Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content




Parenting rookie mistakes: Freestyle fingerpainting comes with a price Add to ...

Do you have a rookie parenting mistake you'd like to share, for naive moms and dads everywhere?

Send it to community@globeandmail.com with "Rookie Mistake" in the subject line, or tweet it to @globelife with the hashtag #rookiemistake

Rookie Mistake #1:

The scenario: Wanting our two-year-old to discover her inner da Vinci.

The innocent thought: We’ll stay a step ahead, and set her up with her paper and fingerpaints outside, where she can make a mess and it won’t matter.

The cold reality: She painted on the paper at first, but a few inexpert brushstrokes later, it was all over her arms. “Stay a step ahead!” we thought. “It’s a warm day. Let’s take off her shirt before she covers it in paint.” This served only to open up her whole body as a canvas: She gleefully painted all over herself; and then the garage; and then the tree. We needed buckets of water to get her clean enough just to come back into the house for a bath.

Rule to live by: Fingerpaint is just another word for everythingpaint.

- Written by Alasdair McKie and Emma Evans in Toronto

Rookie Mistake #2:

The scenario:

Seeking out something fun and stimulating for my one-year-old daughter to break up the monotony of driving around, running errands.

The innocent thought:

She plays with ribbons all the time, and she’s a big fan of the bath. I’ll take her through a car wash! Talk about ribbons and the bath on steroids, she’ll love it.

The cold reality:

Turns out a car wash, if you’re a baby, is like being restrained and having your eyelids pried open to watch It Came from Beneath the Sea. As soon as the water started spraying the car, she began screaming in a hysterical panic. When the rubber streamers and twirling rollers engulfed the vehicle, panic turned to sheer horror. Trapped on the conveyer belt of doom, I frantically tried to reassure her from the front seat that she was safe, and wasn’t the car wash so much fun? I might as well have been explaining to a mouse that the cat chasing it just wants to be friends. It was the longest seven minutes of both our lives.

Rule to live by:

Never assume bigger is better.

- Inspired by Erin Brown in Bobcaygeon, Ont.

Rookie Mistake #3:

The scenario: On a hot day, putting our 10-month-old baby down for a morning nap wearing only a diaper.

The innocent thought: He’ll sleep better if he’s cool.

The cold reality: The nap goes long, and is suspiciously quiet. We look in and discover our little dear has pooped, broken into his diaper and used the contents to “paint” his nursery. Spend the next two hours trying to get poop off wallpaper. Do you know how you get poop off wallpaper? You have to steam it. The afternoon is spent at a walk-in clinic getting a prescription for the infection that quickly developed when our son put his poop-covered hands in his eyes.

Rule to live by: Invest in a fan and a lot of onesies – once a baby figures out how to use his thumbs, no diaper in the world stands a chance.

- Darcy, a reader in Toronto

Rookie Mistake #4:

The scenario : Meet a pregnant colleague at a hip coffee shop with 5-month old in tow, to share wisdom gained in first few months of motherhood.

Innocent Thought: After months of fumbling through outings and having a hot cup of coffee perpetually out of reach, baby is now predictable. Time to re-enter the world as a showered, caffinated, non-pyjama-wearing fountain of parenting knowledge.

The Cold Reality : A few sips in, baby has a poo-nami – the diaper didn’t stand a chance. The bathroom, designed for hipsters, doesn’t have a change table. Lay her down on the only open spot on the floor – by the cash – and commence clean up. The smell of fertilizer starts to overtake the smell of coffee beans. Clothes have to be condemned. I ask the fedora-ed, mustached young man behind the counter who is shooting lasers out of his eyes for a bag and some napkins, since this is more than a 10-wipe job. Naked and writhing on the floor, baby has biggest pee ever. Pregnant colleague watches in horror as the entrance to the shop becomes flooded. Throw a diaper on the girl, wipe her pee-soaked hair with my shirt, ask if Laser Eyes if he has a mop and make a run for it.

Rule to Live By: Babies can sense when you’re feeling good and need to be put back in place. Accept your limits. And scope out the bathroom before committing to any public outing.

Rookie Mistake #5:

The scenario: Baby develops a taste for orange foods, exclusively.

The innocent thought: No harm can come from this. Why fight about food when so many things have been so hard, we're so tired and it's all wholesome stuff anyway? Just give the little fella his peaches, apricots, squash, carrots and sweet potatoes and enjoy these precious moments together.

The cold reality: Happy, well-fed baby wakes up with a skin tone that is an alarming shade of orange. Parents fear the worst and assume it's organ failure, or that he's snuck out of his crib and hit the local tanning bed. We embark upon an epic battle to reintroduce foods of all colours. Our teeny Ricardo Montalban takes it badly. In-laws exchange incredulous glances, but that's not new. Orange babies? That's new.

Rule to live by: Variety is the spice of life. And no one looks good dressed head-to-toe in orange. Not even kids.

-  Wes, a reader from Burlington, Ont.

Rookie Mistake #6:

The scenario: Driving to Toronto from Ottawa with a 3-month-old for a wedding.

Innocent Thought: This’ll be a cinch. The baby will sleep most of the way in the car – that’s what all the other parents tells us.

The Cold Reality: Yeah, turns out we don’t have a “sleeper.” So instead of a leisurely ride where my wife and I take advantage of the open road to “catch up,” she sits in the back seat, hysterically attempting to entertain our little bundle of insomnia while I white-knuckle it to Toronto. We get about three hours of sleep over the entire weekend.

Rule to Live By: Before believing a word from another parent, establish their level of sleep deprivation. If it’s anything other than severe, ignore them entirely and send a gift card.

–  Daniel, a reader from Ottawa

Rookie Mistake #7:

The scenario: Choosing the morning junior kindergarten class for oldest child, while on maternity leave for second.

The innocent thought: If I don't have a reason to get out of the house in the morning, we'll all sleep in and be unproductive louses. The newborn is up early anyway. We can all nap in the afternoon.

The cold reality: Unbridled chaos before sunrise. Small people are dressed and bathed in the kitchen. Big people never get showers. Coats and boots are thrown across the yard in a perverted game of fetch, just to get the school-bound child out of the house. Over the course of the year, the number of times we managed to arrive at school on time was exactly never.

Rule to live by: When given the option, choose unproductive louse, every time.

Rookie Mistake #8:

The scenario: A two-year-old's birthday in the park.

The innocent thought: A helium Thomas the Tank Engine balloon will help friends locate our camp at a busy playground. The kids won't even know it's there - not when there are slides, monkey bars, cupcakes, and it's flying six feet above their eye level.

The cold reality: Balloon turns party into pint-sized UFC match. Hair is pulled, full-body tackles are thrown, little elbows are dropped in a full-throttle battle for control. The phrase "worst meltdown I've ever seen" is overheard repeatedly. Kids cannot be reasoned with, or bribed - they spit in the face of timeouts. An adult finally takes Thomas behind a tree and puts him (and everyone else) out of his misery.

Rule to live by: One balloon per kid, or none at all.

Do you have a rookie parenting mistake you'd like to share, for naive moms and dads everywhere?

Send it to community@globeandmail.com with "Rookie Mistake" in the subject line, or tweet it to @globelife with the hashtag #rookiemistake

Report Typo/Error

Follow on Twitter: @amberlym


Next story




Most popular videos »

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular