day week after week, must be the same, not THOSE boxers THOSE ones (identical except to him)I have lose count of the times I have YELLED "just put the damn boxers ON " and also " they ARE tube socks LOOK TUBE SOCKS! Soft TUBE SOCKS" and wept because I forgot he has to put his left foot in first.It gets better, when they leave home, they still do the maddening things but you don't know about it...HOORAH!

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHelen
I know we're not supposed to share anyone else's stories but my sister just called from Alaska to share her bad mother story with me. I found it so wonderful that I had to share it here.

Her 13 year old daughter has been attending her friends church for the last few weeks just to see what it's like (my sister isn't religious anymore so her family doesn't go). My sister has no problem with this, lets her explore her own views and whatnot. Well sunday morning came and and it was time to drive her to church and my sister told her daughter that if she didn't go to church she'd make the kids pancakes... with chocolate chips and marshmallows for breakfast. Needless to say, the teen chose a normally forbidden food over spending the morning with god. In my sisters defense, do you know how cold and windy it is in Alaska at 8:00am? I don't blame her one bit.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBecky
I wrote my last entry just for you. it's called On Setting the Standard . . .of being a bad mom, that is. :) No worries, we ALL yell, yes even those perfect Stepford moms. If they say otherwise, they are LYING!
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterErika
This is not my biggest moment of parental ineptitude, but it is my most recent. Yesterday's gem, in point of fact.

So, I got my daughter up on Sunday morning, pumped up the fact that we were going to her Sunday class (gymnastics for toddlers). Continued to pump it up and rah-rah it until we got to the place, got her boots off, her jacket off and suddenly realized that there didn't appear to be anyone else there for the next class (which is to say, hers). They were just winding up the earlier one, for special needs kids, and she was the ONLY one there for the next class.

I checked the calendar on the wall and sure enough, the classes didn't start until the following week.

So imagine a red-faced mommy trying to explain to a two and a half year old that while there were clearly kids having class, she couldn't. Imagine explaining that for the next half hour, all the way home, sans class, while your child cries like they're heartbroken.

Because mommy can't read a fricken calendar.

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwyliekat
Here's one that happened 16 years ago and I still won't let my mom forget it: I was learning how to ride a bike and she was videotaping. I crashed the bike into the curb and it was a pretty big crash for a little kid. My mom didn't ask if I was OK...she stood there videotaping and laughing her head off maniacally. I'm scarred for life. (I had her permission to share this)
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLori
I don't even remember what my kids did (they're now 17 and 15 and at the time they were probably 7 and 5). I only remember that I literally collapsed to the ground, like someone had removed my knees. And that I was keening. I remember the keening quite vividly.

And then I started yelling at them. And smacking the ground with my open palm to EMPHASIZE.EVERY.IMPORTANT.WORD.

I remember them looking at me like I had lost my mind and then running to their rooms to hide.

And the not them, me. I remember that too. So the keening and the crying. Good times. Good times.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCandy
I handed my 18 month old a lit smoke bomb to throw. Yeah.It didn't end so well.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAbbey
If I'm lucky, my comment is far enough down on the list that no one will read it. I have to write it though - therapy or something. Its perfect timing actually. The other day I applied what DGM would call 'the vulcan death grip' and dragged my almost 3 year old son to time out. His face broke into a cry, but it wasn't the "I'm pissed at you" cry it was the genuine "ow you're hurting me and scaring me" cry. Which of course immediately made me cry.Later we turned on the TV and something about How the Grinch Stole Christmas came on and my little man looked up at me (very innocently of course) and said, "Mommy! You're just like the Grinch!"Let me tell you, that is so much worse than all the irresponsible mistakes I made when he was a baby. How is it possible that I am constantly losing my temper and yelling at a poor toddler who doesn't know any better?!
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. S

18 mo old over tired, hungry boy, teary, snotty, 10 minute tirade with back arching car-seat avoidance

31 yr old over tired, hungry, teary, snotty Mom, SITTING on 18 mo old boy to get him to JUST SIT THE FUCK DOWN ALREADY IN YOUR FUCKING CAR SEAT

Really cool moment. Totally awesome.

