Category Archives: “S” is for Shame

Dust Happens

0a23c19c729511e391da0ea7b73f6c45_8I have an aversion to housework—especially dusting. It’s just so completely exhausting, what with all the moving-of-stuff and then with the putting-it-all-back nonsense. What’s more, I can never remember how I had it all arranged before I started to dust and when I’m finished, I have to REASSEMBLE it in a manner that is not only functional, but also pleasing to the eye. Because who wants to look at fake plants, vacation pictures and trinkets et al. if it’s arranged improperly? I don’t.

Admittedly, I’ve been known to photograph my furniture, with its corresponding décor sitting on top of it, so that I don’t have to recall how it was positioned beforehand. Stop laughing. I probably deserve a medal because it’s a technique that is both clever and effective. So is using a vacuum cleaner when the layer of dust on tabletops is so thick it is thought to be offensive to one’s sensibilities.

Of course, my dogs sneer at me whenever that happens, judgmental beasts that they are. Or maybe they’re simply confused. “Vacuum cleaner? What on earth is that? She’s never pulled that from the depths of the closet before.”

So if my dogs are acutely aware of my shortcomings as a housekeeper, it’s no secret to others that my home is far from impeccably clean. Sometimes, however, I live in the Land of Denial—ignoring written messages on the TV screen like DUST ME or the fact that I unearthed a pine needle from last year’s Christmas tree the other day along with enough dog fur to make a rug. Not a toupee. An actual RUG.

There’s nothing quite like an impending visit from guests, however, that stirs within me a very real sense of panic—one that propels me from the couch and inspires me to scrub, and to dust, and to exhume from the aforementioned closet the vacuum cleaner. It’s as if the walls themselves shout at me, YOU LIVE IN A HOVEL AND PEOPLE ARE COMING! CLEAN ALREADY!

I know it’s really bad when my husband picks up a toilet wand and starts scrubbing, usually first thing in the morning—plagued, perhaps, by the thought of our filthy toilets throughout the night. I am rarely plagued by such thoughts unless I know that guests will soon make landfall (see above). Or we’re on the cusp of yet another holiday (see below).

That said, I positively detest the thought of setting festive décor ON TOP OF DUST, although it’s been known to occur on occasion. Halloween was a perfect example. October 31st sort of snuck up on me this year, finding me totally unprepared for the event. At the last minute, it seemed, I was pulling rubbery bats and warty witches from our tub in the attic to display around the house. Dusting was out of the realm of possibility. Reference paragraph #1.

Let us not forget another reason that dusting is such a royal pain, aside from the sneezing frenzy it often rouses. It is the idiocy of dusting the stuff that sits on top of the stuff you’re dusting—a hazard of the trade. Also there’s the awfulizing we do as parents when we ask our children to help out with the housework, dusting in particular, completely convinced they’ll break something in the process—another hazard of the trade. Plus there’s absolutely NO CHANCE they’ll return stuff to its rightful place in the universe—which is patently intolerable. Hence, my hatred of dusting and all that it embodies.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (probably not dusting). Join me there, at the corner of Irreverence and Over-Sharing www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "S" is for Shame, Rantings & Ravings, Welcome to My Disordered World

It Takes a Hurricane to Raise a Village

As I piece this column together on the cusp of Election Day, the fate of our presidential race has yet to be decided. Granted, over the past several weeks multitudes of early votes have been cast, absentee ballots from near and far have been duly harvested and an embarrassment of straw polling has dominated the news cycle to the point of intolerableness. Never mind the ever-present spin of so-called pundits, the glut of ugly ad campaigns and the pervasive climate of divisiveness that that sort of milieu begets.

Even so, it is impossible for me to know which candidate emerged victorious.

Oddly enough, I don’t especially care anymore. It’s not that the issues are any less important to me, or that I’ve grown disinterested in the direction this country may or may not be headed. It’s just that the tragic nature of Superstorm Sandy was and continues to be so much larger than any political event could ever hope to be. Perhaps more importantly, the outpouring of empathy for those affected—regardless of party affiliation—coupled with coordinated relief efforts in response to such an epic scale of devastation have been nothing short of remarkable. The silver lining, as it were, in these darkest of times.

Day after day, as I tuned in to witness unprecedented ruination up and down our nation’s eastern shoreline (as well as further inland) and listened hard as people from all walks of life shared their stories of loss and unparalleled upheaval, I was taken by the virtual nonexistence of politics. It was as if the tumult of impassioned citizens, ones who were thoroughly obsessed with the notion of voicing support for this or that candidate only a short while ago, had been silenced. Instead, voices of compassion, solidarity and true grit prevailed—as floodwaters rose, as fires raged and as an ungodly number of homes and livelihoods were swallowed by the sea. By and large, people set aside their differences in the wake of a monster storm to do what was right and to do what was necessary in order to help those in need. In the process, they became more human.

