Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Decade of Enlightenment: Ten Things Parenthood Has Taught Me

www.melindawentzel.comI’ve been a parent for some 8,286 days. A stunningly imperfect parent, I hasten to add. During that period of time I learned more about sleep deprivation, sibling rivalry and teen angst than I previously considered humanly possible. However, the past decade has proven to be particularly edifying. Indeed, Thing One and Thing Two have provided me with a veritable feast of enlightenment. So, in the spirit of welcoming the new year and the vat of enlightenment sure to come, I thought it might be fitting to recap what the last 10 have taught me—at least from the perspective of a stunningly imperfect parent.

1)    Beauty is likely in the kitchen. Translation: Most of the masterpieces I’ve collected thus far in my parenting journey are proudly displayed upon my refrigerator, where I suspect they will remain for a very long time to come. That is not to say the face of the fridge is the only canvas upon which said prized artwork hangs in all its faded glory. My home is quite literally inundated with the fledgling, Picasso-esque efforts of my brood, serving as a constant reminder of their boundless generosity and artsy flair. As it should be, I suppose.

2)    The word “sleepover” is a misnomer. No one actually sleeps at a sleepover—including the pitiable adults charged with the impossible duty of entertaining the gaggle of impressionable youths in attendance. Furthermore, the later slumber party-goers appear to crash, the earlier they will rise, demanding bacon and eggs. Moreover, it is inevitable that someone’s personal effects (i.e. an unclaimed pair of underpants, a lone sweat sock, an irreplaceable stuffed animal) will be tragically lost—only to show up months later in the oddest of places.

3)    When taken out of context, that-which-parents-say-and-do is often appalling. Case in point: “Stop licking the dog.” “If you’re going to ride your scooter in the house, wear a damn helmet.” “Fight nice.” In a similar vein, I’ve fed my charges dinner and dessert in a bathtub more times than I’d care to admit, I’ve used a shameful quantity of saliva to clean smudges off faces, I’ve suggested a broad range of inappropriate responses to being bullied and I consider the unabashed bribe to be one of my most effective parenting tools.

4)    A captive audience is the very best sort of audience. That said, some of the most enlightening conversations between parent and child occur when the likelihood of escape is at a minimum (i.e. at the dinner table, in a church pew, en route to the umpteenth sporting event/practice session/music lesson, within the confines of the ever-popular ER).

5)    On average, we parents spend an ungodly amount of time reading aloud books that we find unbearably tedious. We say unforgivably vile things about the so-called “new math” and, as a matter of course, we become unhinged by science projects and whatnot—especially those that require mad dashes to the basement and/or the craft store at all hours of the day and night in search of more paint, more modeling clay and perhaps a small team of marriage counselors.

6)    Forget wedding day jitters, the parent/teacher conference is among the most stressful experiences in life—not to be confused with the anxiety-infused telephone call from the school nurse and that interminable lapse of time wedged between not knowing what’s wrong with one’s child and finding out.

7)    Of all the creatures in the animal kingdom, the child-with-a-camera is undoubtedly the most fearsome—although the child-with-webcam-knowledge is equally clever and decidedly terrifying as well. More specifically, the aforementioned entities possess an uncanny knack for digitally preserving our less-than-flattering moments. Joy. What’s more, they have a certain weakness for documenting freakishly large or (gasp!) green-hued poo, which I’m told is bizarrely linked to the consumption of blue Slushies. Color me enlightened, yet again.

8)    Kids are hard-wired to harvest every syllable of that-which-their-parents-shouldn’t-have-said so that they might liberally share those choice phrases in the most humiliating venue and manner imaginable (i.e. during show-and-tell, at Sunday school, in a crowded elevator, while sitting upon Santa’s lap, at the precise moment the guests arrive).

9)    The discovery of a teensy-tiny wad of paper—one that has been painstakingly folded and carefully tucked within a pocket, wedged beneath a pillow or hidden inside a dresser drawer—is akin to being granted psychic powers. Everything a parent needs to know about their child will likely be scrawled upon said scrap of paper.

