Number 4 is right smack dab in the middle. Maybe his loud voice and impulsive behavior is a survival instinct for him. After all, I tend to leave kids behind if they don’t remind me that they’re around. My parenting fails have included the usual mishaps (such as, neglecting to pack diapers in the diaper-bag). My largest parenting fails have mostly indicated that it’s tricky to keep track of so many kids.
It happens… not my proudest mommy moments… but it happens. The chaos of herding everyone into the van is more than you’d think for a bunch of medium-sized people who know how to put on their own shoes and buckle their own seatbelt. The smallest kids, I always check on those guys, so they don’t ever get lost… well, there was that one time, but we’ll get to that later.
The Out of Sight; Out of Mind Parenting Fails
I left Number 7 sleeping in the van once (not for long). I just assumed someone else would grab him (he was brand new, and always being fought over). It was half a year before Number 6 would come inside from the garage before Number 7. At first, I didn’t understand why he was standing next to his little brother’s door instead of walking inside. When I realized that he was just making sure the baby didn’t get forgotten again, I was a little insulted… and strangely proud that my four-year-old was doing what he could to protect his helpless little brother.
Flash forward three years… I left Number 6 asleep on his floor while the rest of us went to Grandma’s house. In my defense, it was in the middle of the afternoon, and I specifically asked if there was anyone left in the house before I locked up. It felt like there were less kids than usual climbing out of the van, so I took a quick inventory. Number 6 was missing; I returned home and found him sleeping peacefully under a blanket on the floor of his bedroom. This was a curious turn of events… usually, I’m accidentally leaving kids at Grandma’s house- not the other way around.
There was also the Great Church Debacle of 2015. You can read about that one here… I just don’t want to re-live it right now.
TIP: Be the last person inside. Count the kids as they walk in/out the door if you can, and always make sure the van (or house) is empty before you lock up.
The Wanderlust Parenting Fails
During Spring Break, my mom, sisters, and I love to take our kids to the San Antonio Zoo. Since our group size is large, we always wear matching shirts in an effort to keep track of each other. That year, Number 4 discovered on our map a new exhibit, “TOADally”, and he was completely obsessed with going there because his Kindergarten mascot was Freddie the Frog. Unfortunately, we didn’t go straight to see the “shrogs” (as No.4 pronounced “frogs”). He bugged us and bugged us, but we insisted on stopping to see the other exhibits along the way.
It was all fun and games until my mom realized Number 4 hadn’t asked about the “shrogs” in a while. Having a good idea of why he disappeared, I walked straight to the TOADally exhibit, but didn’t find him there. We all searched the area looking for a little green shirt. In front of the ice cream shack, I spotted two security officers chatting with my little green shirt as he happily licked an ice cream.
Yes officers, that is my son. Yes officers, I’ll keep a better eye on him. Thank you officers, I think he’s cute too. Yes officers, I’ll take him to see the shrogs right away.
And that was probably the first great give away of Bad Parent Points for my parenting fails. After this trip to the zoo, my teacher sister found some kid-friendly Identification Cards on lanyards for the group to wear. If we forgot those, we Sharpied our phone number on our kids’ arms (at least those too young to memorize it).
TIP: Wear the same colored shirts to events; it will take a shorter amount of time to track kids down. Also, supply kids with a phone number to call if someone else finds them.
The Too Many Indians; Not Enough Indian Chiefs Parenting Fails
Two years ago we took another family outing, this time to the San Antonio Rodeo. We had everyone loosely organized and mostly controlled until I split off with Number 6 to take him to the bathroom. I trusted my mom and sisters would herd the rest of my kids to our next destination. After the potty break, Number 6 and I joined up with the rest of the family. They had already made their way through most of the exhibit, so it wasn’t until we made it to the end that I realized Number 5 wasn’t with them. My mom and sisters thought I had taken all three boys to the bathroom.
As soon as I checked my phone, I saw that I missed a call from an unfamiliar number. It was rodeo security; they found Number 5 pushing Number 7 in his stroller to our van in the parking lot. Apparently, Number 5 (who was eight years old and in charge of his two-year-old-brother in the stroller) lost the group when we split up, and assumed we had decided to leave. The good news is that Number 5 knew my phone number; the bad news is… well, I lost two kids that day.
Yes officers, those are my kids. No officers, I didn’t see them walk off. Yes officers, I’ll keep better track of them next time. Thank you officers, I think they’re cute too. Thank you officers for the big shiny safety stickers.
TIP: Make eye contact before leaving others in charge of your kids. Most of the time, the kids will follow the right crowd (or get in the right car), but they’re kids- they get confused too, so make sure they know the plan. Most of the time, the people you leave in charge of your kids are diligent, but they can’t know who you are leaving them responsible for if you don’t verbalize.
Plan for the Worst; Hope for the Best to Avoid Parenting Fails
In the fall, five or six years ago, we went on a family picnic. It was a nice area with trees and room to let the kids run around. There was even a little river at the bottom of a twenty foot cliff. Alarm bells, right? River… cliff… kids… We decided among ourselves that if any kid went over that cliff, our youngest sister was to dive in after him (let’s be real, it was going to be a boy). She was the best swimmer and in the best shape, and she carried the least amount of electronics.
When our picnic came to an end, we started gathering up the kids. Number 4 (six years old at the time) was drawing in the dirt with a stick; his back to the cliff. When he stood up to go, he lost his balance and fell backwards off the cliff. We all watched him go over, but no one was close enough to stop him. I ran to the edge just as he popped up and started treading water- quite the surprised look on his face. I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving that my mom sent him to swimming lessons that summer, and waited for my little sister to make her way into the water and rescue him.
TIP: Make a Disaster Plan, even if you don’t believe that anything will go wrong. Truth be told, family outings are loud and rambunctious, but rarely do they turn into disasters. Be aware of your surroundings, and point out possible danger to the kids; and when those alarm bells go off, don’t ignore them!
More “Just in Case” Tips to Avoid Parenting Fails
We take a picture of the kids before embarking on our adventures: A picture of the kids and what they are wearing that day is extremely helpful information for the authorities to use in the event of a lost-child situation. Also, it’s just nice to get a group picture.
The Count-off: I’ve mentioned this before in a previous post; we count our kids. Like all of the time. Keeping a head count is the easiest way to track the kids when we’re out. Once we get to the van, we have the kids count themselves off to be sure we aren’t missing anybody.
I used to leave my purse everywhere… now I’m more in the habit of leaving kids. Some might call it, “selective memory”.
Want to let me know that I’m not that bad of a mother despite these parenting fails? Feel free to let me know in the Comments section!