Aside from restoring my faith in the idea that ordinary people are capable of extraordinary things, Hurricane Sandy has also plagued me with guilt. While the storm ravaged neighborhoods, cities and towns across more than a dozen states, Canada and the Caribbean, my greatest source of angst revolved around the question of how we’d keep our bearded dragons warm in the event of a lengthy power failure. Of course, my husband almost bought a generator, so we were fairly certain that we (along with our dear lizards) would almost stay warm. There was also the dire matter of keeping our pajama-clad, home-from-school-again kids entertained for godknowshowlong. Naturally, I fed them a steady diet of electronics prior to Sandy’s arrival, banking on the notion that we wouldn’t be afforded that luxury for very long.

But I was wrong. We never did lose our electricity, or the extravagance of hot showers, or access to fully functioning toilets or even a modicum of heat throughout the entire ordeal. We also had a roof over our heads, warm beds each night and safe drinking water. To say we were fortunate doesn’t begin to describe our lot—even if the kids did wear their pajamas for two solid days. Never mind the wind that roared outside like a freight train, or that I sent my husband on a battery-procurement-mission-from-hell, or that I prepared enough food for a small country and did roughly 37 loads of laundry in preparation (i.e. engaged in some sort of deranged hurricane-induced nesting behavior).

At any rate, I can’t shake the shame. Nor can I wrap my mind around the devastation so many people faced as a result of this superstorm. That said, elections may come and go, but the tangible, almost village-like sense of community cultivated by this inherently nightmarish event may endure—which is a beautiful thing. Likewise, altruism is an equally beautiful thing, as evidenced by organized efforts to garner aid for those impacted by the storm. To learn more, visit CNN.com and search for an informative piece (dated November 1) entitled “How to help after the superstorm,” an article which details at least eight ways people can become involved and offer assistance to those in need.

Also, be sure to visit www.zazzle.com/PlanetMom to aid Hurricane Sandy victims. I plan to donate 100% of my profits to the American Red Cross for the entire month of November.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (at times, inspired by humanity). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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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

Mommie Dearest

cropped-blue-faced-doll-31.jpgAlways 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! Thewww.melindawentzel.com 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, Mommy?”

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, Mommy.”

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, Mushy Stuff

It’s Likely I’m an Ass

For whatever reason, I sometimes forget that I am an ass. Not to worry, subtle (and not-so-subtle) reminders abound. This morning was no exception.

Firstly, we missed the school bus…a not-so-ordinary occurence with my wily brood, although we seriously flirt with the possibility nearly every morning. Of course, we missed the bus because I am a sorry example of a mother (i.e. I failed to see to it that my children finish their homework the NIGHT BEFORE, so they were forced to complete it as they shoveled Lucky Charms into their faces and slurped orange juice ad nauseam). Ergo, my two dandies became “car riders” on this less-than-stellar morning which, apparently, was a good thing since “all the cool kids are car riders, Mom.”

Who knew.

Secondly, my ineptitude as a dropper-offer-of-kids-at-the-elementary-school is unrivaled in the Northern Hemisphere. Translation: I suck as a chauffeur of smallish creatures that are known to wield backpacks and lunch boxes. Further, my brain simply cannot fathom the driving-on-the-left-side-of-the-road thing whilst traffic whizzes past me ON THE RIGHT, winding in and around an exceedingly large parking lot and buzzing up to the double doors for the celebrated and markedly expeditious deposit of children-ish entities. Everyone but me, it seems, grasps the inherent logic behind said circus-like pattern.

“It’s like the (fucking) Autobahn! With ONCOMING TRAFFIC!” I shriek to my charges, as if they could offer a modicum of support as third graders.

“A) This is COMPLETELY INSANE! B) You’re LATE for school! And C) This is COMPLETELY INSANE!”

A pregnant pause ensues, followed shortly thereafter by Thing One’s expressly pointed commentary from the back seat, “You’re not doing it right, Mom…but I still like being a car rider.”

Joy. Glad someone can see the bright side of my disaster-in-the-making.

“Mom, just follow the arrows and go where that man in the orange vest is pointing………then we won’t crash into Kevin’s mom,” Thing Two instructs, ever the practical child.

Lovely. Crashing into Kevin’s mom sounds like something I’d like to avoid at all costs. I shall heed the orange-vested gentleman’s signals.

Crash or no crash, it’s still entirely likely I’m an ass.

Thirdly, somehow I’ve fallen down on the job of imparting crucial tidbits of information to the impressionable youth in my charge. More specifically, I neglected to inform my kids of the protocol for disembarking during the drop-off period. That said, Thing One tried (and thankfully failed!) to leap from my vehicle as I slowed down to take my place in the endless procession ahead (aka the Escalade Parade).

“No, no, no! You can’t get out HERE, doofus! Wait till I get all the way around to the sidewalk. Then you can hop out, Hon.”

She then fumbled around with her stuff and inadvertently shut the door on her backpack, beside herself with glee over the delicious reality of being a bona fide CAR RIDER instead of a lowly bus goer. “Terrific,” I thought. “She’ll miss the bus INTENTIONALLY tomorrow morning.” As I wended my way through the line (trying like crazy not to rear-end anyone in the process), I quizzed each kid as if they were preparing to parachute into a war zone.

