Category Archives: Smother May I?

M is for Motherhood

www.melindawentzel.comWhile it’s true the term “motherhood” is a simple collection of ten letters, specifically arranged for ease of pronunciation, it is suggestive of so much more. In sum, I regard it as a wholly intangible, behemoth-like affair that effectively upended all that I thought I knew about life as a decidedly callow twenty-something. Needless to say, the experience continues to shape and mold me, schooling me day and night in the curious ways and means of children, wowing me with the inherent remarkableness of the aforementioned creatures and rendering me forever changed as an individual. As it should be, I suppose. That said, here’s how I spell motherhood.

M Motherhood is a messy beast-of-a-thing—with its suffocating mass of sippy cups and sidewalk chalk, Legos and lunch boxes, bicycles and Band-Aids. Never mind the ubiquitous nature of stuffed animals and the profusion of refrigerator-worthy masterpieces that inhabit our homes, marking time as our progenies progress along the winding path of childhood. And let us not forget all the lovely shades of gray with which we must contend: the tangled complexities of teens, the relentless questioning of toddlers and the soft underbelly of the headstrong child—the one we try desperately to govern without stifling. Indeed, motherhood is a messy business.

O Motherhood is overwhelming to be sure—a seemingly insufferable, plate’s-too-full collection of moments that, when taken together or viewed within the prism of the unattainable ideal, beat us into submission, the thrum of parental failure ringing in our ears. That said, there’s nothing quite like comparing oneself to the façade of perfection—holding our harried selves up against those who appear to be getting it right, the moms who keep all the plates spinning as if flawless extensions of themselves.

T Motherhood is timeless—an eternal post to which we are assigned, willing or not. From the moment our writhing infants, ruddy-faced and wrinkled, are placed upon our chests, motherhood begins in earnest. And although our parent/child relationships shift and season over time, they remain inextricably woven within the fabric of our lives. Not even death can end the appointed role, as a mother’s counsel is sought long after she has been eulogized.

H Motherhood is a humbling experience. Ask anyone who has ever faced the stinging truth as it relates to intolerance and hypocrisy—delivered by a six-year-old, no less, soundly putting those who ought to know better in their respective places. So often kids eclipse our academic abilities, too, reminding us how important it is to embrace change. Never mind that every fiber of our being screams in protest. Moreover, becoming a parent means a humbling loss of identity to some extent, punctuating the uncertain nature of our so-called significance in certain circles. We are simply So-and-So’s mom now—maker of sandwiches, applier of sunscreen, gracious recipient of dandelions. But somehow the title feels right, as does finding a pretty vase for the dandelions.

E Motherhood is edifying in that literally every day we learn something new—most of which is harvested from conversations at the dinner table or at bedtime, from diaries that beckon unremittingly or from tiny notes we discover wadded up in someone’s pants pocket. We spend a lot of time watching, too, realizing that our mothers were right all along. Children will, indeed, cut their own hair, shove peas up their noses and breach late night curfews to test both boundaries and our resolve. Arguably, the lessons of motherhood never truly end.

R Motherhood is real. Good, bad or indifferent, it is palpable, inimitable and exceedingly enlivening. It is the stuff from which memories are made and so much purpose is derived.

H Motherhood delivers nothing less than a heady rush—an intoxicating dose of awe wrapped in the sheer rapture of having had a hand in creating life, not to mention having been called upon to shape one or more future citizens of this world. Mothers are, without question, difference-makers.

O Motherhood makes us swell with omnipotence now and again—a grand and glorious surge of I’M THE MOM, THAT’S WHY sort of sway that leaves us feeling all-powerful, if only fleetingly. But nothing makes us puff up more than hearing censure as priceless as, “Dad, did you get Mom’s permission to do that? She’s the Rule Captain, you know.”

O With motherhood comes obsession. And spiraling panic. And unfounded fear. And, of course, debilitating worry over that which will probably never occur anyway. In sum, we fret about bumps and bruises, unexplained rashes and fevers that strike in the dead of night…about report cards and recklessness, friends we cannot hope to choose and fast cars that will whisper to our charges, inevitably luring them within, despite our best efforts to forbid such foolishness.

