Category Archives: Kid-Speak

Worms Fail Me

www.melindawentzel.comThere is a routine by which my children leave the house each school day. It’s a fairly logical succession of events that usually culminates with a mad dash to the bus stop, backpacks and jackets flapping as they run, their unruly manes trailing behind them. Of all the memories of motherhood I’m sure to harvest, the one that features their early morning race across the lawn, a blur of gangly legs and unbridled enthusiasm, will be a favorite. It’s likely, too, that I’ll remember the many times they paused in the street, still blackened and slick from the unending rains of spring, to rescue untold numbers of earthworms from what would appear to be certain death.

Quickly, yet gingerly, they scoop them up and place them where it is safe, pleased to have made a difference in a small yet meaningful way. And as I witness this determined albeit futile effort to “…rescue them all, Mom,” morning after morning I am moved, inspired almost, to join in their worthy deeds. Of course, it would be cruel to utter the obvious truth: “You can’t possibly save them all.” So instead I bite my tongue and agree that worms, too, have a purpose. “They aerate and enrich the soil, Mom.” Again I am reminded of the exuberance of youth and of the remarkable capacity children have for storing data sure to wow me.

At any rate, it goes without saying that worms lack the ability to communicate their needs and desires—no matter how compelling or dire they might be. Granted, they couldn’t deliver any sort of message that anyone could ever hope to interpret. Crazy as it sounds, there are times that I can relate to such hapless creatures—especially as I struggle to connect with my brood via meaningful discourse. Indeed, sometimes words fail me—when weighty subjects arise, when reflective listening falls flat, when my children’s growing allegiance to privacy rears its ugly head. But I am determined to improve the way in which we connect over the stuff that matters—as well as the stuff that doesn’t particularly.

For starters, I’ve made a solemn pledge to engage my daughters in conversation each day—to stop whatever it is I happen to be doing and tune in to their respective worlds. To find out who has a crush on whom, which item on the lunch menu is to die for these days and just how many Pokémon cards it truly takes to be complete. For my oldest, my curiosities are more akin to: which D.C. restaurant is her new fave, what, exactly, does one do with a graphic design degree anyway and when (oh when!) will the boyfriend be getting a haircut. And although I make light of it here, I understand how important it is to have these conversations. Somehow over the past decade I’ve allowed life’s harried pace to take precedence over bonding in this manner—even over the seemingly insignificant happenings of life, which is precisely what I wish to change.

So aside from vowing to carve out more one-on-one “face time” with my co-ed daughter (who is still away at college), I plan to call more, and text more and I suspect I’ll even utilize Facebook’s messaging system on a more regular basis—a concept I never once imagined myself embracing.

As for my two youngest charges, I’ve taken a big step forward on the path to opening the lines of communication by purchasing each of them Just Between Us: A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal for Girls and Their Mothers by Meredith and Sofie Jacobs (Chronicle Books). So in addition to the aforementioned “face time,” we now have this wonderfully interactive, perfectly confidential, writing prompt-infused means of communicating with one another—a tool that encourages us to “talk” about everything from boys and bands to wishes and worries, all within the confines of a tangible journal that we conveniently pass back and forth. Of course, it doesn’t replace or devalue our customary method of conversing, but instead offers another, perhaps deeper, layer of connecting. A good thing methinks.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom. The content of this article, as it appears here, was previously published in the Khaleej Times.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Bookish Stuff, Kid-Speak

And on the Eighth Day, God Created Tactless Children

“Mom, do you have any clothes that are snug?” one of my brood tossed out as she snacked on a slice of pizza the size of Connecticut.

Snug?” I asked. Could a wispy second grader fully and completely grasp the meaning of a word like snug–as in, “My pants are so fucking ‘snug,’ I’m going to EXPLODE if I so much as entertain the idea of breathing right now!”?

“Yeah. Like stuff that fits you too tight.”

“Yes, Hon. Virtually everything I own.”

“No, that’s not right, Mom. What you’re wearing right now isn’t too tight,” she corrected.

“Okay.” That’s because I’m so pathetic I happen to be wearing your father’s khakis with the waistband rolled over so they won’t fall to my knees in the grocery store–oh, and an enormous t-shirt so no one actually sees the hideous waistband-rollover-dealie. “ALMOST everything.”

“Like your wedding dress?” she offered casually (How could a puny and oh-so-unworldly kid zero in on THE most significant piece of garmentage I own as it relates directly to my hopeless and eternal struggle with weight since the advent of motherhood?! Needless to say, I was stunned and amazed to learn that she possessed such painfully accurate knowledge).