“Homework?”

“Check.”

“Lunch?”

“Check.”

“Agenda?”

“Check.”

“Library books?”

“I don’t have library today, Mom.”

“Oh. Hey, it’s time to get out! GO! GO! GO! There’s a gazillion people behind me! Have a great day!” I shouted after them as they piled out of my Jeep and raced to the school, jackets flapping in the breeze.

“Whoa! Wait a minute!” I rolled down the window and hollered to Thing One, holding up the precious line in the process. “YOU FORGOT TO SHUT THE DOOOOOOOR!” Naturally, she forgot to shut the door because I forgot to quiz her on this all-important sequence of the drop-off event. To make matters worse, I couldn’t shut the stupid door myself (though I tried like mad), nor could I GET OUT and shut it. I feared such action would be viewed as unforgivable by the vast majority of those waiting in line. Further, I assumed the Drop-off Police would then cart me away to be flogged or something equally horrible.

There would be no exiting the vehicle.

So, like a fool, I continued to yell. And in a moment of sheer panic entwined with supreme idiocy, I laid on my horn. Again. And again, not once thinking about the ramifications of my infinitely obtuse actions. I’m certain the people ahead of me in line pegged me for an ass. And rightly so.

“Who honks their horn in the drop-off line?!” they likely bellowed. “My kids are moving as fast as they can, you idiot!”

Needless to say, I wouldn’t blame them for chiding me. I deserved it.

Finally, Thing One realized the mad honker woman was, in fact, me. She then returned to close my door. “Whoops,” she said with a smile. “See you at the bus stop, Mom!”

Indeed, it’s where I belong, ass that I am.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "S" is for Shame, Ode to Embarrassment

Sweet Dreams

Putting a child to bed at a reasonable hour has never been my forte. Okay, it’s at the bottom of the list, hovering slightly above ice sculpting and changing a flat tire. Admittedly, I am pitiful when it comes to the bedtime routine thing. Clearly it represents for me yet another mommy arena in desperate need of improvement. That, and remembering to dab sunscreen on that little spot on the tops of their heads.

I suppose it’s the chore-like feel of the whole rigmarole that gets to me. And the fact that I have to bark those tired old orders each and every night like some sort of tyrant: “Brush your teeth!” “Get your jammies on!” “Go to the bathroom!” “Don’t drink so much water!” “Shut off that blasted television!” and “Quit fooling around in there and GO TO SLEEP!”

Quite frankly, I’m spent at that hour and I can’t stand having to “work” when I’m already maxed-out on the exhaustion scale myself. But then again, mommies don’t punch a time clock. Their shifts never truly end. And downtime is nothing but a myth—unless, of course, you count the smidgen of time spent alone in the shower or those precious moments locked within the solitude of a closet, where the din cannot follow and where the world can wait until we’re reunited with our marbles—yet again.

So it is nothing short of remarkable when the nightly “change” finally occurs—that indescribable transformation within me that takes place shortly after books are read, tuck-ins are complete and the sandman officially arrives. Gone is the sense of urgency and frustration. Erased is the tension that once filled the air. Dulled and diluted is my shameful volatility, hissing like the air that leaves a balloon.

None of it matters now. My tiny bundles of energy and neediness are lost in the land of dreams. Sweet ones, I hope. No matter what the hour…no matter how sapped the day has made me…no matter how vehemently irked I am about the stringy clumps of Silly Putty forever welded to the carpet, or the pinkish yogurt drippings, still clinging like sap to the edge of the coffee table—I feel compelled to watch them as they sleep. Silent and still, at long last.

I tousle their hair, study their tender hands, now supple and yielding as they lay in mine, and soak up the trace of lavender bubble bath, lingering in those sun-streaked locks. Our breaths mingle intimately as I draw nearer to steal yet another good-night kiss, awed by the peace washed over their faces and rugged little bodies. Even their pea-shaped toes are finally at rest, tucked snugly under their bottoms which rise and fall with each restorative breath.

For me, each night’s agenda is nearly the same: To try and commit to memory every minute detail imaginable—to freeze the moment in time, so that I might return to it at will decades from now. The curve of their lips, their smallish frames, the feel of their skin, the warmth of their tiny fingers, and the way their eyelashes lay like petals against their cheeks—these are the things I want to remember. Not how their endless chatter, unbearable bickering matches and miles of raucous galloping over hill and dale drove me berserk the day before. And certainly not my ogre-ish bedtime routine. I’d like to erase that altogether—or perhaps amend it.

Watching closely, I can’t help but be reminded of how they used to be; and for a wistful moment I wish they were back—needier than ever, scooching around the place, babbling on about whatever it is that babies babble on about. But I’m a realist at heart. I know I can’t go back.

As a rule, I also push the rewind button to review the day’s events—trying to recall our special conversations and to remember the highlights: What we did, who we saw and where we went (if we happened to do or see or go anywhere, that is). And of course, I dwell on the mistakes I made as a parent and vow to be a better mommy tomorrow.

It’s a promise worth keeping.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2006 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "S" is for Shame, Mushy 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