When my middle daughter was 1, she had a spectacular diaper blowout at church. It was all up the back of her very new, very cute, church dress. I took her to the restroom, and once I was elbow-deep into cleaning her, I realized I was short on wipes. I ended up using wet toilet paper, which I assure you was quite a challenge to acquire while the kid was half dressed and filthy. It was working though, for the most part, until the power went out.
And let me just say that the men’s room with no windows was about as dark as deep space, and my half-naked baby who was still equal parts poopy and wet was as slippery as a butter-coated seal. By the time the lights came back on, we were both a mess, and I ended up taking a walk of parenting shame through the church and out into the van.
I was completely embarrassed.
But that was far from the only time that I’ve been embarrassed as a parent. Sadly, there’s more.
I was at the grocery store once, with a toddler in the cart reaching for anything and everything and two young kids in tow, both begging for candy in the checkout line. I had a full cart of food, and a line of people behind me as I began unloading the cart onto the checkout counter. Once everything was rung up and ready to roll, I realized I’d forgotten my debit card. Suddenly my face was red, my groceries were slowly melting, and it felt like everyone behind me let out a collective sigh that seemed to say, “Nice work, jackass.”
I’ve taken three children to the doctor’s office alone and had a toddler pound on the keyboard when the doctor’s back was turned — and most likely jacked up some stranger’s medical records. I’ve been at Target with a 3-year-old little boy who was asked to go in a direction he didn’t like and decided to punch me in the balls, and then laugh in my face.
Cue snide comments from shoppers.
Cue dad hunched over in red-faced pain and embarrassment.
I’ve forgotten shoes, wipes, diapers, and a change of clothes, and I’ve had all of those moments turn into horrible missteps that ended in me covered in pee or poop or my kids looking like half-dressed hobos.
I’ve been pulled over and my son told the police officer that I was lying.
I’ve been so late picking up my kids from school that the principal gave me a somber look that made me confident he was going to call CPS. I’ve pulled into friends’ driveways, opened the van door to drop my kids off for a playdate, and had close friends look at my back seat and wonder if it were another country with very liberal dumping laws.
I have been very embarrassed as a parent. Not once, or twice, but what feels like a million times. And the reason I am telling you this is because I want you to know that it happens to everyone. I was a father for about eight years before I began to realize this; I’m coming up on 10 years now.
But the thing is, I want you all to know that you are not bad parents because you forgot to reload the diaper bag with wipes and your child decided to release a flood of sludge while you were shopping. You are not a bad parent because your child made it rain granola at the doctor’s office. You are not a bad parent because your daughter told the pediatrician that you swear when helping her with homework.
All of it happens. It’s par for the course.
This doesn’t make any of these moments any less embarrassing. You will swear just as much as you did last time something like this happened. You will probably feel just as stupid. But sometimes it feels good to know that you are not the odd parent out. You are not the one unqualified idiot who just happened to have children who, for the life of you, can’t get your shit together.
Because the fact is we are all just winging it. We are all in a rush to get our kids to the store, or the doctor, or a sports event. We are all just hanging on some days, and we all have a million and one details to remember.
So the next time you find yourself in an embarrassing parental moment, look around and realize that everyone has them.
Sure, there is probably some childless assclown out there giving you a look as if parenting is so easy, and you are failing. But there will also be several people like you and me who get it — who have been through the ringer and know exactly what you are going through.
Trust me, you are not alone.