Category Archives: I Pretty Much Suck at Parenting

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 and

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel


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

Home Alone

It’s rumored that I need to have a little more faith in my children as autonomous creatures—at least when it comes to being levelheaded, resourceful and not remotely interested in summoning the fire department unnecessarily. Although, maybe it’s just that the opportunity has yet to fully present itself. I can’t be sure.

At any rate, for a very long time now, and almost reflexively, I have viewed my brood’s emergent ability to handle situations completely on their own as largely deficient, characterizing their fledgling methodology for dealing with life’s inevitable difficulties as irreparably flawed. Shame on me for not believing in them more and criticizing less—for dooming them to failure even before they can imagine success.

Everything from tying shoelaces and crossing the street to shepherding expensive instruments and irreplaceable flash drives to and from school has been met with unwarranted skepticism and/or a healthy dose of catastrophizing, which I’ve pretty much perfected at this juncture in my parenting career. Never mind entrusting them with tasks like walking our neurotic little dog (the one inclined to hurl his smallish body into the path of oncoming cars) or remembering to snugly latch the lids of hamster cages, lest the wily beasts escape. Suffice it to say, I have issues with control, punctuated by a host of irrational fears and an unwillingness to fully embrace my children’s ever-increasing level of maturity. As a result, I’ve doled out independence in embarrassingly small chunks.

So when it came time to broach the subject of staying home alone, with nary the suggestion of parental supervision, I became consumed with a quiet sense of dread. My dear progenies, who have longed for freedom seemingly forever, couldn’t possibly function without me hovering over them, issuing a barrage of directives for the duration: “Keep the doors locked. Don’t let anyone inside under any circumstances. Answer the phone, but don’t suggest that you’re HOME ALONE. Find a pen and actually take a message. Write legibly. On something besides your hand. Furthermore, don’t even THINK about cooking anything. Or shampooing the dog. Or Face-timing your friends who are probably home alone, too, toying with the notion of climbing onto the roof because that seems like a perfectly rational thing to do. Yes, I climbed onto my roof as a kid. That doesn’t mean you should. Also, the security system will be armed, so don’t go outside.”

Despite my reluctance on the matter, I recently caved and allowed Frick and Frack to hold down the fort. Alone. For several consecutive hours. Oddly enough, no one died or had been abducted by aliens. The dog bore no visible signs of trauma, the house was fairly intact and there were no bicycles on the roof. However, upon entering, I noted that our newfangled security system had been curiously disarmed. Naturally, this led to a discussion, one that unfolded thusly:

Me: “So why isn’t this thingy (read: the hi-tech-alarm-gizmo-I-don’t-pretend-to-understand) beeping?”

Frick: “I disarmed it.”

Me: “Why on earth would you do that?!”

Frick: “Because it was beeping. Annoyingly. Plus, I knew the police and fire department would show up any minute if I didn’t.”

Me: “Oh, right. And why was it beeping?”

Frick: “Because Sadie went outside.”

Me: “I thought I told you guys NOT to go outside…or to even open the door.”

Frick: “Yeah well, she did. She thought she heard your car.”

Me: “Okay, why is this (key holder) box empty?”

Frack: “Because I lost the key.”

Me: “You lost the key. Terrific. Why would you even NEED the stupid key?!”

Frack: “Because Taylor wouldn’t let me in.”

Me: “Why wouldn’t you let your sister back in the house?!”

Frick: “You told me not to let anyone inside, under any circumstances. But I had to. She kept banging on the door and it was really annoying.”

At this point, I had no words. Nothing I had conjured in my deranged little mind had prepared me for what apparently had transpired. In any event, I found comfort in the knowledge that my brood had, indeed, demonstrated responsible behavior. Sort of.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (eating my words). Visit me there at

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Growing Pains, I Pretty Much Suck at Parenting, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

A Tale of Two Schools

Middle school is an exhausting, uber-dramatic, soul-sucking affair—or at least that’s the impression my sixth-grade daughters would have the world at large believe. I could be wrong. Maybe it’s just me they’ve tried so desperately to convince—that life as an 11-year-old is hard, especially during said epic transition to the Land of Angsty Tweens. But I’m a tough sell. What’s more, I find their collective woe-is-me sort of grousing fairly amusing, which, I assume, will ensure me a cozy spot in hell. Possibly a corner office, with a window overlooking a bumper crop of my shortcomings.

