Monthly Archives: April 2012

All is Fair in Love and Mommy Wars

I made a solemn vow not to tread anywhere near the Hilary Rosen/Ann Romney brouhaha that erupted recently, thrusting the infamous Mommy Wars to the fore yet again. But I simply couldn’t resist. Not because I have a compelling desire to foist my views upon anyone with regard to the hackneyed “stay-at-home vs. working mother” debate. Because I don’t. Feel compelled to foist, that is.

At any rate, every parent works—regardless of specific geography, formal validation or economic gain. Every parent, ostensibly, must deal with explosive diapers, projectile vomiting and curfew breaches. What’s more, every parent is surrounded by a different set of circumstances and brings a host of core beliefs to the equation, and must therefore make decisions about raising children alongside careers (or not) based upon the unique microcosm within which they live. Indeed, one size does not fit all. And for that matter as family dynamics go, one parent’s crazy quilt is another’s richly woven tapestry.

For the record, mine’s as crazy as they come. But I digress.

My niggling itch to weigh in on such a hot button issue stemmed from the unlikeliest of events (i.e. a brief, yet telling conversation that transpired just before the school bus arrived one morning, as we wrangled over the issue of wearing pink Converse sneakers and a hoodie, or not—an exchange during which my child shared with me an earnest wish in a moment of quiet desperation: “I just want to be normal, Mom. I want to look like everyone else, and be like everyone else. I just want to fit in.”)

Of course, her plea had nothing whatsoever to do with the contentious headlines or barbed commentary that had been bandied about via social media following CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 discussion. But it got me thinking: isn’t that what everyone wants to some extent—moms, especially? To be viewed as normal. To blend in with the masses—a good soldier, fighting the good fight to raise upstanding citizens, deep thinkers and impassioned individuals—and to do so without fear of censure, public or otherwise. To go about the important business of nurturing a child as best we can, without being ostracized or judged by those who “do it differently” or perhaps with more fanfare. To be ordinary and unassuming, as it were—but with extraordinary results.

I’d like to think this is what a majority of mothers aspire to achieve as we muddle through the uncertainties of parenthood—and that when all is said and done what we really care about revolves around growing a healthy child (or children), providing for their needs and instilling within them a sense of wonder, individuality and a profound appreciation for life.

Never mind self-doubt, the unmerciful beast-of-a-thing that threatens to consume us as we step into our mothering roles each day, or the embarrassment of guilt we heap upon ourselves as a matter of course. Whether we feel inadequate as providers (having chosen the stay-at-home path), woefully unavailable to our children (having opted to re-enter the workforce), or, dare I say it, miserably conflicted (as we endeavor to do both in the very same instant), may be of little consequence in the end. That said, maybe it’s time for the Mommy Wars to come to a close. The combatants are, perhaps, as tired as their arguments anyway. Old news now, it would seem to most.

Besides, it’s far more productive to focus on the common ground that lies between the two camps, methinks. Some of the best advice on the subject I’ve stumbled upon of late comes from Dr. Peggy Drexler, “Mom is Alright: Redefining the Modern-Day Mom.” In her Huffington Post piece she offers parents five basic tenets we would do well to adopt: 1) Refuse to be judged. 2) Be yourself. 3) Make time for what’s really important. 4) Be your best you. 5) Be active and thoughtful.

Rest assured, she’s fed up with the swirl of controversy, too.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (eager to turn the page on the Mommy Wars). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Love and Other Drugs, Political Poop

Mommie Dearest

www.melindawentzel.comAlways and forever, I am blown away by the seemingly trivial things my kids remember about their lives. The stuff that apparently pools and coagulates in the corners of their minds, having made some sort of lasting impression upon them for whatever reason–good or bad.

“…like the time I was sick and stayed home from school and you hurt your knee chasing Jack (aka: the damn dog) around and around the living room. Remember, Mom!? He had a piece of CAT POOP in his mouth and he wouldn’t let you take it! We laughed and laughed so hard!”