D Motherhood is delicious—a profoundly gratifying slice of life we would do well to savor. Never mind its patented swirl of disorder and wealth of doubts, fears and impossible demands. Indeed, motherhood threatens to swallow us whole, while at the same time allowing us to drink in its goodness, gulp by gulp.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (reflecting on the many facets of motherhood). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Gratitude, Love and Other Drugs, Smother May I?

M is for Motherhood

www.melindawentzel.comWhile it’s true the term “motherhood” is a simple collection of ten letters, specifically arranged for ease of pronunciation, it is suggestive of so much more. In sum, I regard it as a wholly intangible, behemoth-like affair that effectively upended all that I thought I knew about life as a decidedly callow twenty-something. Needless to say, the experience continues to shape and mold me, schooling me day and night in the curious ways and means of children, wowing me with the inherent remarkableness of the aforementioned creatures and rendering me forever changed as an individual. As it should be, I suppose. That said, here’s how I spell motherhood.

M Motherhood is a messy beast-of-a-thing—with its suffocating mass of sippy cups and sidewalk chalk, Legos and lunch boxes, bicycles and Band-Aids. Never mind the ubiquitous nature of stuffed animals and the profusion of refrigerator-worthy masterpieces that inhabit our homes, marking time as our progenies progress along the winding path of childhood. And let us not forget all the lovely shades of gray with which we must contend: the tangled complexities of teens, the relentless questioning of toddlers and the soft underbelly of the headstrong child—the one we try desperately to govern without stifling. Indeed, motherhood is a messy business.

O Motherhood is overwhelming to be sure—a seemingly insufferable, plate’s-too-full collection of moments that, when taken together or viewed within the prism of the unattainable ideal, beat us into submission, the thrum of parental failure ringing in our ears. That said, there’s nothing quite like comparing oneself to the façade of perfection—holding our harried selves up against those who appear to be getting it right, the moms who keep all the plates spinning as if flawless extensions of themselves.

T Motherhood is timeless—an eternal post to which we are assigned, willing or not. From the moment our writhing infants, ruddy-faced and wrinkled, are placed upon our chests, motherhood begins in earnest. And although our parent/child relationships shift and season over time, they remain inextricably woven within the fabric of our lives. Not even death can end the appointed role, as a mother’s counsel is sought long after she has been eulogized.

H Motherhood is a humbling experience. Ask anyone who has ever faced the stinging truth as it relates to intolerance and hypocrisy—delivered by a six-year-old, no less, soundly putting those who ought to know better in their respective places. So often kids eclipse our academic abilities, too, reminding us how important it is to embrace change. Never mind that every fiber of our being screams in protest. Moreover, becoming a parent means a humbling loss of identity to some extent, punctuating the uncertain nature of our so-called significance in certain circles. We are simply So-and-So’s mom now—maker of sandwiches, applier of sunscreen, gracious recipient of dandelions. But somehow the title feels right, as does finding a pretty vase for the dandelions.

E Motherhood is edifying in that literally every day we learn something new—most of which is harvested from conversations at the dinner table or at bedtime, from diaries that beckon unremittingly or from tiny notes we discover wadded up in someone’s pants pocket. We spend a lot of time watching, too, realizing that our mothers were right all along. Children will, indeed, cut their own hair, shove peas up their noses and breach late night curfews to test both boundaries and our resolve. Arguably, the lessons of motherhood never truly end.

R Motherhood is real. Good, bad or indifferent, it is palpable, inimitable and exceedingly enlivening. It is the stuff from which memories are made and so much purpose is derived.

H Motherhood delivers nothing less than a heady rush—an intoxicating dose of awe wrapped in the sheer rapture of having had a hand in creating life, not to mention having been called upon to shape one or more future citizens of this world. Mothers are, without question, difference-makers.

O Motherhood makes us swell with omnipotence now and again—a grand and glorious surge of I’M THE MOM, THAT’S WHY sort of sway that leaves us feeling all-powerful, if only fleetingly. But nothing makes us puff up more than hearing censure as priceless as, “Dad, did you get Mom’s permission to do that? She’s the Rule Captain, you know.”

O With motherhood comes obsession. And spiraling panic. And unfounded fear. And, of course, debilitating worry over that which will probably never occur anyway. In sum, we fret about bumps and bruises, unexplained rashes and fevers that strike in the dead of night…about report cards and recklessness, friends we cannot hope to choose and fast cars that will whisper to our charges, inevitably luring them within, despite our best efforts to forbid such foolishness.