At any rate, between the histrionics involved with not having the right notebooks, Sharpie markers and/or molecularly superior two-pocket folders, animated accounts of kids almost getting stuffed inside lockers and my so-called insensitivity regarding polka-dotted underwear on gym days, I can’t keep up. Indeed, during these first few weeks of school I’ve failed in a fashion that is nothing short of spectacular. That said, I’ve been less than attentive to the delicate nuance of fashion trends germane to Hollister, Hello Kitty and the hideous nature of skinny jeans. I’ve expressed outrage and, occasionally, an air of indifference toward their ever-changing moods, the irony of which is not lost on me. But perhaps most disturbingly, I’ve neglected to commiserate with those who deem their plight wholly intolerable.

Shame on me.

Hence, the commentary I’ve grown far too accustomed to hearing: “Mom, for your information, we’re going to die. Unless, of course, you go back to Staples and buy the stuff I told you we needed for science. Otherwise, we’re going to die. Also, would you puleeeeease refrain from visiting our school and putting cutesy notes inside our lockers? It’s entirely possible WE WILL DIE OF EMBARRASSMENT if you keep doing that. Either way, we’re dead.”

Point taken.

As one might expect, however, the discussion doesn’t end there. “Yeah, Mom, it’s not enough that we have to lug our backpacks and instruments ALL THE WAY to our lockers, remember the stupid combination, dump 17 million things in there and try to make it to the right class with the right stuff at the right time. We also have to deal with the possibility that someone might see your note reminding us to bring our instruments home or telling us to have a terrific day. How can we have a terrific day if you treat us like babies?!” said the soul-crushing, self-absorbed demon seed who probably doubts I ever attended junior high or wore a training bra.

Ouch. Naturally, I feel compelled to defend, and enlighten, and perhaps embellish—all in the name of making an impression upon the difficult-to-impress crowd.

“It’s not as if I haven’t navigated the thorny path of adolescence myself,” I shriek inside my head, delivering a soliloquy to end all soliloquies, “anxiously wending my way through hallways crawling with upperclassmen eager to feast upon my naïveté and/or steal my milk money. Needless to say, I’ve been stuffed inside plenty of smelly lockers. Probably. Possibly. Well, almost. I lived in CONSTANT FEAR of such an occurrence anyway, scarring me for life. And believe it or not, I, too, was burdened with the insurmountable task of (gasp!) memorizing locker combinations. Furthermore, there were no backpacks to speak of, let alone ones with a profusion of padding and ergonomic designs for the namby-pamby among us. We actually carried our books and pencils and massive quantities of notes to and from school. Through the blinding snow. Uphill. Both ways. Don’t even get me started on the banal quality of cafeteria offerings back then. Suffice it to say, you will never grow to know and loathe the essence of ‘mystery meat,’ nor will you develop a crippling aversion to sloppy joes, destined to last a lifetime.”

“Need I even mention the communal showers…or the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad gym suits we were required to wear, grades seven through twelve—the ones that were obscenely restrictive and stylistically heinous?! Of course, I must, lest you fail to appreciate the good fortune you now enjoy, to include deodorant. Lots of deodorant, for one and all. Never mind that insufferable wedge of the calendar designated for obligatory boy/girl square dancing during the 70s era—an event that could only be classified as sheer misery, especially in the eyes of teens and tweens whose lives were devoted to building a society of budding wallflowers,” said the veteran wallflower, as she recounted that which, ostensibly, was a soul-sucking affair.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (reminiscing, sort of). Visit me there at

