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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Parenting Goofs

Julie over at A Little Pregnant lets us all know about a parenting mistake she recently made that potentially put her child in danger:

I was at my parents' house with Charlie. I'd just put him down for his afternoon nap, and knew he would sleep for at least an hour. My father, just two short weeks after heart surgery, was napping as well. With my father in the house and Charlie down for the count, I figured it was safe to go out with my mother. It would make a much better story if I said we'd gone out to score some smack, or even for cocktails and a facial, but the fact is that we just went to the grocery store a half mile away.

When we pulled back into the driveway after our 45-minute absence, we both noticed at the same time that my father's car was gone. It could only mean one thing: that he'd called my sister-in-law, asked her to bring over a rear-facing car seat, awakened Charlie, strapped him safely into the center back seat of his vehicle, and gone for a slow, leisurely drive around the neighborhood, obeying all traffic laws and never once exceeding the posted speed limit.

Okay, I guess it could mean two things.

Once inside, I tore up the stairs in a panic, expecting to find Charlie sad, gone, ill, or dead. He was none of those things. He was sleeping peacefully with no sign of trouble,

My father later explained that when he woke and found us gone, he assumed Charlie was with us. And this was a reasonable conclusion to draw. But I don't think my assumption was that outrageous, either: I had no idea my father would even wake, much less leave. It didn't occur to me, or to my mother, who knows his habits well, that we needed to consider that.

This was an honest mistake. It could happen to anyone. Of course, had this happened to someone in Lakewood or Boro Park, someone with 7 kids under the age of 10, for example, people would likely not be as charitable as they were to Julie, as the mother of only one child. There's always that disdain for parents of many children. How often have I overheard someome say about a particularly ill-behaved child who happens to have many siblings: "That's what happens when you have so many children! Who can give the child the attention he needs? It's a perfect recipe for behavioral problems!" Or the tragic circumstances of a father in Lakewood who mistakenly left his infant in the car over the course of a day, with a fatal outcome. I remember the neighbors, many non-Orthodox, being interviewed on television, and I recall them opining that the reason that this happened was because the family, while "nice people" just had "too many children to manage". It's easy to blame parenting mistakes on the "evils" of having too many children. Many of my coworkers are happy to give their (unsolicited) opinion that they think I should "stop" at four kids, as they don't think having more is "healthy" (they mean both physically and mentally, I presume).

So what I am about to admit may come as a shock to those who believe that parenting mistakes are the domain of mostly harried, struggling, Orthodox parents of too many children, who should have been on birth control 4 kids ago:

I have made similar mistakes too. There was the time that both OrthoDad and I though the other had taken child #2 out into the car in the car seat, only to realize after a few blocks of dead quiet that the said child was still home, in the middle of the living room floor, happily strapped into said car seat, gurgling at a toy, blissfully unaware that harried, struggling, Orthodox parents of only 2 children could have been so irresponsible. I have heard many similar stories from friends, all of which thankfully turned out as well as Julie's and mine, thank God.

Parents, like every other human on the planet, make mistakes. You hope they are small ones, and that they turn out okay for the child. Sometimes, they do not, and the circumstances are tragic. But mistakes can happen to anyone. Parents of 10 children, parents of two. Orthodox Jewish parents, and secular or non-Jewish parents.

So I'd like to end this in the same vein as Julie's post, which she ended like this (and don't forget to check out her comments thread for many parents commiserating on similar goofs):
I said at the beginning of this that every parent sooner or later makes a big mistake that could compromise a child's safety. My evidence for this belief is, I admit, anecdotal. I ask you, parents and those who have cared for a child in other capacities, am I right? Tell me. From letting the baby roll around on the bed and then hearing that sickening clonk on down, don't we all pull a boner sometime?

Uh, please feel free to post anonymously.
Ditto. Love to hear your stories of mistakes that turned out okay. We could all learn from each others mistakes. Trust me, after hearing Julie's story, if I ever leave the baby sleeping in the house with OrthoDad, you can bet I'm going to wake him up to tell him before I leave.

Related: My post on drive-by parenting


Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOVE it! Two points.
1. Locked my child in the car in 90 degree heat. Broke a window to get her out.
2. If you don't believe that these mistakes happen more to parents with alot of kids youre fooling yourself.

10:36 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

If you don't believe that these mistakes happen more to parents with alot of kids youre fooling yourself.
Define "more". 5% more? 50% more? We really have no idea. All I know is that I hear as much anecdotal evidence of it occurring in small families as it does in large ones. Parents get distracted, whether by other children, by a phone call, by being engrossed in a good book, by rushing to pack up a car and get out of the house. These mistakes should NEVER happen. But they do, and the best we can do, instead of erroneously writing it off as a problem that preys mostly on parents of many children, is learn from each other's mistakes so it happens as rarely as possible.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK. Two stories:
1. Saturday night. THe house was a wreck from a shabbos full of guests and playdates. My wife and I spend several exhausting hours putting the house back together. At midnoght or so, our final act is putting the baby bottles up to sterilize. We go to the bedroom, ptu the tv on and relax. Having had no shabbos naps, sure enough we fall asleep, the bottles at full boil by now.
My wife wakes me up a 3 am. THe house is full of thick choking smoke. My wife grabs the kids and runs onto the porch, while I run to the kitchen. THe bottles had become molten plastic but thankfully no fire. I call the fire department, which helps get the smoke out of the house, and my wife walks the kids over to a relative for the rest of the night.
Although the kids were all OK, thank God, it was certainly a close call. Another hour or so with that smoke in the house, who knows.
2. This story falls into the "drive by parenting" category. it was a hot summer day and I went with my daughter to pick something up at Staples. I return to the car -- with my daughter -- who I DID NOT LEAVE IN THE CAR -- and strap her into the car seat. I start the car up, turn on the a/c, and begin looking on the floor of the car for something (a music cassette or a toy, I forget). OUt of the corner of my eye I spot a father and his son passing by the car. Not seeing an adult in the front seat, he says somethign to his son, pointing at the car disapproving, no doubt pointing out how irresponsible the father of this girl is. (Keep in mind that the car is RUNNING so there HAD to be someone else in the car unless the driver decided to leave a running car unintended in Brooklyn). Of course, by the time I was in a position to say something to the man, he had passed.