“…like the time I ran really fast down our front hill, tripped over the curb and got pebbles stuck in my hand. They stayed in there for FIVE WHOLE DAYS! Remember, Mom?!” (Read: the time I wanted to hurl because of the sickening thud your body made when it hit the pavement, never mind the torrent of queasiness that washed over me when I realized THOSE WERE ROCKS EMBEDDED IN YOUR FRICKING HAND!)

What’s more, I am completely fogged by the way my charges can recite verbatim the vat of horribleness I’ve delivered on more than one occasion (most of which have involved orange juice spillages, bath tub deluges and missed school buses). More specifically, the shameful string of words that pour unremittingly from my stupid mouth despite KNOWING how infinitely wrong and hurtful they are (i.e. the parenting tirades from hell during which the wheels fly off and Mommie Dearest rears her ugly head).

I’m also floored by my kids’ uncanny ability to remember virtually everything about the legions of stuffed animals they possess. The cushiness of this one, the plumpness of that one. How completely cuddlesome and decidedly irreplaceable the lot of them are (despite any number of deformities that may exist–to include missing eyes, gaping “wounds” and mysterious aromas).

Good God.

Further, they can readily recall specific times and circumstances under which said gotta-have-it-or-I’ll-die items were originally acquired. “Yeah, Mom. I got Mister Big Head Dog at the Dollar Store as a prize when I was seven. Doncha’ remember taking me there and I took like 15 minutes (translation: fucking forever) to decide?”

“And I won this fuzzy-eared rabbit (read: dilapidated piece of schlock) at the Fair one time when I threw some darts at balloons. Except I wasn’t very good at it, so I didn’t pop any. But the nice man (likely, the one sporting a mullet and the suggestion of teeth) gave me a bunny anyway.”

Me: (Fair? What Fair? Did I actually take you someplace where cows and pigs WERE the main attraction?!)

“And how ’bout the time Daddy tried to drown me in the shower at the Adirondacks?” (i.e. a date which will live in infamy during which he slathered said child’s filthy face with soap, mistakenly assuming she’d have enough SENSE to rinse it off, as opposed to inhaling voluminous quantities of water and/or soap suds).

Likewise, I am baffled by the intimacy my brood shares with their beloved rocks–OH, MY HELL, THE ROCKS! The ones that adorn their dressers and windowsills. The ones that spill from my Jeep’s nooks and crannies. The ones now housed in my garage (forever and ever, amen). The ones for which a special affinity has grown to a frightening degree. That said, my heathens know from whence each stone came and, perhaps, more disturbingly, why each particular nugget of earthy wonderfulness was harvested and hauled home in the first place, “…because my friend gave it to me and said I should keep it forever,” “…because it spoke to me and I just had to add it to my collection. Each rock is a memory, you know. Why do you always want to take my memories away, Mom?”

As if that blurbage wasn’t enough to ensure that I will, in fact, die a slow, horrible, guilt-induced death, I recently learned of another cardinal sin for which I will pay dearly.

Child: “I ate a napkin once, Mom.”

Me: “You ate a what?! A NAPKIN?!”

Child: “Yep. A napkin. I sort of nibbled and nibbled it till it was gone.” (touches fingertips to lips, pretending to gently gnaw imaginary napkin so that I might then know what a “nibble” looks like).

Me: “You ATE AN ENTIRE NAPKIN?! When, where and why on earth would you do such a crazy thing?! People don’t eat napkins (for Crissakes)!” (hands on hips, appalled by the notion).

Child: “Well I did. Back in kindergarten. At snack time. Besides, my friend ate a tag right off her shirt one time ’cause it was bothering her. I saw her do it. People DO eat paper-ish stuff sometimes, Mom.”

Me: DEAD SILENCE coupled with a look that likely suggested I had gone off the deep end (shock does this to people I’m told).

Child: CONTINUES WATCHING SPONGE BOB, ENTIRELY ENGROSSED IN SAID OCEAN-INSPIRED IDIOCY, UNAFFECTED BY MY HORRIFIED EXPRESSION.

Me: “But WHY?! What possessed you to do such a thing?!” thinking, of course, this HAD to have been the result of some kind of twisted dare that five-year-olds routinely engage in.

