I vividly remember Zoe’s first day care Valentine’s Day. When I picked her up, there were three or four Valentines in her cubby, with notes from her day care friends. As I looked at each one, I thought, “Holy cow. There are so many ways to fail as a parent.”
It had not occurred to me to make or buy Valentines for Zoe’s friends. This is probably because, on that first day care Valentine’s Day, Zoe was seven and a half months old. I’m sure that the other parents did not think I had failed (and probably had older kids who actually understood the concept and had a Valentine exchange in their own classroom). I know Zoe and the other babies were not at all concerned.
Last year, Sister Claire wanted to be prepared. She got some very cute Valentines for her daughter’s two-year-old class. And then, before she delivered them, she got a note from the school with the news that they don’t do Valentines for that age group. Wait till your kids are older, they said.
These are the hazards of parenting in public. Sometimes it feels like we just can’t win. We are either that parent who didn’t know that Baby Valentines were a thing, or we’re that parent who is making the other parents look bad.
When I dropped Leo off at Schmitz School (what he calls three-year-old preschool because it is taught by the wonderful Mrs. Schmitz) this morning, I happened to stay to chat with another mom. And she happened to mention that she had forgotten to send her son’s teddy bear, but remembered in time to go get it.
I stared at her. “Why does he need his teddy bear?” I asked.
“Oh, it said they could bring a teddy bear today,” she answered.
As a sense of dread and panic settled in my stomach, I asked, “Um, it did? Where?”
Well, on the preschool schedule, of course. Today was Teddy Bear Day. Week three of preschool and I have already failed as a preschool parent.
Luckily, the failure was not permanent: I hurried home, grabbed Leo’s teddy bear, and delivered it to school. (Pro Tip: If you’re not going to read the preschool schedule, live nearby.)
Would Leo’s day have been ruined without that teddy bear? Probably not.
Will this be my last parenting-in-public failure? Definitely not.
When you’re parenting in public–when your kid is at school or day care or the grocery store or church or the park–there are limitless opportunities to mess up. To do too much or too little, to overcompensate or forget. We’ve all been there. We’ll be there again.
So, I remind myself and I remind you, dear ones: let’s be gentle with others and be gentle with ourselves. No matter what happens with teddy bears and Valentines, we are loving and nurturing our children. And that is success.
What is your most memorable Public Parenting Fail (from the parent or child perspective?