In the Eye of the Beholder

Contrary to what I’ve alluded to in the past, my kids are not monsters. And although I might have actually used that term on occasion to describe them, they’re not the unruly beasts I’ve made them out to be. They don’t howl at the moon, froth at the mouth or frantically paw the refrigerator when I forget to feed them.

Nor do they growl, unless provoked.

But apparently I know not of which I speak. Evidently some high and mighty prude who has seen my act begs to differ regarding the matter of my having or not having fiendish little children. Further, she’d likely argue the point if given the opportunity. Vehemently, I might add. All I’d have to do is invite Her Haughtiness to return to that happy place where she witnessed (i.e. heard, but could only imagine the scene that unfolded behind the flimsy partition that separated us) the mayhem with which I had to deal just four days before Christmas, crammed and jammed impossibly inside a restroom stall which was clearly ill-equipped to accommodate a mom and two cranky six-year-olds itching for Happy Meals.

I have no doubt the woman in question would be more than willing to sprinkle me with her wealth of sagacity, to dazzle me with her bells and whistles regarding behavior management and child rearing, to enlighten me with a report of everything I’ve done wrong as a parent thus far in my thankless journey—to spell it out for me on the terracotta tiles with French fries: YOUR PARENTING SKILLS SUCK AND YOU’D BE BETTER OFF RAISING CHICKENS, YOU DUMB CLUCK!

She might have a legitimate point. But probably not enough fries to say so.

Everyone knows that McDonald’s isn’t the ideal place to change clothes. Nor is it wise to instruct ungainly children to do so there—demanding from them a degree of perfection that is at best, unachievable. But there I was—parading my little waifs through the joint like some transient-sorry-excuse-for-a-mother, en route to the bathroom to supervise (oh-so-incompetently) the changing-out-of-pajamas-and-into-real-clothes gig. Make that abundantly muddied PJs. “I fell down on the playground today, but I didn’t get hurt, Mom—the mud was FUN!”

“Lovely. Just lovely,” I thought. “We now appear even MORE pathetic than I previously considered conceivable.”

Granted, it had been Pajama Day at school and it made perfect sense for my kids to be dressed as such (as well as still jacked from all the sugar they had consumed during the pre-holiday festivities). But no one else knew that. Most of the patrons I passed probably pegged me as someone who lives in squalor and who makes a habit of hauling her brood there to wash up and whatnot. In reality, however, we were simply using the loo as a staging area for a meltdown, which qualified as a performance of a lifetime as I recall. Prude Lady could testify to that at least.

Incessantly, it seemed, we bickered about who would get to stand where, who would go first, who would hold coats and bags and sneakers, who would get to flush (and when said flushing would take place), what did or didn’t happen during the Polar Express movie and whether or not a certain someone blew a kiss to a boy earlier in the day (“…because that’s not allowed, Mom; only hugs are okay!”).

Ostensibly, this meddlesome witch witnessed the entire routine, likely pressing her ear to the wall so as not to miss a single syllable. As expected, the debate continued within that tiny theater and escalated until it became a pushing and shoving match, spiraling out of control with each combatant furiously shrieking “YOU!!” while shoving a finger in the other’s face.

“She LICKED my finger, Mom!”

“She called me ‘YOU’ first!”

And so the battle raged. Throughout the ordeal, I was painfully aware of a disapproving audience hovering just inches away, and I felt the familiar sting of humiliation and frustration. All the while I snapped and snarled through clenched teeth, “Get your sleeve off the stinking floor!” “Don’t drop that into the toilet!” “Stop hitting your sister!” “Hurry up already with those pajamas and keep your socks ON YOUR FEET!” “Your father’s waiting, you know!”

How could I possibly explain myself, justify my children’s behavior or even show my face once I stepped outside the stall that had become my personal shield from the world? Miss Holier-Than-Thou would be waiting there for me, wagging her finger. Demanding answers. Chiding. Judging.

“Little monsters,” she’d also likely spit.

Oddly enough though, she had few (albeit barbed) words for me when I finally braved it. “GOOD LUCK!” she huffed condescendingly, as I hoisted my heathens to the sink to wash—their anger all but diffused and differences long since forgotten.

I couldn’t help but think she doesn’t get it. She only saw a tiny slice of my day and a mere shadow of the relationship I share with my children. She thinks my kids hate each other and that I must completely loathe my lot in life as their mom. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s important to take time to view the picture in its entirety. Snapshots don’t always tell the whole story.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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1 Comment

Filed under "S" is for Shame, Holiday Hokum, Kid-Speak, Normal is Relative, Ode to Embarrassment, The Natives are Decidedly Restless, Vat of Complete Irreverence, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

One response to “In the Eye of the Beholder

  1. Brenda

    hold onto your happy snapshots- and next time ask the person outside the stall to hold the dirty socks 🙂