“Yes, like my wedding dress,” I answered through clenched teeth as I peeled the umpteenth carrot at the sink, wondering where this exercise in humiliation could possibly be headed.

“Can we play dress-up with it then?” she asked offhandedly.www.melindawentzel.com

NO. You can’t play dress-up with my wedding dress! That’s…that’s…just not…it’s just not…appropriate,” I stammered and fished for the proper wordage to protect and defend what was rightfully mine–as if I might need it for a third trip down the aisle at some point in the future. Besides, I didn’t want dribbles of pizza to sully its pristine surface. Or the purplish hue of lip gloss they were sure to smear on it (“…because lipstick makes us more be-U-tiful, Mommy, so we can get married”). My dress was perfectly perfect shrouded in plastic, hanging for all eternity behind the rest of my wardrobe-that-was-too-stinking-small-for-me.

For the record: I made two trips down the aisle.

But in two completely different dresses. In two completely different cities. In two completely different decades.

And, of course, I exchanged I-Do’s with two completely different men.

That said, wearing the same dress twice would have been tacky. And no, I couldn’t have poured myself into the first dress for the second wedding anyway. Not on a bet.

____________________________________________________________

Just then, her partner in crime (i.e. the equally wispy twin sister) joined us in the kitchen to listen in.

“Just where did all this snug malarkey come from anyway?” I had to inquire. Did my ass really look that big? SO big that my soon-to-be-eight-year-old daughters felt compelled to address the issue face-to-face?!

“We saw an ad on TV,” Wispy Girl One answered.

“Yeah. It was about how you could fit into all your old clothes again,” Wispy Girl Two added.

“Oh really,” I said, cynicism oozing from my pores.

“Yeah. It only takes like a day, Mom, and then the man said you could fit into your old clothes. Isn’t that cool?!” Wispy Girl Two further explained.

“Very cool, Hon. Very cool. Although I doubt it would work in just one day.”

“Yeah. It might take you a week because you really don’t get how it works, do you Mom?”

Apparently not.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (in my husband’s khakis…but it’s not what you think). Oh, and you can buy Jen Lancaster’s book here, Such a Pretty Fat and Kim Brittingham’s literary gem, Read My Hips here. Perhaps I ought to zip to the bookstore myself with my tactless children in tow–who will undoubtedly mention to the nice saleslady, “Mommy’s clothes are a bit snug, you know. But she’s working on it.”

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Kid-Speak, Ode to Embarrassment

Worms Fail Me

www.melindawentzel.comThere is a routine by which my children leave the house each school day. It is a fairly logical succession of events that usually culminates with a mad dash to the bus stop, backpacks and jackets flapping as they run, their unruly manes trailing behind them. Of all the memories of motherhood I am sure to harvest, the one that features their early morning race across the lawn, a blur of gangly legs and unbridled enthusiasm, will be a favorite. It is likely, too, that I will remember the many times they paused in the street, still blackened and slick from the unending rains of spring, to rescue untold numbers of earthworms from what would appear to be certain death (i.e. either from being drowned right there on the pavement or crushed by the bus that would soon round the bend).

Quickly, yet gingerly, they scoop them up and place them where it is safe, pleased to have made a difference in a small yet meaningful way. And as I witness this determined albeit futile effort to “…rescue them all, Mom,” morning after morning I am moved, inspired almost, to join in their worthy deeds. Of course, it would be cruel to utter the obvious truth: “You can’t possibly save them all.” So instead I bite my tongue and agree that worms, too, have a purpose. “They aerate and enrich the soil, Mom.” Again I am reminded of the exuberance of youth and of the remarkable capacity children have for storing data sure to wow me. A decade from now, if either of them announces a plan to become somehow involved in a lifelong pursuit to save beached whales, I will not be surprised. Nor will I be disappointed.

At any rate, it goes without saying that worms lack the ability to communicate their needs and desires—no matter how compelling or dire they might be. Granted, they couldn’t deliver any sort of message that anyone could ever hope to interpret. Crazy as it sounds, there are times that I can relate to such hapless creatures—especially as I struggle to connect with my brood via meaningful discourse. Indeed, sometimes words fail me—when weighty subjects arise, when unanswerable questions surface, when reflective listening falls flat, when my children’s growing allegiance to privacy begins to rear its ugly head. That said, I am determined to improve the way in which we connect over the stuff that matters—as well as the stuff that doesn’t particularly.

