New Parents: Don’t Make This Mistake!


Squeeeee, you’re having a baby… congratulations! As you count down the weeks, post sonograms on Facebook, and flood all of your friends’ newsfeeds with adorable, belly-cradling selfies, I bet you’ve got all of these ideas about the type of parent you’re going to be. Well, I’m here to save you some time. But, first, a disclaimer: I’m not trying to pretend that I’m a perfect parent, but I do have two daughters, which gives me a little bit of experience. Also, I learned the hard way — I did make this mistake and I almost got away with it, but my second kiddo put me in my place.

So here goes, parents-to-be, here’s the one mistake you don’t want to make: Don’t swear. Stop swearing right now.

Now I don’t mean the four-letter-word type of swearing, although you may want to get a head start on that, too, because all too quickly your kid’s preschool teacher is asking the class to come up with words that rhyme with “duck.” No, I’m talking about the “I swear I’ll never do that” claims you make as an expectant parent. I made this mistake several times, but one instance really stands out for me.

With shame, I share my laughable, ignorant, self-righteous comment: “I swear I will never use my iPhone as an entertainment tool for my kid at a restaurant.” The worst part is that when my daughter Violet came along, I was fooled into believing that I actually succeeded.

From day one, Violet was tidy. She didn’t care for finger-painting or sticky sensory activities. Just weeks into starting solids, her eating habits were meticulous and her appetite was voracious. This combination of neatness and hunger created the perfect conditions for restaurant dining. Here she is on her first birthday, polishing off a plate of macaroni and cheese at Sweetwaters on Church Street. Notice the lack of noodles on the table. See how her mouth, forehead, and elbows are free of orange residue. Observe how her plate remains at rest, not held high over her head.

child, high chair, table, plate

As Violet improved her fine motor skills, things only got better. Here she is at 22 months, in a cafe in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Unsecured by seat straps, she remains standing by her meal, daintily biting into her toasted ham-and-cheese sandwich, with a full-size glass of orange juice inches from her unpredictable toddler body. That’s a real glass, people. This is not photoshopped.

child, sandwich, orange juice

Check her out here at Pascalo Ristorante in downtown Burlington. Why, yes, that is a two-and-a-half-year-old calmly munching on a piece of bread with her napkin across her lap while she patiently waits for her meal to arrive.

child, high chair, table
“Is this extra virgin olive oil? It’s just lovely.”

Here’s what I didn’t know then: My daughter’s prim and proper table manners had nothing to do with me or my parenting skills or any vows I had made regarding mobile devices. Her model behavior is just a part of her freakish, immaculate nature.

While I was sitting there feeling proud about what a great job I did raising my little lady, my newborn daughter, Sabine, was quietly smirking at me from her carseat on the booth beside me.

Now I’m not complaining about Sabine. She’s a fantastic eater, which is more than half the battle, so I’m grateful for that. But after almost three years of watching Violet eat over her plate to avoid getting crumbs on her shirt, Sabine’s more relaxed approach to mealtime was a shock.

For starters, she did not want to be fed by us at all; she wanted to stuff food in her mouth all by herself. So we turned to baby-led weaning, the first of many decisions Sabine would make for us. Here she is at her first birthday party, up to her elbows in cake. This isn’t an unusual scene for a baby turning one, but I want to draw your attention to the fierceness in her eyes. Allow me to translate this look for you: “If you touch me, I hurl this plate… capish?”

child, high chair, cake
“I will cut you.”

Violet started using a spoon and fork around 18 months, which is admittedly on the early side. Here’s how Sabine uses a spoon. Eating by the fistful is more her style.

child, spoon, high chairchild, spaghetti

As for her high-chair etiquette, well…

child, high chair, tablechild, high chair, table

What did I learn? You can plan all you want and make all the promises you want, but in the end, toddlers will win every time. Parenting is about bending and constantly making adjustments to fit each child’s individual, changing needs.

And so, because I enjoy eating out and having adult conversations with friends and family, you bet your booty I’m going to be handing Sabine my iPhone when we go out to eat. Because I’m pretty sure the patrons around us would rather hear the faint sounds of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse than a toddler screaming and throwing food at their heads.

One last note: Let’s say all of your children turn out to be unusually neat and well-behaved. Don’t be so quick to judge us poor souls scrambling to load Doc McStuffins onto our smartphones while our spirited offspring melts down on the carpeted floors of Panera. It’s not our fault, and blaming us for their tantrums would just be mean.

Teaching my children to never be mean and always be kind by way of example? That’s one promise I can stand behind.


  1. So not only is this a great blog, your pictures cracked me up! Your kids are too cute. And I completely understanding, having had two very similar boys in very similar order. Well, Phinneas my first son never sat still, but he had the impeccable eating habits. Declan just likes to shove and and all food in the general direction of his face. Thanks for the blog!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here