D Motherhood is delicious—a profoundly gratifying slice of life we would do well to savor. Never mind its patented swirl of disorder and wealth of doubts, fears and impossible demands. Indeed, motherhood threatens to swallow us whole, while at the same time allowing us to drink in its goodness, gulp by gulp.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (reflecting on the many facets of motherhood). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

 

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Filed under Gratitude, Love and Other Drugs, Smother May I?

“M” is for Motherhood

www.melindawentzel.comWhile it’s true the term “motherhood” is a simple collection of ten letters, specifically arranged for ease of pronunciation, it is suggestive of so much more. In sum, I regard it as a wholly intangible, behemoth-like affair that effectively upended all that I thought I knew about life as a decidedly callow twenty-something. Needless to say, the experience continues to shape and mold me, schooling me day and night in the curious ways and means of children, wowing me with the inherent remarkableness of the aforementioned creatures and rendering me forever changed as an individual. As it should be, I suppose. That said, here’s how I spell motherhood.

M  Motherhood is a messy beast-of-a-thing—with its suffocating mass of sippy cups and sidewalk chalk, Legos and lunch boxes, bicycles and Band-Aids. Never mind the ubiquitous nature of stuffed animals and the profusion of refrigerator-worthy masterpieces that inhabit our homes, marking time as our progenies progress along the winding path of childhood. And let us not forget all the lovely shades of gray with which we must contend: the tangled complexities of teens, the relentless questioning of toddlers and the soft underbelly of the headstrong child—the one we try desperately to govern without stifling. Indeed, motherhood is a messy business.

O  Motherhood is overwhelming to be sure—a seemingly insufferable, plate’s-too-full collection of moments that, when taken together or viewed within the prism of the unattainable ideal, beat us into submission, the thrum of parental failure ringing in our ears. That said, there’s nothing quite like comparing oneself to the façade of perfection—holding our harried selves up against those who appear to be getting it right, the moms who keep all the plates spinning as if flawless extensions of themselves.

T  Motherhood is timeless—an eternal post to which we are assigned, willing or not. From the moment our writhing infants, ruddy-faced and wrinkled, are placed upon our chests, motherhood begins in earnest. And although our parent/child relationships shift and season over time, they remain inextricably woven within the fabric of our lives. Not even death can end the appointed role, as a mother’s counsel is sought long after she has been eulogized.

H  Motherhood is a humbling experience. Ask anyone who has ever faced the stinging truth as it relates to intolerance and hypocrisy—delivered by a six-year-old, no less, soundly putting those who ought to know better in their respective places. So often kids eclipse our academic abilities, too, reminding us how important it is to embrace change. Never mind that every fiber of our being screams in protest. Moreover, becoming a parent means a humbling loss of identity to some extent, punctuating the uncertain nature of our so-called significance in certain circles. We are simply So-and-So’s mom now—maker of sandwiches, applier of sunscreen, gracious recipient of dandelions. But somehow the title feels right, as does finding a pretty vase for the dandelions.

E  Motherhood is edifying in that literally every day we learn something new—most of which is harvested from conversations at the dinner table or at bedtime, from diaries that beckon unremittingly or from tiny notes we discover wadded up in someone’s pants pocket. We spend a lot of time watching, too, realizing that our mothers were right all along. Children will, indeed, cut their own hair, shove peas up their noses and breach late night curfews to test both boundaries and our resolve. Arguably, the lessons of motherhood never truly end.

R  Motherhood is real. Good, bad or indifferent, it is palpable, inimitable and exceedingly enlivening. It is the stuff from which memories are made and so much purpose is derived.

H  Motherhood delivers nothing less than a heady rush—an intoxicating dose of awe wrapped in the sheer rapture of having had a hand in creating life, not to mention having been called upon to shape one or more future citizens of this world. Mothers are, without question, difference-makers.

O  Motherhood makes us swell with omnipotence now and again—a grand and glorious surge of I’M THE MOM, THAT’S WHY sort of sway that leaves us feeling all-powerful, if only fleetingly. But nothing makes us puff up more than hearing censure as priceless as, “Dad, did you get Mom’s permission to do that? She’s the Rule Captain, you know.”