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLori
Just last month I forgot to pick my son up after an extended field trip with his 4th grade class got them back to school long after the final bus. I left him out in the dark cold for 40 minutes, long after all of the other kids had been picked up. Thank god his teacher stayed with him.

Then there was the time I was driving a rental car with his then-1-year-old brother in the back seat (securely in his car seat, thank god). I parked the rental, but accidentally put the car in neutral rather than in park (the gears were on the steering column, and it was not entirely clear to me what was what). I was about 10 feet away from the car when it started to roll. (For the record, it is impossible to grab the doorhandle and open the door of a moving car from the outside of said car, though I tried.) The rental mercifully crashed into a parked car, rather than escaping into the street (which is where it was headed). Baby was scared and crying but unhurt. I was hysterical.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRuthWells
Ok--I know I'm late, but I just thought of a really good one. This didn't happen to me (although I would sometimes like to sell my 2 year old to gypsies...) but to a friend of mine. She had been battling with her then 5 year old to get ready for kindergarten in a timely manner. He had even missed the bus several times. One morning he was plodding along at an exceptionally slow rate and she told him that if he missed the bus that day he would have to take a taxi to school. Well, sure enough, he missed his bus and my friend called a taxi. For a 5 year old. And made him pay for it with his own money. Anyway, she sends him off in the taxi (yes, alone!!) About an hour later (an HOUR!), the phone rings. It is one of the custodians at the school calling to inform her that her son needs her to come pick him up. There was no school that day (hence, no bus to miss) and she had just sent her 5 year old alone in a taxi to an empty school! She felt like such an asshole--but he was never late for the bus again!
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkelley
Here's mine:
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSherry
This is just the post I need. I have been an absolute freak this whole past week. Blowing up at the boys for little to nothing. My shining moment was when I screamed, red-faced, and tight-lipped at my boys for screaming. ??? Sigh. Must breath. Remember to breath.

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn
Oh, the woe. What fun it is!

I recall the time I securely strapped my three-year-old son into his car seat, only to hear the phone ringing inside the house. The car was off, the parking brake was on, the manual transmission was in first gear, and I---stupid as I could be---was expecting that call...

Moments later, my car and my freshly unbuckled, curious pre-schooler went rolling down the steep driveway, across all lanes of the divided highway on which we lived, and into the deep ditch on the other side of it all. A semi had braked, a passer-by had stopped, and my kid, sitting in the front seat and looking only mildly surprised, had just enjoyed his first driving experience.

And then there was the time my raging allergies necessitated I take a new-to-me antihistamine. I swallowed my pill, and laid my then two-year-old son and my sickly self down for a nap, whereupon I fell into a slumber so deep it could best be described not as "resting" but as "blacking out." A few hours later, I was startled awake by a loud banging on my front door. It was a stranger holding my mostly naked, bediapered kid. He had woken up and, upon making the apparent decision to get some air, managed to unlock all the doors and exit our home.

At least the weather was nice and the stranger didn't call the police.

I just thought of a couple more my mom did. Once, she left my then 2 year old brother in a running car in the driveway while she ran back into the house--with the keys in the ignition. Forgetting that the car automatically locks all the doors after 30 seconds, she was horrified to come back out and find that she couldn't get into the car. Oh yeah, and the car was in drive with only the parking brake on to keep the car from careening through the garage door. It took an hour an a half to get a locksmith out to my parent's house to get my brother out.Another time my mother broke--nay shattered--a plate on my brother's head. He was being his usual annoying self and she just lost it and whacked him over the head with the plate. Mind you, this was one of those Corelle plates--the supposedly unbreakable kind. Didn't hurt him, but makes for a good story!
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkelley
I’m not a mom yet, so I have none of my own. However, I will tell you that once, when my brother was a toddler, he tried to crawl backwards out of his high chair. My mom was on the phone in the adjoining room, and he was tired of waiting to get down. Problem was, he got his big ol’ melon head stuck so that he was dangling with his feet several inches from the floor, facing the inside part of the high chair. He was in no danger of strangulation as his howls attested to, but my Mom came running in, checked to make sure he was okay, then went to get the camera.

As poor Pete dangled there by his head, red-face and screaming in fear, she TOOK A PICTURE.

Also, we have a picture of my older brother sitting in his baby chair, gnawing on the top of an unopened beer bottle. Nice.

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMagpie

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