For starters (and as completely simplistic as it sounds), I’ve made a solemn pledge to find time on a daily basis to engage each of my daughters in conversation—to stop whatever it is I happen to be doing and tune in to their respective worlds. To find out who has a crush on whom, which item on the lunch menu is to die for these days and just how many Pokémon cards it truly takes to be complete. (The jury is still out on that one). For my oldest, my curiosities would be more akin to: which D.C. restaurant is her new fave, what, exactly, does one do with a graphic design degree anyway and when (oh when!) will the boyfriend be getting a haircut. And although I make light of it here, I understand how important it is to have these conversations with my children. Somehow over the last decade or so I’ve allowed life’s harried pace to take precedence over bonding in this manner—even over the seemingly insignificant happenings of life. That is precisely what I wish to change.

So aside from vowing to carve out more one-on-one “face time” with my co-ed daughter (who is still away at college), I plan to call more, and TEXT more, which the people at Verizon will undoubtedly be delighted to hear. Strangely enough, I suspect I’ll even utilize Facebook’s messaging system on a more regular basis—a concept I never once imagined myself embracing.

As for my two youngest charges, I’ve taken a big step forward on the path to opening the lines of communication by purchasing each of them Just Between Us: A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal for Girls and Their Mothers by Meredith and Sofie Jacobs (Chronicle Books). So in addition to the aforementioned “face time,” we now have this wonderfully interactive, perfectly confidential, writing prompt-infused means of communicating with one another—a tool that encourages us to “talk” about everything from boys and bands to wishes and worries, all within the confines of a tangible journal that we conveniently pass back and forth. Of course, it doesn’t replace or devalue our customary method of conversing, but instead offers another, perhaps deeper, layer of connecting—which is a good thing, methinks.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (where worms, I mean words sometimes fail me). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Kid-Speak, Mushy Stuff

The Pretenders

It’s mid-July and already there is talk of the horrors of middle school. Mind you, neither of my 10-year-old progenies will enter the sixth grade this coming fall, however the inescapable seeds of dread have apparently been sown. Chief among their concerns (aside from being stuffed inside a locker and/or trampled by a herd of eighth graders) is the notion that one’s imagination tragically dies upon leaving elementary school—a date which, incidentally, will occur exactly 325 days from now. Not that anyone’s counting, although I’d be lying if I denied my woeful lament regarding the finite quality of childhood. Indeed, it saddens me greatly to think of the fleeting years during which we embrace the fanciful worlds that children create. Worlds into which I am occasionally welcomed and sometimes thrust—even still. (i.e. “Hello, I’m Mrs. Snobs from London, and I’ll be needing your lipstick and heels straightaway. Is that alright, Mum?”)

That said, the Land of Make Believe is a very real place where kids spend a delicious portion of their lives, both emotionally invested and purposefully engaged in the important business of play. And no matter how many times I see it—a child wholly immersed within the depths of his or her imagination—I am awestruck by its palpable nature and the pure catharsis it engenders. Translation: For whatever reason, it seems that children need to pretend much like they need to breathe. At least mine do. I’ve watched it a thousand times; the here and now melts away, time is suspended indefinitely and the gateway to another dimension yawns invitingly.

That’s how it happens here anyway. Legions of Barbies beckon, some of whom wear sequined gowns or soft, cottony dresses—ones that have been cleverly fashioned with Kleenexes and obscene quantities of Scotch tape. Still others gallivant about the place wearing nothing at all, completely unabashed by their nakedness and entirely unaffected by their tenuously attached heads. Never mind the dolls with mismatched earrings and severed limbs (i.e. let us not forget my charges’ enthrallment with one-legged Ken and Headless Hildegard). Ironically, what seems problematic to me is of little consequence to those thoroughly engrossed within an ever-emerging narrative—one that typically involves hordes of plastic people with perfect teeth and painted-on smiles.

Likewise, throngs of endearing little dogs, miniature ponies and Pokémon collectibles speak to my brood—

as do the massive herds of hideous-looking (and disturbingly pointy) dinosaurs I’ve grown accustomed tofinding with my feet in the dead of night. It’s a small price to pay, though, given that I get to witness all manner of drama unfold before me as I eavesdrop on the disjointed conversations that the aforementioned beasts evidently have. (i.e. “My dear, you’ve already had THREE stegosauruses today, which is entirely shameful. I’m afraid you’ve become a glutton—so there will be NO PIE for you this evening.”) That is, of course, if I remain quiet and still for the duration of said performances—invisible almost—to a select pair of pretenders who are, at times, embarrassed to be pretending.