10) Unanswerable questions never die—they simply migrate to more fertile regions of our homes where they mutate into hideous manifestations of their original forms, leaving us wringing our hands and damning our inadequate selves.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (getting schooled as we speak). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under I Pretty Much Suck at Parenting, In the Trenches of Parentville, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

Please believe me, oh great giver-of-gifts, I know you love my children dearly and that you’d do almost anything to make them happy this Christmas. You’re a kind and generous soul. And make no mistake about it; I’ve recognized (with the help of countless reminders) how hard my heathens have tried to be good and grateful and well-mannered these past 357 days. But in the interest of preserving what remains of my sanity, would you please give some consideration to the following bit of information?

1)    For the record, I don’t need any lizards or llamas, bats or birds, real live chicks or even eggs that will hatch. Nor do I have any desire whatsoever for an ant farm and an accompanying anteater (“…in case it breaks open and ants are crawling EVERYWHERE, Mom!”). Furthermore, I have absolutely no use for a potbellied pig or a goat for that matter. Are we perfectly clear on that? NO POTBELLIED PIG. NO GOAT. Period. Also, please ignore all future requests—maddeningly incessant as they might be—for another cat. Seriously. Perish the thought.

2)    Additionally, please take note: it is totally unnecessary to spoil my charges by spending $54 (EACH!) on flimsy pajamas that happen to match those worn by the very dolls they begged for last year. That’s simply ludicrous. Get a grip, Santa. Give Mrs. Claus a new nightie or something instead.

3)    Moreover, bear in mind that I have yet to summon the strength necessary to parent those who thirst for danger. More specifically, those who would willfully and gleefully ride a skateboard, a motorcycle or roller skates down an impossibly sheer slope. Blindfolded. On fire. During an earthquake. I have enough trouble tolerating the wretched scooters they so adore. Perhaps by next year I will have purged from memory my own horrific skateboarding disaster (i.e. the face plant I made one summer afternoon on a gravelly patch of pavement at an inordinately high rate of speed). But who could forget eight stitches? They were purple. And stubbly. And infinitely intriguing to all my friends who wanted to touch the freakish goatee I had seemingly sprouted from my chin. That being said, please refrain from delivering any of the aforementioned instruments of evil.

4)    Bratz, begone! I trust this emphatic petition is self-explanatory, oh Jolly One. Barbies, by contrast, are perfectly acceptable in this household. Besides, I find it largely disturbing that many among our sprawling Barbie community have lost heads and limbs for whatever reason. Intactness would be a welcome change.

5)    Also, if you must darken my door with all-that-makes-noise (I mean music), I beg of you that each sinful device (read: trumpet-kazoo-recorder-drum-keyboard-microphone-guitar-tambourine-maraca-like piece of idiocy) be suitably equipped with soundproofing, some sort of on/off switch or at the very least a volume control thingy. Thank you, in advance.

6)    Also, kindly be advised that my humble abode lacks the space necessary to house the grand and glorious, five-story kitty hotel that my kids have been whining about since the middle of summer. Honestly, it is outlandishly opulent, highly impractical and offensively massive. If you so much as think about bestowing such a monstrosity upon us, I will have no choice but to forego the cookies next year. You can count on broccoli instead, you silly little elfin man.

7)    What’s more, I would be immeasurably displeased to discover a pile of pretend dog poop in anyone’s stocking, never mind those repugnant Walter the Farting Dog creatures. Egads!

8)    Furthermore, Santa, read my lips: NO MORE SILLY@$$ ELECTRONIC GADGETRY. I am appallingly inept when it comes to programming any and all gizmos of a technological nature. I hereby resign from said post effective today.

9)    And for the love of God, NO MORE WATER BALLOONS, GLITTER GLUE OR BATHTUB TOYS. They are the bane of my existence. Enough said.

