I'm Ruining My Kids For Life, And I'm OK With That

by Jackie Semmens
Originally Published: 
parenting failures love kids
red_pepper82 / iStock

I’m ruining my kids for life. And I’m largely OK with that.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to ruin them. I certainly didn’t plan on it. But I’ve come to accept that I’m doing some things, possibly most things, wrong. It seems inevitable, as I think every parent has probably screwed up their kids in one way or another. (Except my mom. If you’re reading this, I’m not talking about you. And when you call to ask me what I meant when I said I’m not talking about you, don’t worry—I really meant it.)

I know I’m failing. And that’s fine. Really, I’ve accepted that. I think instead of a college savings account we will just start a therapy fund and call it good.

For instance, my youngest has had formula. Formula, people, straight from the Devil’s tits. I mean, it probably saved his life and all, but whatever. It’s formula we are talking about.

They both watch TV. I don’t want to say exactly how much—because some people will think, pssh, that’s nothing, and the rest will think, you let them watch how much?!—but let’s just say that the oldest walks around singing jingles from Daniel Tiger all the time. And I’m pretty sure listening to those jingles every day for the past 18 months will guarantee that they will be stuck in their heads for at least the next 18 years.

It’s not like I even like TV. I read all the articles about how bad television is for children, and I totally agree with them. And then I let them watch it anyway. Heck, I’m not going to lie to you—I’ve actually strapped them in their high chairs, put on an episode of Daniel Tiger, and gone to take a shower. At least it’s PBS, right?

Or, let’s talk about vegetables. I read all the books before I had kids. You eat the vegetables when you’re pregnant, you eat them when you’re nursing, you puree fresh, homegrown vegetables and let them mash them into their hair, you expose them to a new vegetable 20 times (and pick it up off the floor at least 60 times), and then magically your 2-year-old starts putting in orders for heirloom carrots at the farmer’s market and asking the man at the booth if they are non-GMO. I know all this. And I agree with it. But apparently I gave up somewhere around the 14th try and the last time my children intentionally ate a non-potato-based vegetable was pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Nope, just remembered, they only ate the crust.

My kids have yet to be exposed to a single foreign language, unless you count French. And I’m not talking about the French I took in college, rather the dialect I picked up on the back of the school bus and in bathroom stalls. Like most boys, my kids are really into transportation, so if you ever hear them yelling, “Truck!” or “Ship!” that’s why. Seriously, I promise.

I’ve read all the articles on the internet that are titled some variation of “Parenting: You’re Doing it Wrong.” I know it’s clickbait, but I can’t resist the latest research on exactly how I’m screwing up my kids, especially the articles on working versus staying at home. I’ve done both of those, so unfortunately my kids are going to suffer the consequences of being both neglected and smothered. Sorry, guys.

It’s not that I don’t want to do better. I read those parenting articles (on my phone, while I am around my children) and file away all the reasons I am screwing up my kids. Then I half-heartedly try to do better, for about 20 minutes. It’s not that I don’t want my kids to watch less TV, eat more vegetables, and become well-adjusted child prodigies. It’s that I can’t seem to make it work. Even with all this guilt, I’ve yet to buy them one single educational toy made of organic kale.

But if these are the things that ruin my children for life, I’m OK with that. We’re all going to mess up in one way or another, and I hope this is the worst I ever do. When my sons call me in 20 years to tell me how I ruined their lives, I’m praying it’s because I let them watch one too many episodes of Daniel Tiger and they still have the “When You Have to Go Potty, Stop and Go Right Away!” song stuck in their head. I know I will.

They can complain about all of the million things I have done to screw up. And I know there will be more ways as they grow older; it’s inevitable. I’m not always great at the minutiae of parenting. None of us are.

But I’m really great at one thing: I love them fiercely. I love them with all the fire that burns in the sun. They are my children. They are every breath I take.

So if too much TV and not enough vegetables is the worst I’m doing to them, I’m OK with that. They will never not be loved. And if worrying about all that stuff a little less frees up a little more room in my heart to love them, I will choose that path every time.

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