5 Mistakes Made by Every New Parent

There will never be anything in your life as frightening and demanding as becoming a parent. If you haven't had a child yet, every mom and dad reading this article will back me up when I say "You are not prepared" in my creepy Diablo III voice.

That is, until you have children beyond the first one. In that case, all of us look back on our first attempts at raising a child and laugh until we pass out from lack of oxygen. Virtually all of us go through it; it's nothing to be ashamed of. But eventually, we look back and realize that we all made the same common mistakes, like ...

#5. Not Giving the Kid Enough Space

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The First Child

In the early stages of parenthood, this is mostly associated with the debate on whether you should let them "cry it out." Look, I'll be perfectly honest here ... I don't give a crap how long you let your baby cry, as long as I'm not in the house while it's going on. A baby's cry is nature's car alarm, designed specifically to alert a parent that there is something that needs to be taken care of. "I'm hungry" or "I just shit my pants" or "Hey, a bear is attacking me." It's a primal alert system that has worked for millions of years, long before diaper rash creams and teething gel ever existed. I've never known a criminal whose actions could be traced back to the amount of time he or she was left crying in the crib -- that's for you, your doctor, and your instincts to work out. But ...

"Space" takes on a whole different, extremely important meaning when they're old enough to grasp the idea of entertainment. The problem with new parents (myself included) is that they want to spend every waking second with their child, participating in their games, playing pretend with them, and monitoring their every action to make sure they're not doing something stupid like eating a knife. And that's fine to a certain degree. But if you let it go on long enough without giving them some space, they will learn very quickly that the only way they can have fun is if you are involved.

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"I dunno, let's just get drunk or something. This sucks."

But After That, You Realize ...

That is an absolute disaster for an adult because it is physically impossible for us to put the rest of our lives on hold in order to make sure our child never experiences simple boredom. Learning that Mom and Dad aren't going to be there with them every second of the day is one of the most important lessons they can learn right out of the gates. Giving them alone time, even when their restlessness has turned them into whiny pieces of shit, will trigger their creative side, because now they have to find something to do without an adult showing them how. This is how all artists and hobbies are born. And some government agencies.

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"Goddammit, leave me alone. Would you just go find something to do? Wait, why are you crying?"

When they're older, it gets scarier. For instance, I have never had a problem with my kids having their friends over for the weekend, but for the longest time, I wouldn't let them stay at someone else's house. It was my overprotective side kicking in, and I didn't realize that it was sending a very clear message to both my kids and their friends' parents that said, "I don't trust you to not die when I'm not around."

It's so hard to remember that your core job as a parent is training them to survive on their own, and in order to do that, you absolutely have to start giving that leash some slack. No, it doesn't mean that you have to let a 7-year-old run all over town without an adult, but it does mean that if you need a break, you damn well deserve to take it, and your kid isn't going to be traumatized into a murderous rampage by it. In fact, they'll benefit from it.

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"No, you go ahead and take your break. I'll be waiting right here. Waiting ... and plotting."

If you're not careful with this, you could very easily end up ...

#4. Letting the Child Affect Your Marriage (and Vice Versa)

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The First Child

I can't even begin to tell you how many marriages I've seen break down into petty bickering and ugly bile because the new parents went to the extreme of devoting 100 percent of their attention to the child. In every case, one of the parents ends up feeling resentment for the other because of that void, while the other feels resentment in return because the first person appears needy and just keeps getting in the way.

And no, it's not just a case of "My genitals need to be slapped around." It's about inclusion and acknowledgement.

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"Why don't you tell that fuckhead behind you to stop being such a sulky pussy?"

But After That, You Realize ...

Yes, the child deserves to have two happy parents working in conjunction in order to make her life more comfortable and stress-free ... but equally as important is that you also deserve that same benefit. And that means taking some time for you and your partner. Unfortunately, that lack of connection is extremely common, because no new parent is comfortable leaving their kid alone with a babysitter for the first time. We feel like any time away from the baby makes us neglectful, and all we can picture when we're away is the sitter laughing maniacally while she flame-throwers our house and punts our child around the room like a soccer ball.