10) And sweet Jesus, please, please, please don’t bless us with another puppy this Christmas—at least not one that routinely gnaws on furniture, pees indiscriminately, consumes chew toys, destroys leashes (four and counting), eats holes in the carpet, nibbles on Frisbees, plastic Army men and Barbie stilettos, considers deer droppings a delicacy and is entirely bent on causing bodily harm during jaunts in the great outdoors—via our garrote-like tether coupled with a frenzied demeanor and the pirouette dance I have grown to know and loathe. I simply cannot handle another floppy-eared bundle of joy. Not now. Not ever.

11) I would, however, be thrilled to receive an indestructible dog leash dipped in Kevlar, perhaps, and maybe a ridiculously huge cardboard box. Empty, of course. The one you so graciously left for my brood three years ago was far and away the most fabulous item under the tree. It was the gift that kept on giving—till early spring, as I recall.

Sincerely,

Planet Mom

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom and www.Twitter.com/PlanetMom.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Holiday Hokum, Home for Wayward Toys, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

The Island of Misfit Parents

I’m a poor tool when it comes to holiday décor. A mere handful of days remain on the calendar before Christmas and I have yet to string a single light on shrubbery or hang a solitary stocking from the banister, now cold and bare. Never mind erecting an oversized tree in our living room, one that may or may not stand entirely straight. That would require ambition, the ability to govern the impossible-to-govern and an exhaustive search for our less-than-functional tree stand. What’s more, its assembly would consume an inordinate chunk of time, devoted primarily to hauling the artificial wonder from the bowels of our attic (hopefully, without incident), dragging its dead weight down a narrow staircase and around impossibly tight corners and then piecing the beast together, branch by color-coded branch, all the while exercising civility and decorum.

A tall order, indeed. It’s no wonder I put it off each December. Although maybe it has something to do with the fact that my kids are far more interested in climbing inside and atop the monstrosity of a box and barreling down the staircase than in helping to build the cussed tree that said box has housed for nearly a decade and a half.

Every year, though, I vow to improve; to embrace the Yuletide more than ever before, to rouse a spirit of goodwill and cooperation among the elfin creatures who reside here, to deck the halls in a more timely fashion, to actually mail our Christmas cards before Groundhog Day. Of course, I make such a pledge so that my children might refrain from reinforcing my holiday-related ineptitude (i.e. Mom, I hope you know that PRACTICALLY EVERYONE ON THE PLANET has already put up their tree—except us—we’re misfits).

Ouch. It’s not as if I haven’t meant to do all those things, and more. Aside from attending 487 Christmas plays, holiday concerts and craft-making sessions involving pine-scented whateverness, I’ve compiled an impressive to-do list—one that spells out in great detail what I should be doing to prepare for this season of seasons. If nothing else, I am well-intentioned, as evidenced by my heartfelt promise to bake the giant Halloween House cookie that has mocked me since mid-October—the one I threw in my cart in a moment of deluded inspiration, never once believing that it might STILL be in my pantry two months later. I wish I were kidding.

Child: “We’re NEVER baking that cookie, are we, Mom?” Me: Hangs head in shame.

To add to the mélange of angst and discontent brewing beneath this roof, our tiny herd of reindeer has yet to be assembled in the lawn, an event that has come to symbolize a welcome committee for Santa, much like the gingerbread cookies and carrots we place in a tin made especially for that purpose. Naturally, I defend that which is indefensible. “There’s no snow on the ground! Plunking reindeer in the grass, not to mention, ‘…plunking reindeer in the grass WHILE IT RAINS,’ just seems wrong. And besides, one set of antlers is defective. And the lights are shoddy, at best. And the neck swivel thingy lurches and jerks as if it were a sprinkler head. On crack. Remember how your dad had to cobble the stupid thing together with wires and screws…and the hideous-looking tangle of lights he wound around its belly? At least we have a Christmas wreath hanging on our door…and a pumpkin on the stoop! How many people can say that in December?!” I foolishly boast.

