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An age-by-age guide to screwing up your kids

Sherri Kuhn writes about raising teenagers, the perils of a clean home, wistfulness over babies, and anything else that makes her laugh (or cry) in the years between changing diapers and wearing them. With a son just starting college and...

Perfect parents? They don't exist

Sure, we all want to be perfect parents — at least some of the time, anyway. For all those times you made him the perfect crust-less peanut butter sandwich or reminded her to say “please,” there is also the seedier side of parenting.
Mother and daughter

There are those moments we leave out of the scrapbook and don’t admit to in a Facebook status update.

Most parents begin each new day with the hope that they’ll get it right — that today will be the best parenting day ever. Often this pursuit of perfection is off course by the time someone spills milk all over the breakfast table and the baby bites the dog. We all strive for parenting perfection, but aren’t we really just screwing up our kids? We gathered some helpful age-by-age tips just to make sure you’re doing this parenting thing right.

Newborns and infants

Baby crying

Ah, those sweet little newborns! What should be the easiest period of parenting often becomes the craziest. Yes, they do sleep a lot — just not when you want them to. Crazy baby schedules lead to sleep-deprived moms strung out on caffeine. Which means that things happen.

Loud alarm

At some point during your newborn-craziness phase, be sure to set off the smoke alarm while she is sleeping. This will cause your heart rate to shoot through the roof, and your baby to launch into hysterics. Three hours later when she’s finally calmed down you will curse the person who installed said smoke alarm so close to the kitchen.

Long car ride

Think babies love the car? Assume your newborn bundle of joy will love a nine-hour car trip to visit grandparents and load her up! Don’t worry that she’s wailing before you even leave the driveway — it will get better. After several hours of screaming (from you and the baby) you will vow never to drive anywhere again. Until she’s 13.

Video tape those milestones

Love capturing your baby’s milestones on camera? Those first few steps are so cute, and make for super cute video footage to show the grandparents, neighbors and anyone who can't avoid you quickly enough. The best thing to do is to spend so much time focusing on the filming that the baby falls down as you are filming. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the fact that Mom can be heard laughing in the background of the video tape seals the deal on this screw-up.

Locked in the car

The best way to screw up your newborn? Accidently lock her in the car. With your keys right on the seat next to her. This results in a mom freak-out of epic proportions, especially if Baby is awake and crying. Passers-by will “tsk-tsk” you as you frantically call the fire department on your iPhone — which is obviously more important to you than your baby, since you’ve never locked it in the car.

Terrible toddlers

Overprotective mom with toddler at the beach

Who says the 2s are terrible? The difficulties of this particular age group go way beyond just the age of 2. Three-year-old kids are more than you bargained for too.

Crazy protective mom

Toddlers are running and climbing and jumping 24/7. Want to really screw him up? Follow at close range, shouting out random warnings every few minutes like, “Watch out for those branches!” or “Be careful in the puddle!” Nothing makes someone feel more loved than being stalked. And shouted at all the time.

Germ-a-phobe

Oh, the germy messiness of a toddler! In order to make sure he grows up with either a phobic condition or a tic, make sure you follow him around at all times with the bottle of hand sanitizer. For good measure, be sure to add “Don’t touch!” and “Ooh, dirty!” to make sure he really gets that all of the things are dirty. And germy.

Touching himself

The first time it happens, you may think nothing of it. Maybe it was incidental, accidental or just a figment of your imagination. After a while it becomes painfully clear — toddlers are not shy about touching their privates in public. Make sure to tell him he will go blind or injure himself in some way, so that he’s sure to be tormented and confused about his privates at least through his teens.

Next up: Our guide to screwing up your older kids

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