O  With motherhood comes obsession. And spiraling panic. And unfounded fear. And, of course, debilitating worry over that which will probably never occur anyway. In sum, we fret about bumps and bruises, unexplained rashes and fevers that strike in the dead of night…about report cards and recklessness, friends we cannot hope to choose and fast cars that will whisper to our charges, inevitably luring them within, despite our best efforts to forbid such foolishness.

D  Motherhood is delicious—a profoundly gratifying slice of life we would do well to savor. Never mind its patented swirl of disorder and wealth of doubts, fears and impossible demands. Indeed, motherhood threatens to swallow us whole, while at the same time allowing us to drink in its goodness, gulp by gulp.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (reflecting on the many facets of motherhood). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Love and Other Drugs, Smother May I?

Crutches

I never completely committed to memory the instructions for making hard-boiled eggs, which doesn’t say much about my prowess in the kitchen—or the lack thereof. Generally speaking, I know what’s involved, but I struggle mightily with the specifics (i.e. how much water is required, whether it should be hot or cold to start and when, exactly, the boiling should cease and the simmering should begin). I’m challenged in the culinary arena to say the very least.

Oddly enough, though, I know that on page 267 of my faithful Better Homes & Gardens cookbook those elusive egg-related answers await me. Go figure. I can’t remember a stupid recipe (that’s all of three steps long), but the page number I’ll need to get the job done is etched in my head permanently. It simply defies all logic and understanding—especially given the rarity of my kitchen-related ventures.

Interestingly, two-hundred sixty-seven isn’t my favorite number. Nor do the individual digits hold special meaning for me in any other context. And yet there it is, appearing instantaneously in the clearing of my mind, having made its way through the tangled forest of facts and figures housed there. A prized nugget of information that, intentionally or not, I tucked away at some point in my illustrious hard-boiled egg-making career. A crutch I turn to in times of need.

Likewise, I have difficulty remembering the exact wordage for Confession and Forgiveness, so each Sunday I mumble and stumble my way through the first few lines, hoping like crazy that my brain will eventually kick in and send the correct message to my lips. The Nicene Creed sometimes stumps me, too (hence, the moronic mumbling). But invariably—almost without thinking—I can churn out the page numbers on which each of the desired passages can be found—which is strangely wonderful, I guess. An uncannily remarkable and hugely perplexing talent all rolled into one (like reading upside-down and sideways to kids so they can see the pictures). But it’s not as if I deliberately tried to emblazon those numbers there. I can’t even rattle off my stinking cell number without first tapping my husband (the human Rolodex) or scanning the skies for some sort of cosmic clue. Nor can I readily recall which of my brood is allergic to the cillin family—which, needless to say, helped me capture the World’s Most Pathetic Mommy Award last year.

So what should I make of all this—that I’m lazy, exceedingly dependent or perhaps, just plain stupid? Then again, maybe my adeptness is a sign of brilliance and/or extraordinary resourcefulness in the face of adversity. Who knows?

Regardless of why it happens, the fact remains that it happens. There is absolutely no denying that when all else fails, I rely on my crutches to save the day. I’ve found that people can be crutches, too. I can’t put a price on the deluge of desperate phone calls I made to my mom as I clumsily managed motherhood for the first time—stressing obsessively over every little and not-so-little thing, like a blackened umbilical cord dangling by a sinewy thread.

“What have I done wrong?! Is that SUPPOSED to happen?! And why, oh why, won’t she stop crying…sleep through the night…smile on cue…and somehow TELL ME WHAT SHE WANTS?! And what’s with the mustard-y poops and the geysers of spit up and the white bump-ish things on her nose and the crusty stuff on her head and the tiny red spots she’s peppered with?! (Furthermore…) I can’t figure out the car seat straps…I can’t get rid of the bags under my eyes…my shirt gets soaked whenever she (or any other bundle of neediness) cries…my diaper bag is big and bulky and already I’m sick of hauling it around…I feel fat and frumpy and about as interesting as dirt…I can’t find time for a shower…a sandwich…a cussed nap…or even three minutes to flip through a stupid parenting magazine—which, by the way, does nothing more than make me feel like a COMPLETE failure—I can’t even relate to the perfect little world they live in…oh, and the baby choked on a cracker this morning…fell out of her crib…rolled off the bed…licked the cat’s tail (and so on)…. I’m sure I’ve ruined this child FOR-EVER!!!”

