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Monday, January 19th, 2015
If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey like me, you already know that kids fall into the “seen but not heard” category.
Little George and Sybbie are off with Nanny, only appearing at afternoon tea for some hugs and kisses, while Little Marigold only gets snippets of time when her real mom calls at the pig farm.
Watching the younger parents of Downton, I’ve learned quite a few things about how NOT to raise kids. Sure, it’s a fictional family, but I think that any parent can avoid certain #parentingfails…like the ones I’ve observed so far.
Parenting Fail #1: Employing a straight-up crazy nanny - Even with impeccable references, Nanny West made it through the doors of Downton. But Mary Poppins she was not. Not only was she snooty and controlling, but she forbid Barrow from saying “hello” to Sybbie. Turns out she wasn’t concerned about germs: she believed Sybbie was a “wicked little cross-breed” who didn’t deserve affection. So the takeaway: Be extra vigilant about choosing nannies — contact all references, do background checks, schedule meet-and-greets, and, um, maybe install a nanny cam?
Parenting Fail #2: Pretending to be your own child’s godmother - So this fail isn’t entirely Edith’s fault; it was just a sign of the times that she felt an elaborate charade was necessary to protect her family’s reputation. But, it almost seems like too much to give up a child to a tenant, only to visit her enough to make the tenant’s wife suspicious, and then take an interest in being her fairy-godmother-of-sorts. By going it alone, things are more and more complicated. So the takeaway: Be honest with your parents, and hold onto your child; consider adoption right away, even if they’re reluctant, because it’s better to solve certain adoption roadblocks together.
Parenting Fail #3: Letting your child disrespect the patriarch - Okay, kids can’t always control what they say, but Tom should probably stop Sybbie from calling Lord Grantham “Lord Donk.” Yes, he deserves the nickname more often than not, but it might be better not to half-insult the man who pays for everything. Sybbie may not be a revolutionary rebel-in-the-making yet, but she should wait at least a few years before becoming one. So the takeaway: Kids are never too young to learn some polite manners, especially the respectful way to greet others.
Parenting Fail #4: Leaving your child for a week to have a secret tryst – Again, this fail on Mary’s part can also be blamed as a sign of the times, but…the whole scheme to go out of town just to sex-audition a potential husband also seems a bit much. Especially when all the planning doesn’t involve one consideration of leaving George behind for a week! (I mean, won’t she miss him? At all?) So the takeaway: When thinking about getting married, consider whether your potential mate would make a good father, especially one to a child who’s not his own.
As long as you avoid these four parenting pitfalls, you’ve pretty much nailed parenting. So fellow Downton Abbey fans, share the #parentingfails you’ve observed on the show!
Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com who covers baby-related content. She loves collecting children’s picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea
Image: Publicity photo of Tom Branson and little Sybbie via PBS Masterpiece
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Friday, January 16th, 2015
I spent one year working for the Mickey Mouse in Walt Disney World. It was hands down the most magical year of my life, filled with fun, learning, and a boatload of funny stories.
While I learned important lessons about teamwork and the power of positivity, I also learned a thing or two about parenting. By interacting with families of different backgrounds, sizes, and child-rearing styles, it became clear that all parents had alter egos on vacation. It was obvious when mom or dad were in full vacation parent mode, because they were savvy and quick on their feet when it came to handling children in a high stress (or high excitement) situation.
Here are some examples of how parents inspired me and had me taking notes on their impressive theme park parenting.
- Parents will stop at nothing to make sure that their kids are happy, even if that means sitting through It’s A Small World for an entire afternoon. While visiting Magic Kingdom on a day off, I watched a father re-enter the line for It’s A Small World four times because his daughter, “wanted to see the babies sing again.” My heart went out to him, and I respected the fact that he loved his daughter so much, enough that he would voluntarily ride in the tiny boat with her over and over again.
