10 Things I'd Do Differently as a Parent

by Stacy Graebner
Originally Published: 
A small boy blowing candles of his fifth birthday cake

My neighborhood is starting to turn over, which means there are lots of eager new moms on our street, with kids dressed in head-to-toe Gymboree, looking like they could use some unwanted advice. Or not. Either way, I’m happy to give them some if they ask. Or even if they don’t. My kids are in elementary and middle school now, so I have time to reflect on some of the great victories and mistakes (mostly mistakes) that I made when my kids were younger. Here are a few things I would do differently if I could do it all again…

1. I would not agree to owning a hamster (or two). The stress of keeping these tiny creatures alive is ridiculous. I spent more time cleaning their cage than my own home, and they died anyway, so you do the math. If I can’t keep a 4-ounce rodent from perishing, what makes me think I’m qualified to raise two humans? Not only that, while we were desperately trying to keep little Nibbles alive in our house, we had mouse traps in our garage to keep rodents out, which makes no sense. It basically means I was a rodent serial killer who sometimes kept victims in a cage in our basement. Yes, just like Hannibal Lecter.

2. We would not over-schedule my daughter’s American Girl doll. I’m not opposed to American Girl dolls; I totally understand the allure for little ones. Unfortunately, my daughter’s doll had expensive tastes and hobbies and turned out to be a quitter. She tried snowboarding, violin lessons, painting, horseback riding, and gymnastics and didn’t follow through on any of them. Huge disappointment to the family. I would tell her, but then she might need therapy at the American Girl psychiatric hospital.

3. We would have raised our children to speak with a British accent. I have a theory that there would be a lot less tension in our house if we all spoke with a British accent. Everyone would automatically seem more polite and civilized. “Mummy, I missed the loo when I was taking a slash” sounds much better than “I peed on the floor again.” “That movie was bollocks” is far more pleasant than “that movie sucked.” We would say “crusty dragon” instead of “booger,” and a sibling would be a “twit” instead of an “idiot.” Happiness all around. “Mummy, may I please have a biscuit?” “Of course, my lad. Now run off to play in the garden for a fortnight.” Adorable.

4. We would not go to Disney World with a 3 and 5-year-old. With children this young at an overwhelming amusement park, my husband and I basically felt like we were competing in the Amazing Race. We were running at top speed from attraction to attraction, lugging two small bodies and a shitload of stuff behind us. By the end of the day we were dehydrated, exhausted, and hangry. We made it to the finish, but instead of winning a million dollars, our prize was riding on Dumbo for 30 seconds.

5. I would have avoided the Baby Einstein video frenzy. When my kids were toddlers, they were glued to these “educational” videos every evening while I made dinner. Yes, they kick ass at naming every barnyard animal in America, and they can identify every color of the rainbow in under 15 seconds, but it turns out these skills aren’t super useful in elementary and middle school. I want a refund.

6. We would not enroll our kids in any sports until age 6. Our son started playing soccer at age 3, and by age 5 he had retired from the sport. Now he says he wishes he had hung in there a little longer. My husband reminds him that he didn’t like it back then, but guess what? He didn’t like wearing pants or peeing in a toilet back then either, so clearly his decision making skills were a little off. Unless your child really enjoys it, skip the 8 a.m. pee-wee anything. There’s plenty of time to freeze your ass off on the side of a field when your kids get older.

7. I would have lied about the selections on kids’ menus before they could read. My kids might not be such pizza, mac ‘n cheese and chicken nugget addicts if I had convinced them the kids’ menu selections were: Arugula salad, salmon with capers or rack of lamb with mustard-shallot sauce.

8. I would not have spent a small fortune on “music” and “gym” classes for my 2-year-old. Yes, my kids can manhandle a parachute, jump head first into a ball pit, and bang the hell out of a xylophone, but did we need expensive organized classes to figure that out? My 3-year-old never got a six-pack after weeks at the gym and still can’t plank properly, so what was the point?

9. I would buy my son one large LEGO set to be taken apart and re-wrapped at every birthday and major holiday. When your child first becomes obsessed with LEGOs, you love that he’s building and creating and is occupied for hours. So you buy more and more until one day he puts together a 2,536 set in 47 minutes but doesn’t want to play with it because it might break (but don’t take it apart because “he built that”). Eventually the day comes when he announces “I don’t like LEGOs anymore” and you realize you’ve become the victim of an elaborate marketing scam. Good luck selling those sets at a garage sale when you hear this: “Does it come with all the pieces?”

10. We would not throw an expensive birthday party for anyone who is still comfortable pooping his pants. We threw our son a huge “SpiderMan” party when he was 2, and years later when he was looking through photos he said, “I remember that party. That was fun. Whose party was that?” Ummmm…. That’s when I realized these kids go to so many parties they can’t keep them all straight. Take advantage of that! Snap a few photos near a cake at another child’s party and throw it in your kid’s photo album. He’ll never know the difference. You’re welcome.

So there you have it. Feel free to learn from my mistakes. Oh, and remember this: “It goes by so fast.” Have you heard? In that case, #11. I would not tell new moms “it goes by so fast.”

Related post: The Top 20 Pieces of Advice Moms Wish They’d Gotten

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