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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 tried to post this yesterday, but no luck. Here is my favourite bad-parenting moment.

When my daughter was about 3, she loved her little two-wheeler with training wheels. She could very slowly pedal it, or I could push her from behind with a stick. The issue was that she couldn't steer, for some inexplicable reason. I remember one day when she had begged to take it to the park and back, and she crashed into the curb every 3 yards, all the way there. While I yelled at her to LOOK AHEAD for goodness sake. LOOK UP! WATCH FOR THE CURB! DON'T LOOK AT YOUR FEET! And then when we finally, painfully, made it home, I yelled some more and then threw her beloved bicycle into the garbage can while she sobbed.

Only the funny part is, it turned out she was blind in one eye! And so had no depth perception! And also had poor vision in the other eye! And so probably couldn't see well much past her feet! All of which makes it really hard to steer a bicycle, it seems. Heh.

I still feel guilty about that one. Though I am proud that I was able to get her vision sorted out eventually, with some patching and glasses.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlb
Okay, I know this is late, but I'm adding it. It's not me, it's my mother. One evening, when my brother was in junior high school, she forgot to go pick him up after an afternoon sporting event. So, around 9:00 pm, she says, "Where's your brother?" and then she screamed, ran from the house to go to the school. The school was about 20 miles away, in the country, in a corn field, surrounded by NOTHING. When she drove up, he wasn't there, she thought he'd been abducted. Then, as she got closer, she saw this wee form crawling out of the bushes. He said he'd figured no one was coming so he decided to crawl in the bushes and get warm and just sleep overnight, go to school, and then take the school bus home.

My brother is now 46. My mother is STILL horrified by that one.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
It is so, so refreshing to know that I'm not alone. I sometimes feel like my friends are such cool, calm, and collected Mommies and that I'm just a raging lunatic sometimes.

My daughter's 9 months old. A month ago, I put her into her infant carseat in the back of my Mom's SUV (no base, she was going to be seatbelted in), and before I buckled ANY straps, turned away to put my purse in the front seat, saying "don't fall!" What did she do? Pulled herself up and tried to climb out, causing me to scream bloody murder as her baby noggin headed for the concrete curb below. I snagged her foot and saved her from full impact, and held my sobbing little girl, adrenaline rushing through me. After I got her calmed down, safely buckled, and was in the backseat with her, I lost it. I felt horrible.

I've also yelled at her as she flails around during diaper or clothing changes. I've slammed doors. I've put her on the floor while she screams in the middle of the night, unwilling to go to sleep, and just curl up on the couch and sob to myself praying outloud to God for a freakin' break.

I feel like the most impatient person ever. Patience has never been a strong suit, and I feel like I shouldn't ever lose it with her. I'm realizing that it's natural, though, because children are frustrating and difficult sometimes, and it's not all sunshine and rainbows and sing-a-longs and hugs. I know I'm not a bad Mom... but damn, in the middle of night when I'm ready to shake her because she won', I feel horrid. Mad and frustrated and I-don't-want-to-be-a-Mother-anymore, and horrible.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDani
13 month old, still not asleep at midnight, kicking and thrashing me in bed...I go ARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH and he screams in terror and grabs my neck, scared witless of the horrible monster-person I am.

plus I defeated my purpose, no way was he falling asleep then.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commentershirky
I feel a lot better after reading this. I have sprayed Mr. T with Raid (thought it was OFF), screamed myself raw at all 3 of them, cursed violently, forgot to change Mr. B's diaper ALL DAY after bringing Mr. G home from the hospital (diapers can explode) and yes, the police have come by because of Mr. G getting lose on the highway with his motorized Harley Davidson police motorcycle.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
Amy - I think your mom wins.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLucy
Oh lordy, if you only knew. I have plenty of stories.. enough to explain why my older preteen girls sometimes flinch when I'm using my hands expressively when talking. I don't beat them, for the record, but they've had their share of psycho-mom spankings.

My two *worst* moments thus far w/ my 14 month old:

My hubby and I went grocery shopping, and had belted my (weeks old) son into his car seat, which sat on top of, and hooked onto, the front of the shopping cart. When we were done and had carted the groceries to our vehicle, I turned to put some bags into the trunk, then turned back around only to find the cart wildly rolling down the parking lot lane, with my son still attached to it! He was still sleeping, I was hysterical, and my husband, very kindly, stayed quiet the entire ride home. Awesome mom, no?

The next mom-of-the-year moment was last September when we were moving into our new house. I took the baby (then 11 months old) to Target to buy a new microwave. I had him sitting in the seat-area of the cart, and had the HUMONGOUS microwave box oddly sitting in the back of the cart (Imagine, if you will, looking at the cart from the side and the box looking like a diamond- one side of the box was leaning over against the back of where he was sitting, one corner over his head. This is an important description.). After heading to my vehicle (here we go again), I had decided it would make more sense to take the baby out first, in case taking the box out might tip the cart over.. so I started to pull him out, only for the box to shift forward, slamming the back of the cart seat against my baby, effectively pinning him between the front of the seat area and the back of the seat area- and I couldn't get him out! I was hysterical, once again, he was crying, and I begged a passing shopper to help me unpin my son. The shopper didn't say a single word, helped lift the box off, and walked away very, very fast. I think he thought I was a lunatic. I know I felt like one.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlaina
Of course there are the yelling hoarse incidents, but I think honestly, my worst mothering habit is ignoring my children while I read.Just now my sweet baby crawled up to me with a mouth full of marbles and a big smile.I guess I was doing it again.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEva
Bless all you twisted moms out there. I'm not alone!

After a really long day with my then 3 year old and 16 month old, my youngest son pitched a fit at bedtime. I finished his nighttime routines and put him to bed although he clearly wasn't havin' anything to do with that idea. He immediately got up and starting pounding on the doorknob from his crib (we had child proof knobs inside the room). I remembered the very wise words of my pediatrician who said "no child has ever died crying themselves to sleep" so I left him in there screaming/pounding and went to work putting my oldest to bed. Dad works odd hours so when the crying finally stopped I assumed that Dad had gotten irritated and taken over with him and brought him into our bed.Both kids and husband sleeping, I sat my butt on the couch with a pint of ice cream and a Desperate Housewives marathon on tivo.When I finally went to bed it was about 1am. I went into the 16 month olds room to tuck him in and discovered he wasn't in his crib. Not thinking too much of it I figured Dad had probably brought him into our bed, so I tucked the 3 year old in and carefully climbed into bed so as to not wake Dad/baby.Only - no baby.Frantic I ran back into the 16 month olds room and found him clear across the room wedged under the gliding rocking chair sleeping."No child ever died crying themselves to sleep" --- yeah, but what about taking a header out of the crib and sleeping in the freezing cold for hours?!Mother of the year!
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commentertonuala
I have cried with laughter reading these comments. Thank you, thank you for making me feel like I'm not so alone in the world, despite 3 loud sticky children clinging to my person.

I have a story that is so fresh, it happened *during* my reading of this page. ( I can't read all the comments at one sitting, don'tcha know.) Our evening dinner-prep time involved the following events: my 1yo cries for at least an hour (teething, cranky time of day as I prepare dinner), 5yo falls down 4 stairs onto his head while I try to protect 1yo from falling on stairs... 1yo dumps 5yo's water cup onto her pants and socks as I watch while I am "held hostage" by holding two hot pans from the stove... 5yo is jealous of 3yo playing with toys while 5yo holds icepack on head... 5yo is sent to room to calm down after head-injury because he won't stop being jealous of 3yo... I yell "Mommy needs help! Please set the table" (amid 1yo's continued screaming, of course)... 1yo dumps entire bowl of tiny pastina everywhere onto floor, at which point I put 1yo (a 1yo!!) into a bedroom for "time-out."

Obviously, time-out for ME. She screamed, but I calmed down and didn't hurt anyone. Whew. Returned her to highchair, continued dinner without further incident. For now....

I am also guilty of forgetting seatbelts, pinching arms, throwing things out of anger, screaming, slamming doors and general pissy moods around the children.

I'm so envious of those women who have it all together; they aren't ruffled by their kids' behaviors. They can rise above it, and be the adult about it. They can laugh about it, or see the teachable moments in all things. I strive to be that person. Heaven help us all!
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDQ
I was bitten by a one year old. I instinctively smacked her.


In my defense, it didn't hurt her, just scared her a little. My husband keeps saying,"I can't believe you hit her" And I keep saying "she BIT me!"

But I still feel like dirt.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly C
Unfortunately, I am a perfect parent, so I have no story to share. Really. Ahem. But I do looove my mother-in-law, so I'll share my favorite one of herw.

When my husband was eleven, he was riding his bike downhill, and somehow hit a pot hole and was flipped over the front of the bike. He landed, full force, on his hands, bracing himself against impact. He cried and cried, couldn't even carry the bike home, and told his mother. She told him to stop whining. When he couldn't EAT that night because he wouldn't use his hands, she sent him to his room without dinner for complaining about his arms. Finally, the next day, when my husband still wouldn't eat or dress himself, she took him to the doctor to discover he had fractured BOTH wrists.

Can't decide if I like that best or the time she let my sister-in-law stew for FIVE DAYS with a blue crayon shoved up her nose and couldn't figure out why her nose kept running and she was so fussy.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKC
On my daughter's 3rd birthday, we had a bad time getting to preschool. She was unhappy about leaving home, unhappy about her clothes, mad about everything. In the car, on the way to school, she started taking her clothes off. I couldn't stop driving, I couldn't make her stop, all I could do was tell her - if you do that, you will get cold.

It was the only true statement I could make, in New England in a snowstorm. To make sure it was true, I turned the air conditioning on. In New England, in a snow storm. When arrived at school she was down to her underwear in her car seat, her lips were blue and she was covered with goosebumps. She said, through streaming tears "I'm cold, I think I need some clothes on" so we got her clothes on and went into school.

She was fine. I went home and wept. On the other hand, every parent I tell this story to says "air conditioning? In a snowstorm? genius." She's 14 this year. She has a younger sister.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlee
Thank you, all of you, for these wonderful hysterical stories! So good to know we're not alone, esp when one's "partner in parenting" thinks he's got a leg up in the parenting skills.

My W.M.E. episode of today: I dislocated my 20mo old's elbow yesterday while swinging him by his hands in exactly the position that *I as a pediatrician* know can result in a dislocated elbow. The good news: I put it back in place pretty quickly.

There is this added level of guilt when, being a pediatrician, I still lose it, scream at my kids, allow them (or, as above facilitate) to get injured, or drag them tantrumming out of Trader Joe's during the after-work rush. I tell myself my patients probably appreciate my "human" parenting.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRES
the time my husband and I took our 7 year old daughter out on a train trestle about 200 feet above a river for the "cool view". NOT MY IDEA. A train came tearing by and we had to huddle on a side overhang because we were too far away to run back. I called my husband a FUCKING DUMBASS over and over in front of my daughter. Not the highlight of my parenting career.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKathy
My 2 year old daughter was sitting in the front seat in her car seat, sucking her thumb and holding her blankie, the red light turns green and the woman in front of us isn't moving, but before I can say anything, she pulls her thumb out of her mouth and says, "GO, BITCH!"

Proud, proud moment, but didn't stop my potty mouth.
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngie
...wait, an even better one. A few years later and now with 3 daughters, one day of feeling like I'm losing my mind and one of them does something, can't even remember what, and I lose my mind - start screaming, yelling, throwing stuff. After my tantrum, the two younger ones are hiding behind the oldest and crying and she is so scared she pee'd her pants.

Still haunts me. My oldest is 18 now and I'm turning 40 and have mellowed unbelievably. There is NO harder job than having small children - it pushes you to the edge and back on a daily basis. Survival is a great accomplishment.

You are a great mom as are all the women who have commented - besides being moms, we are humans. Hang in there ladies, there IS light at the end of the tunnel.

January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngie
Between 5 kids who all came with interesting little challenges shall we say, I have so many moments that I am scarred for life and I have repressed all the memories so I can get on with life. About half of the stories above sound eerily familiar, especially that car seat thing. After all the horrible things I've done to my kids, they have not even been fazed by them at all. The unforgivable sin however, that I will never be forgiven for is not letting my 16 year old have 2 turns hitting her pinata at her 5th birthday party before letting everyone else have a turn first, and the last kid broke it! Aren't I just horrible?
January 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterShellie
My mother-in-law once bribed her children to behave by promising them "Invisible Man" dolls. When it was time for her to deliver, she gave them empty boxes.

January 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterelizasmom
My daughter was playing on a playground when she was in 3rd grade and came up to me to tell me her arm hurt. I grabbed her arm near the elbow, shook it, and said "Does it hurt when I do this?". She kinda whined and went back to playing.

When it was time to leave about 20 minutes later her scrawny little arm had a huge bump on it. We went to the emergency room on our way home and she had, indeed, fractured her arm and ended up with a cast for six weeks.

I'll always feel terribly guilty for that and for letting her play on a slippery playground in cowboy boots. Doh!
January 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkb
i haven't even told my husband because i can't even believe i did this - my husband and i had a rare date - very rare because of the 4 year old boy and the 2 month old girl who take up all of our time - so i wanted to be sure to look good for this rare occasion - i realized i didn't have a decent outfit at all - since i stopped shopping for myself so long ago (what with the pregnancy weight gain and inability to lose it and then wanting my kids to look good in public places without resorting to name brands - i shopped more for them than for myself) so realizing this - i was stressed out and decided to speed shop at the last minute, literally - and remember, my hormones are wacked out because of the 2 month old - so i run into a shoe store thinking i wouldn't spend more than 10 minutes in there - so i tried on 3 pairs, decided against all of them - and ran out of the store in a record 8 minutes - when i got back in the car, i realized...OH MY GOD! I left my 2 month old locked in the car in the car seat all by herself...i was in such a rush to buy some shoes for my hot date that i forgot my child in the car - i tried to make myself feel better by saying that at least i was gone only for 8 minutes - i stop myself when i consider how quickly something bad can happen though...
1. I took a 2 month old out in a blizzard. It was only to the end of the street but she got windburn on her cheeks.2. Once I forgot to buckle her into her infant car seat (nothing happened).3. At age 3 (this was just weeks ago) I insisted she was well enough to go out to eat with the extended family even though she was acting out and barely eating. She threw up as soon as the entrees arrived and I had to take her home clad in her baby sister's onesie.
January 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMarketing Mommy
delurking!1. I let the babe slid off a giant bed after changing him at a mommy group in front of all the judgemental ones...they havent invited me back since2. he routinely eats the dog food and plays in the dog bowl water. you'de think i would learn to move it when the babe is in the kitchen but no.3.everytime we go to the farmers market he steals a vegetable. i wear him on my back usually and everytime we get back on the train to go home he has something in his hand. i can't figure out if someone is giving him veggies or if he is just plucking them from somewhere. I should say he is only 8 months old and i most likely will put a stop to it when he is old enough to understand that stealing is wrong but for now we have a rule that he has to eat what he brings home...
January 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterregina
These are some of the best blog comments I've ever read in my life. Thanks.

I didn't notice a lot of comments from fathers, though I haven't gotten through the whole list yet. Nice to know parenting mistakes are cross-gender...

I posted my mistake on my blog, along with some other thoughts, but I'll reproduce it here, too:

I was helping my 2-year old (at the time) brush her teeth. She was sitting on the sink and we were having a pleasant experience, mostly, until I told her to say “eeee” so I could brush the front of her teeth. She just sort of let her mouth go slack and decided this would be a good time to test how serious I was about getting her teeth brushed. I don’t know why (she was 2… even she probably didn’t know why). After some “ha ha, come on, say ‘eeee’” kind of talk escalated into “stop screwing around and go ‘EEEEEE’”, and she got progressively less willing to cooperate, I slammed my fist, and the toothbrush, down on the sink as hard as I possibly could, rattling everything in the room, making her paralyzed with fear while yelling at the top of my lungs something to the effect of “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!” At that point, she was wailing and inconsolable, and my wife kicked me out of the bathroom. Apparently, I have some anger issues. While it’s not gotten quite that bad since, it’s come close more than once. She still seems to like me though, and the guilt will fade, I’m sure, some time before I die.
January 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJeff
7 YEAR OLD: "We could steal one from Santa."

ME: "I don't think that's a very good idea."

7 YEAR OLD: "Why not?"

ME TO MY WIFE: "I think we can forget about that "parent of the year" trophy."

January 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMichael | Family Hack

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