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How to Live With Your Biggest Parenting Mistakes

Photograph by Twenty20

Everything I learn about parenting I learn on Facebook.

Because I make most of my parenting decisions by posting a question on Facebook and culling through the data for the most popular response (replies and likes), it's not surprising that once in a while the hive gets it wrong. This very well may have happened when I asked, "Do I hold AJ (my 5-year-old son) back from Kindergarten because he is on the young side with a June 4th birthday?"

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The answer flooded in from moms everywhere. A bellowing "yes" blasted through the ether-waves. Every single mother of a boy said 100 percent yes, it was the best decision they ever made. On top of that, there are loads of valuable data to support red-shirting for boys. It allows them another year for play, emotional and physical development—a year to work out their ya-ya's on the play-yard before heading to the classroom. Some studies suggest it can give a kid like AJ an "edge" to enter kindergarten at 6 and 3 months rather than 5 and 3 months. In layman's terms, he would have more confidence, be better prepared and more mature, not to mention more likely to be "at the top of his class."

Heyyy, I want my kid to be at the top of his class! I want him to be the biggest, strongest and most evolved! I want him to rule that school! (Mostly because I didn't). This all sounded awesome to me and my Type-A, over-achieving, academic and athletically gifted ex-hubs. So, we did it. The kids all graduated preschool last year singing songs like, "We're going off to Kindergarten." AJ sang the song too, but landed right back in preschool this September.

My heart broke. I was ready to shoot Facebook, not to mention myself, for making this stupid decision based on what other people told me they did.

When I drove AJ to transitional kindergarten this year, I was immediately depressed. First of all, the place is miserable to me (it was too late to even think about looking elsewhere). The place is dark and dingy, and his classroom is a fluorescent-lit basement with zero natural daylight. I call it "The Dungeon." It literally gives me hives.

The next problem was he refused to let me leave him in yard in the mornings (a communal play area for all pre-school ages) with "all the babies." Things really exploded when we dropped Aria (my 9-year-old) at her school first, and he got a look at the out-of-this-world state-of-the art exceptionalism of the place, the elementary school he "would" have attended. He lost it. Then he saw all his old friends filing into Kindergarten there and the shit hit the fan. "I'm supposed to be in kindergarten! Why am I not there?! There's Ronan, he's YOUNGER THAN ME!!!"

My heart broke. I was ready to shoot Facebook, not to mention myself, for making this stupid decision based on what other people told me they did. It was one of the hardest decisions my ex and I have had to make, and we got it wrong. AJ is totally ready for kindergarten, would have been thriving, and there is tons of data I am now (why NOW?) finding to support the opposite.

Regrets, regrets, regrets. If only I have tuned in to who my child is and made my decision that way, instead of asking other people what worked for their kid. Couldn't it be that he is more mature than those other kids? He uses words like "random" "literally" and "actually, now that I think about it."

Texts between my ex and myself immediately after transitional kindergarten started went like this for days:

"Ugh what did we do?"

"Idiots! we made a huge mistake."

"I wanna shoot myself."

"We fucked up."

"Is it too late? Maybe we can switch?"

These texts were peppered with links to various articles like: "'Redshirting' Kindergarten -Age Kids Can Lead to Regrets" and "Youngest Kid Smartest Kid?" and more "ughs," "craps" and "I hate myselfs."

Lots of finger-pointing ensued. "Well remember you met that mom, the wife of your friend so and so and she said ... " "NO, no, YOU said that guy you worked with, well his wife is a teacher and she said ... "

It was a massive downward spiral of blame and shame.

A parenting motto to never forget: You can't win, you can't lose.

But then something happened. We had no choice but to snap out of it. We realized we didn't have a choice at this point. We are not pulling him out of transitional kindergarten. So what am I doing about it now? I am looking for all the GOOD THINGS that can come out of this whopping fuck-up.

How? Firstly, by going back to the scene of the crime and looking for outside validation from the hive, of course. I repost articles to support red-shirting on my Facebook wall and bask in all the likes. And mostly, I tell myself it's not the end of the world. There is always going to be data to support all sides of all arguments (hello, vaccines?!), so I think the most honest way to truly make the best of it is to know there is always a 50-50 chance you messed up either way.

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We could have sent AJ to kindergarten and it could have been a disaster, too. Bottom line, things will go wrong and things will go right. When you find yourself in the vortex of a massive mistake spiral, the best thing you can do is talk your way out of it by saying, if you had gone the other way (the other school, the different doctor, the different class, group, etc.) things might have been shit anyway.

A parenting motto to never forget: You can't win, you can't lose. And the Facebook hive is the WebMD of parenting, so maybe skip it next time you have a daunting question.

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