The Rockwood Files: Rookie mistake

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

When you’re a mother of three with a little experience under your belt, you should really know better. But last night I made a classic rookie mistake. I didn’t get around to shopping for the kids’ school supplies until the night before said supplies were due at school orientation. Dumb. Very dumb.

There I was in an aisle swamped with desperate shoppers, just like me scrambling for a few packs of No. 2 pencils and Elmer’s glue. The scene looked much like a crowded toy store on Christmas Eve, minus the “peace on Earth and goodwill to men”.

When you wait until the night before to shop for school supplies, you not only have to wade through throngs of people, you also have to deal with shortages. Last night I needed a certain type of red folder specified by the kids’ school. It was supposed to have pockets and metal prongs to hold the paper inside. But all the smart parents who’d planned ahead had already bought all the red folders with metal prongs, leaving me with boxes and boxes of no-prong folders to sift through in shame. I and my fellow procrastinators searched through the leftovers hoping perhaps one or two pronged folders would magically surface.

All around me there were irritable fathers on cell phones talking to mothers who were dictating the school supply list. “No, they don’t have any red folders with prongs left,” I heard one say.  “I’ll just get the kind without prongs. What? Why can’t I get the kind without prongs? It’s still a folder! Well, they don’t have any. What? Red pens? No, they’re all out of red pens. I’ll just get red crayons. Well, why not? They’re still red!”

By the time I left the store, the school supply aisle was a shambles. A bin of folders without prongs spilled out on the floor and hurried shoppers dodged the mess as they continued their futile quest. I left the store two supplies short of a completed list which meant I had to make a last-ditch attempt to find them at another store first thing this morning. I berated myself all the way home and swore I’d never wait until the night before ever, ever again.

There’s a saying that goes “When you know better, you do better.” And experienced parents learn, often the hard way, that there are a few mistakes you just don’t want to make more than once. Along with shopping for school supplies the day before school, here are a few other rookie mistakes that make my list:

  • Leaving the house with a baby and no backup baby outfit: When you make this mistake, cruel fate will step in and give your baby a terrible poopy diaper “blow-out” which will inevitably travel all the way up the baby’s back and between his small shoulder blades, soaking through his clothes and onto yours.
  • Forgetting to buy batteries on Christmas morning: There’s nothing quite like kids thrilled by new presents which they have no chance of trying out until the stores open the next day. Fun times.
  • Thinking you can potty train your kid when you are ready: There’s absolutely no such thing as parents who potty train kids. The truth is that the kid is going to do it when the kid is darn good and ready, and the parent will simply provide the potty, the Scooby Doo underwear and heaps of praise whenever that time comes. You know that old phrase about how you can “lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”? Same applies to toddlers and their bowels. Parents are just along for the ride, bumps and all.

The good news is that I did find those blasted red folders with the all-important prongs. I spotted one this morning in a pack of 10 other folders (which I absolutely did not need), so I snatched them up before another desperate parent could get them first. Sure, I had to pay for the unnecessary nine extra folders, but I finished the list and learned my lesson – even parents who should know better still have a few things left to learn.rockwoodheadshot2010compressed3.jpg

Got any more “rookie mistakes” to add to my list? Click the word “comment” below and post your additions. 🙂

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.  



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