21 Parents on the Most Ridiculous, Worst Parenting Mistakes They’ve Ever Made—from Toddlers Dropping F-Bombs to Remote Learning Mishaps

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As parents, we’ve all been caught with our pants down from time to time. And while such mistakes might feel unbearably cringeworthy in the moment, it’s important to keep in mind that these things happen to the very best of us. Case in point: Our uproarious roundup of the worst parenting mistakes from actual moms features stories of toddlers who picked up on a mom’s potty mouth, parents who didn’t make it to school pick-up, and just about everything in between. The takeaway? If you’ve ever experienced a parenting fail, you need not feel alone.

1. “I thought it was crazy hair day, but it was actually ‘dress for success’ day. So I sent my 5-year-old to school in a clown wig and everybody else was in a suit and tie.” —Simone, PA

2. “In a fit of frustration, my young daughter yelled ‘f—king computer!’ She didn’t know what she was saying, but I knew exactly how she had learned that colorful phrase. I think she was 3 years old at the time...I’m just glad it didn’t come out at daycare.”—Hilary, MA

3. “I sent my kid in with a bagel for a snack, but accidentally used cumin instead of cinnamon.”—Amber, CA

4. “I totally forgot that it was picture day, so my son wore his Spider-Man costume for the photos.”Anna, OR

5. “My son was under a year old when he first discovered his penis—well before real talking, and before I realized he was committing my silly object rhymes to memory. I amused myself by making up a song about said penis to the tune of ‘I’m a little teapot.’ Months later he was singing it in front of his paternal grandparents and encouraging me to sing along.”—Eileen, MD

6. “That time that both of us assumed the other parent was picking up the kids, and only discovered the mix-up when we got called by the school.”—Cara, TX

7. “When my daughter was a baby, I kept a pair of scissors at the changing table. Whenever she had a huge poop blowout, I would use the scissors to cut off her onesie, rather than risk getting poop on her face by pulling it over her head. She was probably six months old by the time someone told me that onesies have those cute little shoulder pockets so that you can pull them DOWN instead of UP. I went through a lot of onesies.” —Rachel, PA

8. “Accidentally dressing my kids in each other's clothes and sending them in to school... they’re 3 years apart.”—Liz, NY

9. “I took my 4-year-old to the pediatrician and when she had to pull down her pants, I realized she wasn’t wearing underwear, and I asked her why. Her response? ‘Well, sometimes you don’t, mom.’”—Esther, IL

10. “When my kid was just starting to talk and sing, he asked me to play the 'doo di doo' song... he was jiggling around and trying to sing 'doo di doo, doo di dooooo' and was being really sweet. I had no idea what song he was talking about and told him so. He immediately started bawling and was so upset that I didn’t know the song. In fact, he didn’t sing again for us for months after that. Oops.”—Katherine, FL

11. “When I forgot to send in spare clothes and diapers for my toddler so he came home in some other kid's diapers and clothes. This has actually happened more than once.”—Courtney, NC

12. “One time I hadn’t made breakfast by the time my kindergartener started her Zoom class, so 15 minutes into the meeting I slipped her a bagel with cream cheese…on a paper towel. When she asked me why it was on a paper towel instead of a plate, I very matter-of-factly said, ‘Because all the plates are dirty and I’m not washing any dishes right now.’ Turns out she wasn’t on mute—I had brazenly announced my laziness to her teacher and all the parents standing by.”—Jane, NY

13. “I wouldn't necessarily call this a mistake, but we named our son a slightly unusual name from my mother's side... I still love the name, but we have to correct pretty much EVERYONE who first meets my son or sees his name written on paper.”—Maria, NJ

14. “When my daughter was around 2 years old, I heard her quietly muttering the f-word to herself while trying to put on her socks. I had to try to convince her that the word is actually pronounced ‘fork.’” —Lauren, CA

15. “So, my son saw me changing my pad when he was about 3 or 4 years old. In the interest of making the explanation easier, I told him it was a band-aid for my butt and that there are different types of band-aids for different things. I thought that worked nicely, until I was in the grocery store with him a few weeks later and he screamed at the top of his lungs in the feminine hygiene aisle, ‘Mom, look! I found your butt band-aids...we should get more because you were bleeding a lot in that last one.’ He then started heaping boxes of pads into the grocery cart with all the pride of a kid who felt he was taking good care of his mama.”—Lynne, ME

16. “The other day my 3-year-old was quiet for too long and I realized it was because she was using our white bathmat as a canvas for her drawing.Sara, CO

17. “I volunteered to chaperone a field trip for my 9-year-old on a workday—I’m a writer—and thought I could just wait in the parking lot and work from my car. It turned out we were supposed to hike a nature trail along with them—and so I was the one mom, out of six nice ladies chatting, to be stopping along the route to rest at a picnic table or sit on a rock and pull out my laptop. Like I was in charge of the nuclear codes or something, when really I was just, I don’t know, making a list of spring hairstyles?”—Sonya, NY

18. “Having a kid find a vibrator in my bedside table. Definitely an oops!”—Alison, CT

19. “My kids and I were playing with modeling clay, but they ended up moving onto other things in a different room. My husband was being a jerk at the time so, in my infinite maturity, I hung back and used the clay to make a gift for him—a very realistic-looking version of a certain part of the male anatomy. He appreciated the humorous reprisal so much that he kept it in his dresser for a little while...long enough for one of my kids to discover it and start asking some pretty awkward questions about ‘mama’s art project.’”—Kayla, RI

20. “That time I left a bottle of dish detergent on the bathroom sink—having just used it to clean or soak something in the bathtub—and found my 20-month-old ‘shampooing’ her hair with copious amounts of it shortly after.”Alana, ME

21. “Well one of my greatest humiliations as a parent was one morning when one of the twins was having a 2-year-old screaming fit over not getting the color cup he wanted. I had read somewhere that you could try to shock your toddler out of a tantrum by a quick change in temperature. Since it was the dead of winter, I quickly scooped him up and set him outside the front door in his footless pjs just as my elderly neighbor came out to fetch her morning newspaper. I still shudder to think about it!”—Robin, IL

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...