- Stroller folding is an art form that is extremely underappreciated. This I learned firsthand. Being a stroller parker just comes with the job when you work a Disney attraction. Fellow cast members and I would bribe each other to take our stroller shifts, because it was a grueling task. Not every stroller folds the same way, and some have crazy hard child safety locks that require patience and an owner’s manual to unlock. I respect the parents who lug these contraptions around with them all day long!
- Parents are experts when it comes to coping with wait times. I always commended those parents who stood on the two-hour meet-and-greet lines for characters with their kids. I felt sorry for these parents, until I looked closer. Their diaper bags were packed with snacks, coloring books, tablets loaded with movies, and anything else to entertain the little ones. It was like watching that scene from Mary Poppins where Mary opens up her duffel bag and pulls out a giant lamp and a potted plant, only with jumbo-sized bags of Cheerios and iPads instead.
- There is nothing quite like experiencing Disney through the eyes of a child. It is the reason why families keep coming back to Disney, and why I saw so many smiling parents crying happy tears when their kids saw Mickey for the first time or finally became big enough to ride the big-kid rides. In a child’s eyes, every character and attraction is real and there isn’t anything that magic can’t do. It was awe-inspiring and completely enlightening, talking to kids every day about Walt Disney World and all of the things they saw. I cried at least once a day, listening to the kids tell me about how the Make-A-Wish Foundation sent them to Disney to fulfill their dream of meeting Mickey Mouse or how they couldn’t wait to meet Cinderella and give her handwritten letters or colored pictures because she was their hero. It was an honor and it’s a much missed privilege to spend my days making magic for kids from around the world.
Image: Lake Buena Vista, FL via Shutterstock
Brooke Schuldt is an intern at Parents and the mother of a cactus named Timmy. She has a different hair bow for every day of the week. Follow her on Twitter.
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Thursday, December 11th, 2014
There are several parenting styles you can choose to follow when raising your kids. There’s helicopter parenting, when mom hovers over her kids during play dates or homework assignments, and lawnmower parenting, when dad mows down any obstacles in his kids’ way and smooths over all the problems. But lately, every parent seems to follow an animal’s approach to child rearing.
With the publication of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua in 2011, the Tiger Mom came to life. This mom is known for her intense focus on her kids’ success and achievements, and her discipline-based parenting approach. Since then, no animal has been left un-claimed by parents looking to define their personal parenting strategies. Last week, The Atlantic’s Priyanka Sharma-Sindhar explained why it’s okay to be an ‘elephant mom,’ which is the opposite of a Tiger Mom. Sharma-Sindhar defines Elephant Moms as “parents who believe that they need to nurture, protect, and encourage children, especially when they are still impressionable and very, very young.” To stay in-tune with the animal-parenting trend, The Washington Post’s Terri Rupar decided she is a ‘Sloth Mom,’ a parent who “loves her kids and lets them hang off her adorably sometimes, but is a big believer in conserving energy.”
Realistically, every parent has their Tiger Mom days (when they push their kid to practice the violin right before the holiday concert), Elephant Mom days (when they are waiting with a supporting hug after their kid missed the winning goal in soccer), and Sloth Mom days (when the iPad gets passed to the kid so mom can finally finish Amy Poehler’s Yes Please). And it’s even okay to be all three animals in one day.
Have you picked your animal spirit guide yet? Let us know in the comments.
Image: Elephant Mom via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
I got married about three weeks ago, and everyone has asked how married life feels. I think it feels about 0% different that non-married life. However, five months ago when my husband and I bought our “baby” a.k.a. our house that needed some serious love, it most certainly changed my life forever. Last week, my colleague wrote about how her puppy is preparing her for parenthood, which inspired me to consider some of the ways our house is prepping us to be parents. We may not have pets, but I am confident our home is giving us key lessons in how to raise a baby as a team.
- We’ve made a lot of first-time home renovator mistakes that turned out to be OK. There was that time my husband took a sledgehammer to the tub and ended up bursting open our toilet with his backswing. It was, quite frankly, disgusting and I freaked out. It was like a diaper blowout that we weren’t prepared for times 1,000. But as we ran (literally) the surprisingly heavy toilet and its broken parts through the kitchen and out the back door, I couldn’t help but laugh. Part of me wants to write a book on what not to do when doing construction on a house, but part of me thinks failure is part of the fun (really!). I hope failure in small doses is part of the fun of parenting as well, because I’m now super prepared for it.