Mom, sage and savior that she is, must have sensed the panic in my voice and so with each little (and not-so-little) catastrophe I presented, she spoke clearly and calmly, guiding me through the storm, filling me with the sense that I could do this and that the world really wasn’t crashing down all around me. “Things will get easier,” she promised, and I would be a good mom—despite myself.

Well, I have yet to see hard evidence supporting the entirety of that statement, but I remain hopeful that some day—with or without crutches—I’ll get there. In the mean time, Mom’s on speed dial.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (STILL doubting my ability to mother). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.com.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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I Do Not Like It, Sam I Am

It has come to my attention that a certain someone (Read: Thing One) is no longer fond of the cheery, little notes I tuck inside her lunch box each day—the ones I had hoped would make her feel special and remembered throughout school. Nor is she particularly thrilled with those I stuff in her snack bag. Hence, the gripes and grumbles and the oh-so-theatrical rolling-of-the-eyes performance to which I have been subjected of late. All of it, seemingly out of the blue. Of course, I find this news completely devastating—because it can only mean one thing: the end of childhood is nigh.

First, it’s “I don’t need you to hold my hand,” then, “I don’t need you to tie my shoes,” and apparently, “I don’t need you to write those silly, little notes anymore, Mom. It’s embarrassing.”

She then delivered the crushing blow, “And so are those bags. I’m the only one in my whole entire class who brings a snack in a STUPID BROWN BAG. Everyone else uses Ziploc baggies. And could you just write my name on it in plain old boring letters? I don’t want fancy bubble letters anymore. Are you trying to make me look like a baby or something?!”

Ouch.

Quite frankly, this unfortunate turn of events blindsided me, taking me entirely by surprise. I had no idea that such a practice was thought to be humiliating—much less, heinous and vindictive in nature (i.e. I’m usually well aware of the instances during which I am heinous and vindictive, and I have a pretty good handle on when I’ve humiliated my brood—hot, angry tears followed by a barrage of foot stomping and sporadic outbursts involving the endearing phrase, “Evil Stepmother!” are fairly reasonable indicators). But this time, not so much.

At any rate, the fancy-schmancy doodles and notes must stop. Unless I can do it in a fashion that Thing One finds fully unobjectionable. “Can I just scribble something on a Post-it Note and hide it under your sandwich…once in a while…maybe on Tuesdays or something?” I posed, clinging desperately to the notion that it might still be okay for me to communicate with my child in this manner—but on her terms.

 

“Yeah, I guess so,” she conceded, “…but only if you quit using those Cat in the Hat notes. Do you want EVERYONE IN THE WHOLE CAFETERIA to see them?!” she spat as if I had suggested stuffing her underwear in with the Cheerios.

“Oh, no! Not the Cat in the Hat notes!” I wailed. “I love those things!” Indeed, I fondly recall the day I stumbled into what I considered to be the greatest find a parent of a grade-schooler could be blessed with—a collection of ONE HUNDRED Dr. Seuss-isms, smartly bound by Hallmark in a four-color, pocket-sized booklet, designed specifically with harried moms like me in mind (That’s code for: I did a happy dance right there in the middle of the aisle and shouted “Sam I am!” while clutching said nugget of brilliance to my breast). Truly, it was a thing of beauty and utterly brimming with ingenious rhymes like, “The cat is here! The cat came back! He thought you’d like a yummy snack.” And inspiring blurbages like, “Hot fish, cool fish. You fish, RULE fish!”

I thought it was cute. I thought it was clever. I thought it would save me from a slow and horrible death an obscenely tedious task—that of scrawling a bazillion heartfelt (and agonizingly original) notes to my children at an ungodly hour, when my brain barely functions beyond what is necessary for pouring my exhausted self into bed.

But no. The child hath spoken. “No more Dr. Seuss notes, Mom. I’m a THIRD GRADER, remember?”

“Yes, I remember,” I bemoaned that irrefutable truth. “At least Thing Two still likes them, though,” I considered. “Didn’t she???” Later, I would quiz the girl—far away from the poisoned influence of her counterpart.

“Yeah, Mom. I still want Dr. Seuss notes in my lunch,” Thing Two cheerily stated. “I like them. And I like the notes you write, too. But I get mad when you use my stuff to do that.”

“Your stuff?” I asked, incredulous.

“Yeah. My multicolored crayon pencils. I wish you wouldn’t use them to write notes to me,” she clarified. “Just use a pencil.”

“Oh,” I acknowledged, “Okay then,” deciding it was a small, albeit bizarre, concession to make. One of many I’ll apparently be making in the days, months and years ahead.

But I do not like it, Sam, I am.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (busy lamenting the finite quality of childhood).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

 

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Filed under Smother May I?, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

A Depraved New World

Pardon my French, but there are a lot of sick bastards out there. People who routinely, and perhaps obsessively, sit at their keyboards and Google the bejesus out of lewd keywords and phrases, hoping, I assume, to find whatever twisted bit of prose they seek. A sordid “fix” so to speak. I need only peruse my WordPress Site Stats to view the pathetic snippets of speech (taken entirely out of context, mind you) which apparently lead people to my digital home. Every. Single. Hour. Of. Every. Single. Day.

Needless to say, it makes me ill.

But it’s nothing new. Sexual predators have existed since the beginning of time, lurking all too near, littering this otherwise lovely place with their depravity. Like the disquieting woman at the playground who looks like she doesn’t belong, or the pervy guy in the parking lot who lingers two cars down, making the hair on the back of your neck bristle and the pace at which you shepherd your children, hasten. Call it motherly instinct. Label it fear. Wrap it with a therapist’s bow and call it paranoia if you must. But it’s real, and it causes great multitudes of parents to hoist those little red flags in a quiet panic.

Indeed, on any given day the media machine fuels our collective anxiety by spewing forth a disturbing volume of society’s heinous acts, riddled, of course, with horrific detail…so that we might be jarred into attending more closely. Lord knows we need jarring. As a culture we’ve been desensitized to the pervasive climate of horribleness within which we live. The scourge of terrorism. A vacationing jet-skiier murdered by a Mexican drug cartel. An investigator’s severed head showing up in a suitcase days later. The brutal and senseless Tillman killing. The countless suicides prompted by an unsettling wave of bullying. The Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard nightmarish abductions. The barbaric rape and thwarted murder attempt of Jennifer Schuett. The savage and incomprehensible Petit family home invasion.

Over and over the unspeakably gruesome sound bites play in our minds, filling us with grief for the victims and their families, consuming us with a palpable sense of unease and leading us to invite the notion that monsters do, in fact, exist.

Maybe this explains why I sometimes smother my children. Texting my oldest to excess, to ensure she’s perfectly fine…trying desperately to remember that she’s nearly as old as I was when I became her mother. Holding my youngest children’s hands in the street, although it makes them inordinately cross. Preaching about the importance of letting me know where they are every minute of every day (or perhaps more frequently). Stuffing wads of Kleenexes and Band-Aids in their pockets in the unlikely event that the school suffers some sort of shortage. Denying their ceaseless petitioning for going it alone at the bus stop. Listening to their restorative breaths in the dead of night and checking to be sure that their smallish bodies are safe from harm.

Damning the aforementioned sick bastards…the world over.

Quite frankly, as a parent I’m tired of feeling angry and imprisoned by fear. Without question, the impressionable youths in my charge sense this, spoiling their fun and squelching their desire to explore. That said, kids shouldn’t be tethered to their parents like balloons. Especially once an age-appropriate level of responsibility has been demonstrated. At that point, they ought to earn a modicum of independence…so they might be inclined to climb trees, to dig in the dirt and to roam the Earth (sans mom and dad) in search of new friends and adventures. As a child I distinctly recall being permitted to gallivant hither and yon from sunup till sundown for much of June, July and August. Read: I hiked a considerable distance from home for hours at a time in the thick of forests, the depths of ravines and across streets and vast expanses of our neighborhood without (Gasp!) a cell phone, bug spray or sunscreen. Nor did I have a GPS device surgically implanted within my skin or permanently affixed to my stupid canteen so that my parents could obsessively track my whereabouts.

It’s clear I need to get back in touch with being a sensible parent…the kind I was a decade ago, inspired, perhaps, by the kind of kid I was. In light of that, I should probably read Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (searching for the courage to raise free-range kids in a world that is more than a little frightening at times).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under A Depraved New World, Rantings & Ravings, Smother May I?