Child: “I was hungry,” she said plainly.

Me: “You were hungry?!” (clutches heart, gasps).

Child: “Yep. You didn’t pack enough in my snack and I was still hungry; so I ate my napkin,” she stated simply, as if telling me I had forgotten to fill her squirt gun, so she commissioned some other schmuck to do it.

At this, of course, I cringed–deeply ashamed of the atrocity I had unknowingly committed, wanting ever so desperately to crawl beneath a rock and die.

…a slow, horrible guilt-induced sort of death. One entirely befitting of Mommie Dearest (i.e. she- who-would-deny-her-child-adequate-Goldfishy-sustenance).

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (with an abundance of tasty napkins and an unbearable burden of guilt). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, "S" is for Shame, Love and Other Drugs

We Put the “Mad” in “Mad Scientist”

It’s April—Weird Science Month, apparently. At least in this asylum it is, particularly given that my fifth-grade progenies were recently assigned a school project that was deemed categorically intoxicating. An exercise in academia devoted entirely to my brood’s abiding love of science-y type stuff. One in which inane curiosities would not only be nurtured, but patently celebrated. Hence, the ensuing delirium.

That said, Jekyll and Hyde could barely contain their enthusiasm as they shared with me the sordid details of what would prove to be both epic in scale and absurd in nature. Like a clown car, droplets of insanity kept spilling from their mouths in giddified bursts, rendering me at once fascinated and horrified by their plans to test two of the oddest hypotheses I had ever wrapped my mind around. Fascinated, of course, because the notion of reading aloud to a houseplant (to compare growth rates) and/or sniffing fetid socks among other things (to determine what makes people sneeze) is, well, fascinating. I was horrified, by contrast, because I was certain I’d be commissioned to read aloud to said plant on occasion as well as sniff the aforementioned socks. Oy.

For the record, the socks were egregiously foul and the reading-aloud-to-the-stupid-plant gig bordered on disturbing—particularly when I found myself pausing to check for understanding and apologized more than once for mispronouncing a word. To a cussed plant. I can’t begin to express how utterly wrong (read: foolish, awkward, nay, deranged) it felt to do so; but I persevered—in the name of science and in the name of making my child happy (aka the Plant Whisperer). In a similar manner, I humored her cohort by shoving that-which-was-clearly-ill-advised (read: house dust, cinnamon and obscene quantities of black pepper) up my nose—once again, to further the field and to please my child (aka the Sneeze Captain).

Granted, there’s nothing new beneath the sun. Bizarreness—especially as it relates to the many and varied experiments my children have conducted for the sake of scientific discovery—has lived and reigned here for a very long time. I suppose I should be used to it by now, unfazed by my charges’ compelling desire to marry ingredients that have no business being together, to test the limits of things that ought not to be tested and to boldly go where no man (or inquisitive child) should go—namely, within the confines of a dryer, an occupied dog crate and a certain basement crawl space. I could go on.

Admittedly, I’ve been the chief curator of a fair number of studies described above, inviting substances of undetermined origin and wide-ranging viscosity to sully my windowsills, sinks and countertops for interminable stretches of time. Never mind the Shrine to Vileness (read: insect-related captivity) housed in the garage and the noble causes I’ve adopted over the years “…because so-and-so’s Mom won’t let him experiment at his house.” Needless to say, I don’t know what it’s like to live in a home without some sort of glorified laboratory-fest going on. I’m surrounded, it seems, by creatures with a crippling affinity for that-which-is-repulsive-yet-wholly-intriguing. If nothing else, it’s familiar—and probably vital to my kids’ development.

Lord knows how important it is to test the validity of theories that involve decomposing food, fermented dandelions and the microwavable nature of Hershey’s bars. Or so I’ve been told. Likewise, the gravity of pioneering research on the half-life of whateverness currently buried in our lawn (to include Barbie doll stilettos and a beloved Hello Kitty Band-Aid box) cannot be underestimated. Nor can the monumental body of data my charges gather almost every summer, which definitively answers the question: “How many ants does it take to haul away a single Cheeto?”