- If we could have a giant baby monitor on the house, we probably would. We don’t live in our house currently, since we’re down a toilet and a kitchen and other essential things for the moment. But we’re complete hover parents. Every time we’re out we’re thinking, “Should we stop by the house?” “Should we check on the house?” “I wonder how the house is doing.” As if the house could magically do a cartwheel or something. We just don’t want to miss it.
- It’s really exhausting. I cannot emphasize this enough. All I can think about here is the movie Neighbors when Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne decide to go out to the club with their baby. The movie is really silly, but I think that scene is gold. I highly recommend watching just that scene. Anyway, the night comes to an end early when they fall asleep getting ready. Yep, I can relate. We’re mostly sticking to the suburban life these days, which is fine because I’d pick sorbet from 16 Handles over overpriced drinks (almost) any day.
- We end up spending the extra $$ to make sure everything runs smoothly. We are totally DIY when it comes to this house and are actively trying to keep costs down as much as possible – think first-time parents with cloth diapers – but sometimes you just have to splurge a little to keep your sanity. Sometimes I have to buy a little chocolate from the Home Depot checkout line when we spend hours in there. I get hangry looking at tile grout, OK?
- Our work will never be done, but it’s so worth it. Well, that almost goes without saying.
Parents, I don’t know how to do it, but I guess I’ll figure out some day, because I’m not doing this house for nothing. But seriously, I hope you give yourselves credit for all of the hard work you do every day. And I hope you’ll join me in grabbing some chocolate every now and then. You deserve it.
P.S. Our house doesn’t actually look anything like the photo above.
Image via Shutterstock.
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Friday, November 14th, 2014
In March, my fiancé and I brought home a corgi puppy named Murray. I read plenty of dog-raising books beforehand, so I knew full well what I was getting into. Even still, I was surprised by how “mom-like” I immediately became.
Of course, I would never claim that raising a dog is the same as raising a child. (You can’t leave your kid in a crate when you aren’t home, after all!) But that said, I’m finding that our puppy is helping prepare me for the day when I have children of my own. Here are just a few of the ways:
1. He keeps us up at night. The first full day we spent with Murray is a blur in my mind—probably because I was so exhausted from listening to him cry the night before, I could barely think straight. He quickly figured out that his crate is actually pretty comfortable, but that still didn’t stop him from waking us in the middle of the night when he needed to go the bathroom. (And if you think getting up at 3 a.m. is bad, imagine having to venture outside during the winter too!) These days, Murray’s able to make it through the night without a trip to the backyard, but there are still those occasions where we wake up to the sound of vomiting. Lovely.
2. He’s taken over our free time. When I get out of work now, I have to hurry home to let Murray out, so that means no meet-ups with friends. Weekends are often spent catering to our puppy’s needs, whether it’s a vet visit or bringing him to the dog park. And we’re no longer able to just go away for the weekend like we used to do. While I do miss having a flexible schedule, I find it doesn’t matter so much now that I have a furry friend following me around the apartment. (Besides, he’s also a great excuse to get out of invites I have no interest in!)
3. I have become the new mom who worries about every little thing. On my first day alone with Murray, he suddenly became sick. Panicked, I called my dad, and then the vet. I was sure he had eaten something horrible and it was my fault for not watching him more carefully. Turns out, he was just “overexcited.”
4. I’m learning to enforce my rules with others. Just like a child, Murray has already figured out that “Grandma” and “Grandpa” don’t know all of the rules—and he’s happy to take advantage of that! And interestingly enough, my dad—who always kept our family dog in line when I was kid—will encourage Murray to be naughty. It’s strange learning to speak up to my parents in a respectful way, but I suppose it’s a useful life skill to develop.
5. I spend way too much time talking about the digestive process and gross body fluids. See #1 and #3.
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