Ode to Embarrassment

It has been said that success as a parent isn’t fully realized unless and until you’ve become an embarrassment to your children. Apparently, my husband and I have been making remarkable progress toward that end—inadvertent though our efforts might have been. We sing in the car. We make snapdragons talk. We hurl wadded socks at one another. We scream at the TV during tennis matches. And we impersonate Jeff Dunham’s puppet people far too often. All of which, evidently, our brood finds fairly disturbing—especially when friends come to call.

I saw flashes of it a few years ago, when Thing One and Thing Two entered the second grade. It was subtle at first—the rumblings of their discontent barely audible amidst the tumult of motherhood. At the time, their muted protests against the many and varied ways we caused them unspeakable embarrassment seemed trivial and unfounded. So I dismissed them, perhaps wrongly. Over time, however, their grumblings have become progressively louder and more insistent, swiftly sliding into the realm of that-which-is-difficult-to-ignore.

“Mom, stop sticking NOTES inside my lunch box. People will SEE them, you know. We talked about this last year, didn’t we? Oh, and don’t pack any more open-faced, peanut butter and chocolate chip sandwiches. So-and-so gets grossed out whenever I take a bite and then THE WHOLE TABLE looks at my stupid sandwich. It’s entirely horrible.”

That said, I’m starting to empathize with the smallish beings in question—who, for whatever reason of late, have adopted the survivalist mentality of Greg Heffley, the middle-schooler of Diary of a Wimpy Kid fame. Translation: DON’T raise your hand. DON’T use the bathroom. DON’T call attention to yourself in any way, shape or form. And most importantly, DON’T let your mother become the primary source of your embarrassment. Needless to say, there are clearly defined parameters within which I must operate so that I might be viewed as something other than the bane of someone’s existence.

Evidently, the rules apply at the bus stop, too, where (Gasp!) veritable throngs of kids might actually witness the unthinkable: handholding, goodbye kisses, a neatly folded Kleenex being stuffed inside someone’s pocket, a Band-Aid being hurriedly applied (with or without a dab of Neosporin), a sock monkey and/or a certain stuffed armadillo being relinquished—lest they become inadvertent stowaways for the duration of the school day.

Apparently, I’m not allowed to wave anymore either—although I’ve recently appealed that decision and my suggestion of “waving with a little less enthusiasm” is somewhat promising. For that, I suppose I should be thankful, and perhaps more understanding.

After all, I remember being completely mortified as a teenager when my dad would—almost inconceivably—traipse around in his underwear while my date and I sat on the couch in stunned silence. Shortly thereafter, he’d emerge from the kitchen with leftovers in hand and a Cheshire cat smile upon his face. Of course, he’d then amble, unabashed, down the hallway from whence he came while I very seriously considered the merits of dissolving into nothingness. It’s entirely likely I make my daughters feel much the same way, although I have yet to traipse anywhere in my underwear.

I have, however, been known to read books aloud at the aforementioned bus stop, the practice of which has been met with a fair degree of resistance even though it’s an ideal time and place to do so. Okay, it’s been met with unequivocal refusals to listen and ardent demands that I cease and desist. “Mom, we’re not babies anymore. Everyone on the bus will make fun of us if they see that book in your hand because they’ll KNOW you’ve been reading it to us. It’s embarrassing, you know.” Woe is me.

It’s not just any old book either. Otherwise I wouldn’t be so miserable. The book in question happens to be The BFG, a drool-worthy classic by Roald Dahl—a gift from a perfectly wonderful third grade teacher who knew I’d find it practically irresistible as a read aloud. Only it won’t be happening at our bus stop—the place where sulkiness periodically rears its ugly head. Nope. Perish the thought.

But lo and behold, I recently learned that another perfectly wonderful individual at that very same school will soon be reading aloud that very same book to my kids in the library—a place where reading of practically every sort is celebrated. As it should be, methinks. With any luck, Thing One and Thing Two will forget themselves and drink in every delicious syllable.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (embarrassing my children on a regular basis).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "S" is for Shame, Bookish Stuff, Daily Chaos, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Kid-Speak, Ode to Embarrassment, School Schmool, Smother May I?, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction