WTF Parenting - I'll give you an A for effort, Mommy. Everyone has something at which they are mediocre. Yours just happens to be parenting.

This morning a notification for a new Meetup group called “Positive Parenting” appeared in my inbox, and I immediately rolled my eyes. Because really, don’t we all want to parent positively?  As opposed to parenting negatively? Maybe because it’s Monday and Mondays are always stressful and depressing, I started imagining what that group would be like: smug, earnest parents dedicated to never saying “no” or “don’t” but instead using different language to redirect their children and avoid misbehavior.   These parents never raise their voices and are always cool, calm, collected and in control.

Because I have 20 blessed minutes by myself after day care drop-off and there wasn’t anything good on NPR, I was alone with my thoughts (not always a good thing) and started formulating the description for my Meetup group:

Are you a stressed-out parent to a small child?  Do you lack a parenting philosophy because you’re too tired to read the tomes by various parenting experts?  Do you feel competent in other areas of your life, yet wonder why your child is the one with unbrushed hair and wrinkled clothes?  Do you suspect your child’s day care teacher is judging you because your child can’t dress himself because you have been slack in teaching him how because it’s easier and faster to do it yourself and since you haven’t perused the parenting tome-du-jour, you didn’t realize that he was supposed to be able to do so by now? Do you wonder if you are the only parent who has absolutely no idea what you are doing? Do you suspect that your child thinks his toy trains are his friends? Do you worry that your child watches too many Thomas movies? Do you feel soul-crushing guilt every minute of the day because you suspect you aren’t doing a good job? During the work week, do you feel bad that your main interactions with your child involve feeding, riding in the car and putting him to bed? Do you see his adoring gaze at you and wonder how in the world you could possibly deserve that feeling?  If so, this may be the group for you.

I think it was my assumption of those parents as being in control that bothered me so much.  Things still feel so out of control.  I’m not sure how it came to be August already. I feel like I’m barely treading water, and as I’ve indicated, three-year-olds are interesting.  It also didn’t help that we’ve had some parenting FAILs lately:

  • Failing to realize that Daniel’s shoes were too small
  • The heart-breaking look on Daniel’s face when we have to send him to time out
  • Feeling schooled by the day care and our 3-year-old on how quickly he has adapted to potty training
  • Evenings and weekends in which it seems like all we say is a negative: stop running in the house; don’t yell at the kitties; you are not a train: no bishing and bashing into things! No, stop, don’t…
  • At day care, observing Daniel bop a little girl in his class on the head in his enthusiasm to say hello and making her cry.  Then he starts to cry when we point out that he hurt her, sobbing that he is “not a good boy.”
  • Reading on his daily report that he is “still having much difficulty dressing himself” and feeling like we are perceived as absent-minded (or maybe just absent) parents who aren’t preparing their child for the basics of life
  • Realizing that Daniel’s the only child without a picture of him in his cubby because we keep forgetting to print out one and worrying that makes us appear uncaring
  • Dragging Daniel downtown for a play date to see a firetruck parade and not being able to find parking, leading to missing the parade and wondering why I can’t get it together to do something so simple

Drowning in guilt and low parenting self-esteem obviously. Daniel is such a sweet, loving, smart little boy who deserves the best, and I worry constantly that we are not even coming close.

And then when I got to work, I looked up the book the Meetup group is using.  It’s so benign that I feel like a jerk for making fun of it.  It’s all about providing the parent with tools to reduce misbehavior without yelling and restoring the enjoyment of parenting.  Fun fact: the founder, Amy McCready, lives in Raleigh.  I’ll keep it in mind after I finish reading commenter-recommended Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy.

How do you get yourself of the parenting doldrums and stop worrying that you are the worst parent in the world?



  1. Oh yes, I am right there with you-always wondering whether my kid’s teacher suspects that he’s homeless (wrinkled clothes, unbrushed hair, & oh, yeah, his shoes might be too small….)

  2. Oh my gosh KeAnne, if you want to feel better about your parenting, just go to Wal-Mart. I’m not kidding. Try to get there around 9PM. Count how many children you see. How many are throwing tantrums? How many are getting slapped or yelled at?

    This is going to sound horrible but I think some of our generation holds ourselves to an impossibly high standard when it comes to parenting. Age 3 sucks. It is hard. It is easy to feel like a failure. It is an age when you HAVE to say no a lot to set boundaries.

    But… he’s 3! A truck makes him happy. How easy is that?

    This parenting thing… the physical burdens get easier as they get older, but the emotional part becomes more difficult.

  3. My daughter is 17. I don’t know how the hell that happened. You are totally normal, and okay. Let me re-phrase: since you are concerned, you are head and shoulders above the folks who don;t even think about it. Have a glass of wine and cut yourself some slack. If he can’t dress himself by college, you might want to seek help, otherwise just ride the wave. As for worrying about others judging you: they aren’t in your skin, and unless your kid shows up with week-old vomit in his hair, you are a fine parent.

  4. I know someone who recommended that book, too. 🙂

    I experience parenting fail on a daily basis. I console myself with the fact that my daughter still requests hugs, and shows affection, and bestows her babies with great affection, too. She has to be modeling her behavior after SOMEone, right?

  5. I found three to be a tough age.

    I know you are doing an excellent job parenting, because I read your letter to Daniel. It’s just the constant outside messages that make us doubt ourselves.

  6. Just to say I can relate to all of this. And your post about the 3-year-old, I could’ve freakin’ written it word for word. but mine is only 2.5. Ack, I’ve got a long way to go.

  7. I am so freaking late in commenting on this but I LOVED LOVED LOVED this post and kept it unread in my reader since you posted it what – 2 weeks ago? I’m totally joining the WTF Parenting group this second.

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