There are stuffed animals here, too—ones that fairly transcend the bounds of meaning for my children. As one might expect, they’re threadbare from years of love and being dragged, hauled and/or carted virtually everywhere. Of course, they belong to our family now, having adopted a certain humanness that, oddly enough, even my husband and I recognize. Surely it makes sense to buckle them in when we travel, to kiss them good night at bedtime and to include them as we hold hands during grace. They are the very same creatures for whom search and rescue missions are orchestrated and vigils are held when, inevitably, they are lost…the ones that my daughters feel compelled to dress in doll clothes and toddler underwear…the ones with whom secrets are shared and frustrations are voiced…the ones who listen, comfort and understand unconditionally…the ones who may well journey to a faraway place one day—like college or perhaps a first apartment.

…which is okay by me.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (hoping that my children’s imagination never truly dies). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Home for Wayward Toys, Kid-Speak

Words to Live By

As a parent it sometimes seems as if there simply aren’t enough words at my disposal. Not enough to adequately address all that encompasses raising wily children anyway. And it is during the months of June, July and August that I feel most compelled to append Merriam-Webster’s somewhat meager offerings. Summertime, after all, is a language unto itself—a season bursting forth with events that beg to be defined. Translation: I need some new and exciting terms to describe life beneath this circus tent—nomenclature that has yet to earn a place in the annals of dictionaries and whatnot.

Toward that end, here are some less-than-official but oh-so-fitting words I crafted some time ago in the spirit of depicting parenthood more thoroughly. Be sure to visit me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom, click on Discussions) to share some of the words and/or phrases you’ve coined in the trenches of Parentville.

Crocophobia [krok-o-FO-bee-ya] noun: An irrational and slightly debilitating fear of permitting one’s offspring to wear Crocs pretty much anywhere on the planet. Naturally, all-that-is-entirely-horrible (specifically pertaining to the health and well being of the wily beasts who beg to wear them) can and will happen as a direct result of donning said footwear.

“Alright already. It’s true that I suffer from Crocophobia, but mark my words: You’ll fall down on the playground and knock your teeth out if you wear those stupid things!”

Note: Not to be confused with Crocomania: a disturbingly euphoric state associated with the sheer joy of wearing Crocs.

Sunscream [SON-skreem] noun: What children view as the incarnation of wickedness (i.e. schmutzy cream, lotion or spray designed to protect one’s skin from harmful UVA/UVB rays, but suggestive of unadulterated evil)—which in all likelihood will cause one to scream unmercifully when properly applied.

“Mom, don’t you know this is PURE TORTURE?! I HATE sunscream and I HATE how it tastes! Do you want me to eat it and DIE?!”

S’moreapaloosa [SMORE-a-pa-LOO-za] noun: The celebrated and seemingly endless event during which voluminous quantities of S’mores are shamelessly consumed by one and all. Typically, an assembly line type of arrangement is utilized in order to facilitate the mass production of said fare and a second or third source of income is strongly recommended to fund the project for an entire season.

Note: S’mores (the indescribably delicious summertime snack which is thought to have originated with the Girl Scouts in 1927) consists of melted chocolate and toasted marshmallows sandwiched between two graham cracker squares. You know you want one—or several hundred.

“We’re having a big cookout and then later tonight, it’s S’moreapaloosa time by the campfire! Wanna come?!”

Kidskrieg [KIDZ-kreeg] noun: The swift and sudden onslaught of frenzied children (i.e. a veritable torrent of smallish bodies) eager to examine and appraise the digital snapshot Mom or Dad may have just taken of them. Perish the thought of enlisting the support and cooperation of all parties concerned as it relates to posing for another pretty picture. The aforementioned children will be far too preoccupied with the mauling-of-Mom-or-Dad and, of course, pawing at the cussed camera—the one with the fancy-schmancy preview thingy that spawned such delirium in the first place.

“Dear God, here comes the kidskrieg!”

Brusterized [BREW-stir-ized] transitive verb: A profoundly incapacitating state of mind in which an individual or group yields to the irresistible allure of Bruster’s ice cream. Such an indulgence typically occurs while en route to the next 47 things on any given day’s calendar, often stemming from having little or no meal-planning ability, considerable confusion regarding the food pyramid and/or the desperate need to quell any and all child-related disturbances in the back seat.

“Hey Dad, we got Brusterized on the way home from swimming lessons and Mom said that counts as a real meal.”

Conflatulation [con-FLA-chu-LAY-shun] interjection: An expression of acknowledgment and/or sincere praise for having performed the most impressive (read: the loudest, longest, or smelliest) stinker in the land. Said expression is employed almost entirely by children in their everyday speech patterns and, customarily, is used in the plural.