That line of thinking is horseshit. In order to make this work, you absolutely have to remember that romance is an actual part of your relationship. It's hard. When you have a child, your entire life turns into work and chores. Everything feels clinical because you feel like the slightest misstep could spell disaster. So what happens is that you end up neglecting things like dates -- or, hell, even an hour's break to just get out and call attention to the fact that you are emotionally committed to this person and that they are just as important as the child.

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"Yeah? Well, I love you, too, you stupid whore!"

Ignoring that is an excellent way to start a pattern of resentment and anger, and that's when the fighting begins. You cannot let that happen in front of the child, no matter what their age. I found this out firsthand back when I used to let my temper run rampant and unchecked. No, young children can't understand what you're saying, but they can sure as hell understand the tone and volume of your voice. And the last thing you want as a parent is for your children to learn from an early age that you are to be feared, because that destroys the bond of trust. Instead of opening themselves up to you, they learn to keep a safe distance, holding back anything that they think might trigger your crazy voice. "My dad is a fucking psychopath" is not an acceptable first impression.

Of course, when you have your second child, you look back on that and think, "No shit. I'm taking every opportunity to get out of this house and take a break. Otherwise, I'm going to pull my hair out. Hey, Fuck Partner, take me out to eat and then rub your floppy parts on me."

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"Tonight, it's just you and me. Don't even think about our fun-ruining piece of shit son."

#3. Comparing Your Kids to Other People's

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The First Child

My first son had what Thomas Sowell called Einstein syndrome, meaning that his speech developed very late, even though his math and science skills were far above average for his age. Of course, at the time, I didn't know that was even a thing, so we were really afraid he had a mental disability. Mostly because we had the bad habit of comparing him to our friends' children, who all seemed to be prodigies of language.

He was also a klutz. He loved playing under the dining room table, and no matter how many times he stood up and slammed his head into the underside, he never learned the lesson of "head plus wood equals pain." We just assumed he was an idiot.

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Look at that dumbass. He doesn't even know he's there.

But After That, You Realize ...

Kids are individuals, and they develop mentally and physically at different rates. It's a fact of life that seems like such common sense when you don't have children, but when you become a parent, it just flies right out the window. We want our kids to be "normal," but we forget what a loose term that is. Here, let me show you an example:

Can your 8-year-old play a guitar like that? Don't worry, it doesn't mean he's not talented if he can't. And by comparison, it doesn't mean that he's a genius if his math scores are in the top 10 percent of his school. So shut up about how fucking smart your kid is. Different minds, different circumstances. It's why so many talented high school athletes end up disappointed that they weren't good enough to make it to a college team, let alone play professionally. Or why 16 percent of teenagers will be coldly obliterated when they don't achieve their 1-in-30-million shot of becoming famous. They see other "undeserving" people making a living on TV, and they think, "I'm definitely better than that. This will be easy." They're only half right, but the half that isn't will feel like someone just walked up and ripped their ego's dick clean off.

It's just as dangerous for the parents, though, because it creates unrealistic expectations of their meat-spawn. By comparing them to other kids, they're setting the bar either way too high or way too low, instead of adjusting that bar to the child's abilities. And when the little bastards don't live up to those false expectations, the parents think there is something wrong with them ("them" could mean either the children or the parents). This is especially dangerous in a house with multiple children because it can trigger sibling rivalries, and then everything just goes to shit.

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"Oh my God, she filled it with broken glass!"

It's something you have to recognize with a sense of urgency: Nope, they're not the same as other kids. Just like you're not the same as any other human you know. They, just like you, are going to excel in areas where others don't. And sometimes, other kids will have abilities and traits that make your kid look like a philandering moron. And if your child has reached the age where he understands basic conversation, he is going to take your comparisons as "You're not good enough."

But, seriously, if your kids can't play guitar like that, they are pieces of shit and deserve to be abandoned.

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