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under I Pretty Much Suck at Parenting, School Schmool, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

The Seven Habits of Highly Defective Parents

In honor of the late Stephen Covey…

Sarcasm aside, Stephen Covey should have written a book with the abovementioned title. Not that he failed spectacularly as a father, but because people tend to more readily grasp what doesn’t work, as opposed to what does. Like tightrope walking, for instance—without a net. In a practical sense, Seven Habits would’ve been an invaluable guide for parents, highlighting the antithesis of good advice as it relates to the uncertain nature of raising children. Countless individuals, myself included, could’ve then avoided seven of the biggest pitfalls of child rearing—all of which I’ve shamelessly embraced since the advent of motherhood. So in the true spirit of generosity and irreverence, I’ve compiled a list of that which you would do well to eschew.

1)   STOCKPILE EXACTLY NOTHING IN YOUR DISCIPLINARY ARSENAL, rendering you categorically ineffective (read: utterly deplorable) when it comes to dealing with ill-mannered children and/or defiant teens. A sign that you’re on the right track in this regard can be clearly demonstrated if you lack any discernable ability to assign logical consequences to a wayward grocery cart, let alone an unruly child. Moreover, if you think “positive reinforcement” is just a bunch of psychobabble and you have absolutely no idea what will happen if and when you actually reach the count of three (i.e. at the climax of your hackneyed threat: “One…two…two-and-a-half…two-and-three-quarters…two-and-seven-eighths…”), you’re well on your way to becoming a highly defective parent. However, you’ve truly arrived in said capacity when you scream at your brood, “Stop screaming!” and it actually works.

2)   DO EVERYTHING FOR YOUR CHILD/CHILDREN, lest they become discouraged, frustrated or palpably incensed as a result of their futile attempts to do for themselves. Heaven forbid you let them fail. At anything. Nor should your dear progenies be held accountable in this life. For anything. Never mind their longings for independence and ownership as they grow. Continue on the path to martyrdom by picking up their shoes, making their beds and triple-checking their homework day after day, right through college and into grad school. Fight their battles for them, too, paving the way on every imaginable front. In this manner, you can insure their dependency (and your sense of purpose as a slack-picker-upper) for a lifetime.

3)   SAY “YES” TO YOUR CHILD/CHILDREN FAR TOO OFTEN, even if it spells emotional/financial ruin for you, or reckless endangerment for them. A happy upbringing is all about instant gratification and leniency, after all—not to mention, keeping the peace. Indulge them daily—hourly if need be, so that you might satisfy their every whim. Translation: Let your charges pitch a monstrosity-of-a-tent in the living room for weeks on end, perilously slide down staircases in sleeping bags and adopt more pets than the Animal Control Board thinks you can readily accommodate. Note: If your house doesn’t smell like hamsters or wet dog, you’re not trying hard enough.

4)   COMPARE YOUR CHILD/CHILDREN TO OTHERS at every opportunity (especially those involving hyper-successful peers, siblings and well-mannered house plants)—a practice that serves to solidify feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing. Kids simply adore being held to an unattainable ideal, relishing the notion of not-measuring-up in all avenues of life.

5)   MODEL IMPROPRIETY AT EVERY TURN. Launch tirades, throw shoes and by all means, refuse to share your sand shovel. Additionally, hold grudges, damn politicians and say incredibly vile things about the Everyday Math you’ve been expected to embrace since your oldest entered kindergarten. Better still, demonstrate the beauty of white lies, offer your brood an abundance of inappropriate ways to deal with bullies and hang up on a telemarketer at least as often as Rush Limbaugh says something stupid.