11:26 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Ooh. We actually had a similar story. OrthoDad put a slice of pizza in the toaster oven on "bake", and then checked his watch, and realized if he ran out, he could make maariv. He left, leaving the pizza in and the toaster on, of course. I was sleeping upstairs, and was woken by the smoke alarm in the kitchen. Ran downstairs to see black smoke pouring out if the toaster. Luckily, the fire was confined to the toaster, and went out by itself. But OrthoDad GOT IT when he came home from maariv.

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

one summer when my oldest was about three, i took him to the community pool to swim. as i was watching him play in the kiddie wading pool, a friend called to me from the playground next door to the pool. i looked up, responded to her "hi" and then said i couldn't talk, as i needed to keep an eye on my son in the pool. as i turned back to the water, another mother asked me if my son knew how to swim and pointed to my son floating face down in the water! i grabbed him upright where he took a huge gasp, sputtered... and wanted to continue swimming. mind you, this whole exchange took only several seconds, but i think it took longer than that for my heart to stop palpitating... my son, now 9, by the way, is a fish in the water these days.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Rebeljew said...

Once, shortly after baby number 2, (there are now many more than that, BH), we were at the house of a family that had 5 kids, a 10 year old boy and a 2 year old girl among them. We went upstairs to set up the room before Shabbos, and we left the baby strapped in the high chair with these two children to keep her happy. When we returned, the boy was outside playing and the little girl was feeding the baby large cherries. The Rebel-tzin gasped, "PITS"! Without missing a beat, the little girl said "Oh, da baby can't have da pits. I took dem out. Da baby can CHOKE!" We saw that, indeed, the pits were in the garbage.

Moral of the story:
When seeking a babysitter, and given the choice of a boy of any age, or a girl who is herself a baby, there is no choice. (Not to overgeneralize, of course. ;))

1:52 PM  
Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

i once let my 5 year old daven from a askenaz siddur(whew got that off me chest)but please don't tell anyone!

3:04 PM  
Blogger WBS said...

As much as parents like to think it's more traumatic on them then the kid - you could be wrong, especially if kids were old enough to remember. Some adults have what they think to be irrational fears (of water, etc.) and forget/wasn't old enough to remember that something happened to them as babies/kids to cause it. Times change - what was considered to be normal/the law when I was younger (carseats not required for ages/weights that they are now) contributes to the "goofs" of today.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I gave my daughter a dose of childrens tylenol - 5 minutes after my husband had given it to her.

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When going somewhere, we carefully strapped our first child into her carseat. When coming to a slightly sharp stop at a traffic light, said child began whimpering a bit. We turned around and saw the entire carseat slid forward and was propped between the backseat and the back of the front seat. We had strapped her in, but neglected to strap the carseat to the car! Youch. The next purchase we made was a second carseat so that both cars had carseats firmly strapped in.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

This is turning into:

10:11 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

This is turning into:

I know, and I think it's a riot. Keep 'em coming, people.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to a San Fransisco State University, Dept of Geosciences study, there have been 264 hyperthermia deaths of children in vehicles since 1998. Although they didn't examine the family size of these cases, I would doubt that they all occured in large families.

As for my own parenting goofs, very similar to what someone else already wrote, I took my five year old and my three year old swimming. My wife was watching from outside the pool until she had to leave for a few minutes. The three year old was sitting on the steps of the pool and I was about 3 feet away, holding the five year old. Suddenly the five year old started laughing out loud. I asked what's so funny and she said " ______ (two year old) thinks she can swim". I turned around to see her floating face down in the water.

She was fine after a little bit of coughing, but it was enough to scare the heck out of me.

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just remembered one that happened to my friend's little sister in childhood! The mother in question was doing some housework while her 3 year old daughter was happily playing. Well, she was playing happily, but the game was "drag things to the bathroom and throw them out the fifth floor window". Said window was without a child guard, and said mother was only alerted to the situation when a neighbor below noticed things (a blanket, a pair of shoes etc.) flying past their window.

This really tickled my 8 year old sense of humor!

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The rolling off the bed thing- at least once with each of 5. My pediatrician used to ask at the one year checkup whether the kids getting checked had hit the "milestone" of falling of the bed yet. It was usually "yes".

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My youngest (of 3) is the only one to have fallen off a bed as an infant. From the center of a queen size bed, lying sideways, mind you. Those mushy hotel mattresses!

And twice I've had the "carseat police" - read that, my firstborn - pull me over within a mile for not buckling someone. He may have only been 4 the first time. But am I glad he believed me when I drilled into his head that IT MATTERS !!!

2:31 PM  
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