With any luck, such studies may change how we view the world, possibly enhancing our understanding of community-based synergy—or perhaps enlightening mankind relative to the hazards of exploding chocolate. Which isn’t such a bad thing, methinks, during Weird Science Month and every other moment devoted to the wonderment of discovery.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (channeling Bill Nye, the Science Guy). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Homework Hell, School Schmool

April Awakening

I’ve always loved the springtime—especially the warm embrace of April. Of all the seasons, I’m inclined to say that it is my favorite—partly because baseball is back and the school year is drawing its last breath, but mostly because it is an era awash with newness. Almost indescribably so. Wisps of green now dot the underbrush, as if God had been handed a paintbrush and was then asked to create something slightly magnificent. Likewise, daffodils and forsythia, bathed in brilliant yellows, have been summoned from the places where shades of gray have lived for far too long. Lilac and cherry blossoms, too, are poised to burst with a profusion of muted hues and the sweet scents of spring. Armies of tulips will soon follow, standing straight and tall in the midday sun. Never mind the rain that must fall.

Indeed, the creatures of this season move me, too. The melodies of more songbirds than I can readily name fill the air along with the serenade of crickets—legions of them, welcoming each night as the woods grow thick with darkness and alive with a symphony of sound. Before long, the yellow-green flashes of fireflies will entrance my children, prompting them to give chase, mayonnaise jars in hand—but not yet. This is springtime and the earth feels soft and yielding beneath my feet, rekindling memories of running barefoot as a child, the cool blades of grass and spongy patches of moss mingling intimately with my toes. The same toes, mind you, that have begged to be reacquainted with the deliciousness of leather sandals since mid-February. The calendar assures me that the time is nigh and that the months ahead are certain to bring both warmth and goodness to the land. Springtime, it seems, is pregnant with possibility, which is yet another reason I love it so.

Or maybe it’s because all three of my children were born in the thick of April. Aries babies. Tiny souls destined for equal shares of independence and optimism, despite the vast array of frailties that came with being frighteningly preterm. As one might expect, I worried about umbilical cords, fontanels and cries I had yet to decipher. I think it was there in the hospital, amidst the haze of becoming a mother again and again, where I first recognized how unspeakably euphoric this season of new beginnings made me feel. How I could look outside my window at the verdant landscape below, all the splendor of spring unfolding before me, and then marvel, in the very same breath, at the bundles of neediness I had helped create—the ones with fuzzy, sweet-smelling heads and impossibly tiny toes, the babes I would soon rock in the creaky chair that had been my great grandmother’s.

Somehow, seeing the buds and the birds and the medley of green filled me with a tangible sense of hope and enthusiasm for whatever the future might bring. The sleepless nights and debilitating bouts of self-doubt I would surely encounter seemed almost manageable in the context of Mother Nature’s grand awakening. Deep within, I believed that no matter how ineptly I nursed the smallish beings in question or how spectacularly wrong I swaddled said infants, all would be well. My parenting days, though stunningly imperfect, would fill my cup, bind me inextricably to my brood and leave me wondering how I ever functioned without them. The spring had arrived after all, and the canvas of my world had been painted with broad strokes of vibrant color and punctuated with untold joy.

Of course, it could just be the birthdays we celebrate at this time of year that make the season so special. There are four if you count my husband’s—all within a span of three weeks—and I can’t help but indelibly etch in my mind all the cakes and candles, all the meals at fancy restaurants with friends and family and the countless parties with giddified bunches of little girls crowding around to see what bit of wonderfulness so-and-so happened to have unwrapped. And let us not forget theslumber parties. Lord knows I won’t.

Then again, it might simply be Easter, the mother of grand awakenings, that makes

this time so very dear. Egg hunts and wicker baskets. Frilly dresses and shiny shoes. Palm fronds and penitence. Spiritually stirring events that cause me to ponder the true meaning of awakening, rendering me awestruck far beyond the month of April.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (savoring every drop of spring).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under A Tree is Nice, Love and Other Drugs