7)   INTRODUCE THE CONCEPT OF PANIC TO YOUR CHILD/CHILDREN BY ROUTINELY INVITING FEAR AND WORRY INTO YOUR COLLECTIVE CORNER OF THE WORLD. The more irrational the fear/worry the better. Histrionics are good, too, especially as they relate to obscure maladies involving parasites native to Tasmania, the horror of being struck by a sofa-sized chunk of space debris and, of course, the Mayan apocalypse.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (in all my defective glory). Visit me there at The content of this article, as it appears here, was previously published in the Khaleej Times.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel


Filed under I Pretty Much Suck at Parenting, The Natives are Decidedly Restless, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

P.S. I Still Hate My Summer Workbook

It has become abundantly clear that I should have shipped my kids off to summer camp. Weeks ago. Granted, I would have then been the unhappy recipient of an ungodly number of letters filled with angst, indignation and the desperate longings of two very homesick children. Ones who would likely remind me that I forgot to pack enough underwear and Hello Kitty Band-Aids. Never mind stamps and fancy schmancy stationery—so they could, of course, send more letters spelling out what a horrible mother I am imploring me to come and rescue them from some unnamed mosquito-infested forest as soon as possible.

Much like Diane Falanga’s heartfelt yet hilarious collection: P.S. I Hate It Here and the sequel to her 2010 book, P.S. I Still Hate It Here! More Kids’ Letters From Camp, I’m fairly certain my brood would craft the sort of plea that would appeal to her wicked sense of humor. It’s only natural to expect that I would find such supplications uproariously amusing as well. That said, sending Thing One and Thing Two to summer camp probably would have been at the very least an entertaining venture—not to mention preferable to what I’ve endured of late. More specifically, the insufferable barrage of grousing I’ve tolerated as it relates to handing my charges their “eternally evil” math workbooks (or so they affectionately refer to them).

Who was I to think my progenies would embrace the tedium that is long division, or the horror that is tethered so completely to large and unwieldy fractions and/or word problems involving planes and trains racing to some godforsaken place? ESPECIALLY DURING THE DELICIOUSNESS OF SUMMER!? An idiot, apparently.

My first clue should’ve been the time my dear children hid the cussed things in their big sister’s closet, hoping against hope that I would suffer death, dismemberment or, at the very least, some sort of memory lapse resulting in a reprieve from the toilsome task. Their incessant whining as it ostensibly relates to terrible, horrible, no good, very bad pencils and less-than-endearing erasers should have tipped me off, too. Please note: I have provided an embarrassment of perfectly wonderful pencils and erasers to the aforementioned heathens, much to their chagrin. And let us not forget the vociferous rant that graced the margins of a similar set of workbooks last summer—ones that disturbingly depicted tiny bookish entities with sinister-looking eyebrows and a penchant for consuming children’s brains.

I wish I were kidding. Likewise, I wish I could petition Diane Falanga to harvest notes of that ilk from the throngs of indignant youth that undoubtedly exist in this world of hyper-parenting. But I digress. Summer camp would’ve been fun for my kids. Notes or no notes.

Then again, I would have foregone countless days filled with the sort of hilarity that promises to cling to the corners of my mind for a very long time to come. Hilarity that involved painted-on mustaches that threatened to become permanent, deranged goat-inspired skits (don’t ask),errantly placed lizard poo (seriously, don’t ask) and the assorted vermin my dear husband stupidly encouraged our daughters to “adopt,” if only fleetingly. (Visit to meet Phil and Perry, the groundhog and opossum that have since been returned to the wild—completely unscathed, I might add, except for the emotional scarring duly associated with listening to a couple of 11-year-olds toy with the notion of dressing them up in doll clothes).

Likewise, I would have missed the insanely funny lullaby (i.e. the Soft Kitty song) they sang with afriend in his parents’ hot tub late one night, and the golden opportunity to witness that which made me chortle more than anything: Thing One and Thing Two (an unlikely pair of rappers clad in two of the most ridiculous-looking swim caps and goggles) performing on Photo Booth. Thankfully, it has been digitally preserved for all time, however it pales in comparison to the live version I so enjoyed.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (curiously pleased that I didn’t ship my kids off to summer camp). Visit me there at

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel


Filed under I Pretty Much Suck at Parenting, School Schmool, The Natives are Decidedly Restless