I was inspired by a friend who one day noted that any time she read a list written by "experts" about things she should never do as a parent, she inevitably failed at a minimum of 80 percent of those things. I fail at closer to 100 percent. I put my kids to bed too early, or I put them to bed too late. I let them cry too much, or I shouldn't have let them sleep in our bed. I fed them solid foods too early, or fed them the wrong ones, or kids shouldn't be eating steak at six months.
So I thought, "Why the hell not create the definitive list of things parents shouldn't do? And if anyone fails at my list, they deserve to feel bad about it."
There's nothing people like more than getting advice from other parents, especially when those parents don't know them at all and have never met their children. So here goes -- my list of seven things I don't think a parent should ever do.
1. Don't put your child's head into the mouth of a hungry (or even a recently fed) shark.
I think it's important that parents who are doing this stop doing this. Sharks, especially those who have been starved for days, can severely injure a child, particularly one who still has an undeveloped soft spot on the top of his or her head. Are you one of the parents who regularly does this? You're doing things wrong.
2. Don't give your 3-year-old a boa constrictor and agree to let them sleep together but "just for one night."
Now, giving a boa constrictor as a gift, in and of itself, could maybe work out just fine for families. Would I do it? No, but I'm deathly afraid of pictures of snakes, so I sure as hell don't want a real one in my house. If you do take the route of buying one, it's highly recommended that you don't let your snake and your son or daughter spend the first night alone in the child's bed. Snakes like this use constricting techniques to kill things. A child is a thing. You doing this? You're parenting poorly.
3. Don't show your kids that you can slide down the chimney just like Santa Claus.
It seems so tempting, doesn't it, especially if you have the luxury of a having lot of butter in your house (for baking, of course) that you can use to grease the sides of the chimney? What's going to happen, though, is that you're going to get stuck in your chimney. You might even die. That does not make for good Christmas memories going forward. Oh God, have you already done this? You're a terrible parent.
4. Don't bathe your children in Coke.
Some parents won't even have Coke in the house -- did you know that? That's something else, but I'd never say you're a bad parent just because you keep a bottle (or even a case of 24 cans) of Coke in your kitchen. Now, if you start bathing your children in Coke, that's a different story. Unless, of course, your child is a tooth you're looking to make disappear -- or a green penny you'd like to make coppery again. If that's your situation, you're forgiven for bathing your kids in Coke, because that's really all you can do. If not, and you're still bathing them in pop, shame on you. And, you're a bad parent.
5. Don't re-enact the alien-through-the-stomach scene from Alien with your kids using a real alien in their stomach.
Doing this with props is cool. In fact, doing this with props puts you on the other end of the parenting spectrum, the end where people put your picture on their list of things you SHOULD do as a parent. If you're luring aliens into your child's stomach with indecipherable boops and beeps or a food recipe you've found on Pinterest that aliens are supposedly big on, your child might be better off in a different home. This scene cannot be re-enacted using real aliens, I'm telling you that right now. If you're sitting on your family room couch right now feeling for aliens in your kid's stomach, you're a bad parent.
6. Don't go exploring random snowy mountains dressed for spring weather looking for a snowman named Olaf.
I know the temptation to do this all too well. I'm not even suggesting that looking for Olaf in proper winter clothing is wrong -- I know I'd do it -- but you simply cannot put your kid in a dress alone and let them explore. Skin a bear, drape some heavy moss over your shoulder, do something to brace yourselves against the cold air of a snowy mountain. If you don't do this, let me be the one to tell you that you're a bad parent.
7. Don't change your parenting style because an "expert" has a list that suggests you're parenting wrong.
This happened to me once because we used a "cry it out" method for sleep training. I was quoted saying we used that method in a story in the Globe and Mail, and in the next sentence I was called "emotionally unavailable." Because the person making this statement had capitalized letters following their name, I thought they must be right. Then I remembered that I hugged and kissed and talked to and laughed with and read to and bathed and fed my children every day. Oh, and I forgot that the person with all the letters wasn't the parent to my children. We were the parents. We made choices we deemed best for our kid. Hooray! So forget these stupid lists (well, except this one) because they are written almost 100 percent of the time by somebody who isn't the parent of your children.
I sincerely hope you didn't fail at too many of these.