Of course, commentary like that is never well-received, usually being met with a chorus of groans, a profusion of eye rolling and remarks that generally employ the word “lame.” As in: “Seriously, Mom? That’s so completely lame.”

She had a point.

Admittedly, I am a poor tool when it comes to holiday décor.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (on the Island of Misfit Parents). Visit me there at www.melindawentzel.com and www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Holiday Hokum, I Pretty Much Suck at Parenting, Welcome to My Disordered World

Jingle All the Way

It’s possible that I might be slightly smitten with jingle bells—more specifically, with the completely delicious and decidedly hypnotic sound they emit. A feast for the ears. A balm for the soul. A window into the past for people like me, who’ve harvested decades-old memories that involve horses, snow-covered cornfields and wintry afternoons spent on my grandfather’s farm. As a result, I am fairly incapable of resisting the allure of a store bin filled to capacity with sleigh bells. That said, I cannot walk by without reaching in to sample each and every melodic wonder. To pluck great hordes from the array, one after another, appraising each with regard to its heft, luster and, of course, the inherent splendor of its sound. Call it a weakness if you will. Perhaps even a debilitating fixation. I have no shame.

Needless to say, there is a profusion of jingle bells in this household—both brass and silver, embossed and etched—many of which adorn our tree, several that rest near our beloved crèche, all of which are patently adored. Additionally, at least two clusters of bells, ones that are tenuously affixed to braided strands of crimson and gold, dangle freely from doorknobs so that our comings and goings, as well as those of friends and family who visit, are joyfully announced. What’s more, there are bell necklaces and bell bracelets, bells on stockings and bells on sleighs. Even a pair of plump snowmen COMPOSED ENTIRELY OF BELLS are poised to welcome Christmas Day—as are the hand-painted variety that a favorite student teacher recently bestowed upon my brood.

As one might expect, I spend an inordinate amount of time each December perfectly enthralled by the chorus of ringing the aforementioned bells are capable of producing (i.e. I move from room to room, gently waggling each bell in succession, holding it to my ear so that I might savor the sound as it lingers deliciously). Some offer a mere tinkling and the suggestion of an echo, as if a tiny man were inside striking the walls with a hammer, while others resonate seemingly forever a sound so rich and so pure it can almost be tangibly held in one’s hands.

The latter is my favorite and the special sort that we resurrected from my mother-in-law’s estate several years ago, along with a host of ceramic centerpieces she crafted herself and a handful of wooden blocks that spell out MERRY CHRISTMAS when properly arranged. Not surprisingly, I’m drawn to the sleigh bell—a silver-plated, baseball-sized genuine collectible manufactured by Wallace more than 30 years ago. Naturally, it makes a distinctive sound. And whenever I want to revisit a time when my husband’s mother was here (which is often, since there are so many conversations I wish we could have), I pick up the bell—which, I suppose, is not unlike the days I find myself wandering around in search of the Carter’s slippers my children wore so many years ago. The ones with tiny jingle bells housed inside their wooly dog exteriors, triggering fond remembrances of a pair of pajama-clad, bedtime-story-toting toddlers at will. In an instant, I can see them shuffling about, their rounded bellies protruding ever so slightly, their smallish hands clutching a toy of some sort.

Come January, as I take down the tree and unceremoniously stow away the remnants of Christmas cheer, I simply cannot bring myself to box up the bells, banishing them to the attic for an entire year. Not yet anyway. I’m not ready to say goodbye. Long after the Moravian star is removed from its lofty perch, the garland is gathered and legions of ornaments are shrouded in newsprint for safekeeping, the sleigh bells remain. Perhaps in defiance of society’s urgings that the Yuletide is over. Perhaps in spite of my longing to restore order to my hopelessly disordered world. Perhaps because of the warmth they engender, during this holiest of seasons and always.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (anxiously awaiting the sound of sleigh bells). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Holiday Hokum