Conflatulations! Your fart was AMAZING!!”

Grassathon [GRASS-a-thon] noun: A brutally interminable, thick-of-summer type of event in which children of all ages risk life and limb while sliding down steep, grassy slopes upon various sled and sled-like devices. Swim goggles and mosquito repellant are optional. Grass stains, assorted injuries and rashes are not.

Note: Lawns are irreparably damaged during the abovementioned event.

“Hey guys! We’re having a Grassathon in my front yard ALL DAY! Bring your sleds!”

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (quickly becoming fluent in the language of summer). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Kid-Speak, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

Worms Fail Me

www.melindawentzel.comThere is a routine by which my children leave the house each school day. It is a fairly logical succession of events that usually culminates with a mad dash to the bus stop, backpacks and jackets flapping as they run, their unruly manes trailing behind them. Of all the memories of motherhood I am sure to harvest, the one that features their early morning race across the lawn, a blur of gangly legs and unbridled enthusiasm, will be a favorite. It is likely, too, that I will remember the many times they paused in the street, still blackened and slick from the unending rains of spring, to rescue untold numbers of earthworms from what would appear to be certain death (i.e. either from being drowned right there on the pavement or crushed by the bus that would soon round the bend).

Quickly, yet gingerly, they scoop them up and place them where it is safe, pleased to have made a difference in a small yet meaningful way. And as I witness this determined albeit futile effort to “…rescue them all, Mom,” morning after morning I am moved, inspired almost, to join in their worthy deeds. Of course, it would be cruel to utter the obvious truth: “You can’t possibly save them all.” So instead I bite my tongue and agree that worms, too, have a purpose. “They aerate and enrich the soil, Mom.” Again I am reminded of the exuberance of youth and of the remarkable capacity children have for storing data sure to wow me. A decade from now, if either of them announces a plan to become somehow involved in a lifelong pursuit to save beached whales, I will not be surprised. Nor will I be disappointed.

At any rate, it goes without saying that worms lack the ability to communicate their needs and desires—no matter how compelling or dire they might be. Granted, they couldn’t deliver any sort of message that anyone could ever hope to interpret. Crazy as it sounds, there are times that I can relate to such hapless creatures—especially as I struggle to connect with my brood via meaningful discourse. Indeed, sometimes words fail me—when weighty subjects arise, when unanswerable questions surface, when reflective listening falls flat, when my children’s growing allegiance to privacy begins to rear its ugly head. But since June is Effective Communications Month, I am determined to improve the way in which we connect over the stuff that matters—as well as the stuff that doesn’t particularly.

For starters (and as completely simplistic as it sounds), I’ve made a solemn pledge to find time on a daily basis to engage each of my daughters in conversation—to stop whatever it is I happen to be doing and tune in to their respective worlds. To find out who has a crush on whom, which item on the lunch menu is to die for these days and just how many Pokémon cards it truly takes to be complete. (The jury is still out on that one). For my oldest, my curiosities would be more akin to: which D.C. restaurant is her new fave, what, exactly, does one do with a graphic design degree anyway and when (oh when!) will the boyfriend be getting a haircut. And although I make light of it here, I understand how important it is to have these conversations with my children. Somehow over the last decade or so I’ve allowed life’s harried pace to take precedence over bonding in this manner—even over the seemingly insignificant happenings of life. That is precisely what I wish to change.

So aside from vowing to carve out more one-on-one “face time” with my co-ed daughter (who is still away at college), I plan to call more, and TEXT more, which the people at Verizon will undoubtedly be delighted to hear. Strangely enough, I suspect I’ll even utilize Facebook’s messaging system on a more regular basis—a concept I never once imagined myself embracing.

As for my two youngest charges, I’ve taken a big step forward on the path to opening the lines of communication by purchasing each of them Just Between Us: A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal for Girls and Their Mothers by Meredith and Sofie Jacobs (Chronicle Books). So in addition to the aforementioned “face time,” we now have this wonderfully interactive, perfectly confidential, writing prompt-infused means of communicating with one another—a tool that encourages us to “talk” about everything from boys and bands to wishes and worries, all within the confines of a tangible journal that we conveniently pass back and forth. Of course, it doesn’t replace or devalue our customary method of conversing, but instead offers another, perhaps deeper, layer of connecting—which is a good thing, methinks.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (where worms, I mean words sometimes fail me). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Kid-Speak, The Write Stuff

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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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