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Jon and Kate Gosselin
Jon and Kate Gosselin

Lessons learned

Top 10 cautionary tales for Mom and Dad Add to ...

1. SOME DOLLS MAKE BRATZ LOOK WHOLESOME

Parents faced an array of oversexed and just plain icky dolls this year. First came Totally Stylin' Tattoo Barbie with a "tattoo stamper" gun so kiddies could ink themselves (temporarily). Then Spanish toy maker Berjuan introduced a breastfeeding doll that makes sucking noises when its mouth meets the daisy-shaped nipples worn by the child "mom." But even that toy's shock value paled compared with Pole Dance, a miniature stripper-in-training sold in Asia. What's next - My Little Methhead?

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2. BREEDING MULTIPLES IS NOT THE SAME AS MOTHERING

Note to Nadya Suleman: Giving birth to the world's longest surviving set of octuplets does not make you a modern-day Madonna (or even Angelina Jolie). You've got to nurture them, too - and that doesn't mean pimping your brood on reality TV. And you did the IVF community no favours by insisting that your fertility doctor transfer all six of your frozen embryos when you already had half a dozen mouths to feed. If you're going to have 14 kids during a recession, at least get off the food stamps first.

3. IT'S A FINE LINE BETWEEN FAME AND INFAMY

What kind of parents fake their son's disappearance in a homemade helium balloon? Hint: The kind that appeared (twice) on the reality show Wife Swap . Richard and Mayumi Heene kept mum for hours while National Guard helicopters searched the Colorado skies for their six-year-old son Falcon, a.k.a. Balloon Boy. Last week, their dreams of fame and fortune vanished into thin air when the couple was sentenced to a total of 110 days in prison - and prohibited from making a dime off the hoax.

4. ROLY POLY IS CUTE. BLIMPY, NOT SO MUCH

Pity the Indonesian infant born this year at 19 pounds; his days being coddled in a baby carrier were numbered. But at least he wasn't ordered into protective custody and his mom charged with criminal neglect for overfeeding him - the plight of Alexander Draper, a 14-year-old boy in South Carolina who tipped the scale at 555 pounds.

5. EIGHT IS WAY MORE THAN ENOUGH

Sure, Jon Gosselin was a rubbernecker and Kate was a nag, but their marriage might have stood a chance had they not spawned so many kids. After the couple called it quits in June, Jon & Kate Plus Eight got so tedious that Jon did everyone a favour by kyboshing the show. Finally, the little Gosselins have a chance at a private life.

6. AGE IS JUST A NUMBER. SOMETIMES

In Canada, the age cut-off for fertility treatments is 50. But that didn't stop a 60-year-old Calgary woman from becoming the oldest Canadian ever to give birth. Ranjit Hayer received donor eggs in India and then had premature twins at Calgary's Foothills Hospital in February. Let's hope she lives longer than Maria del Carmen Bousada, the 69-year-old mother in Spain who died of cancer in July, just 2½ years after giving birth to twin boys.

7. ADOPTION ISN'T ALWAYS FOREVER

Earlier this year, Michelle Brau of Utah gave up two Guatemalan boys after six years because she was unable to bond with them. A few months later, Anita Tedaldi posted on a New York Times blog about finding a new home for her adopted son after 18 months. Outraged parents pointed out that no orphan deserves such rejection. But in the end, what's better for the kids? Life with a reluctant adoptive mother - or another crack at a loving family?

8. SO MUCH FOR TRUSTED NAMES IN BABY GEAR

This fall, 2.1 million Stork Craft brand drop-side cribs were recalled in Canada and the United States after incidents of falling or suffocation. And one million Maclaren umbrella strollers were affected by a voluntary recall after reports of fingertip amputations in children. Health Canada has announced the recall of nearly 100 kids' products this year alone. What will it take for government officials to inspect them before they hit the stores?

9. THE THREE-MARTINI PLAYDATE HAS A DARK SIDE

Stand-up comedienne Stefanie Wilder-Taylor was on a roll with her booze-themed parenting books, including Naptime is the New Happy Hour . Then she realized that "blurring the edges" with up to four drinks a day was no joke. When she blogged about laying off the sauce, she was deluged with e-mails from parents who became problem drinkers after having kids.

10. TOO MUCH BABY EINSTEIN MAKES FOR A DULL BAMBINO

The more an infant watches DVDs such as Baby Einstein , the lower he or she will score on a standard language development test, researchers have found. This fall, as threats of a class-action lawsuit grew louder, Disney offered a refund for up to four DVDs per household. For parents, it meant no more parking the wee one in front of the boob tube, guilt-free.

Follow on Twitter: @AdrianaBarton

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