Category Archives: The Woman-Child

Training Wheels

My oldest daughter, more affectionately known as the woman-child, recently adopted a hamster—which is all well and good I suppose. She’s away at college so, theoretically speaking, the whiskered beast won’t add appreciably to the chaos that lives and breathes here. To date, we house a pampered dog, a self-absorbed cat and, ironically, five smelly hamsters—which is plenty, given that a number of children and house plants also reside here, making demands and a profusion of noise as a matter of course.

Well, not the plants so much.

At any rate, the aforementioned co-ed is a fairly responsible twenty-something who has waited a very long time to welcome a pet of her own—to feed and water said creature without fail, to scrub away stench and eradicate poo with glee, to know the horrors and complexities of cage assembly and the sheer panic of “misplacing” the dear rodent in question. But, in all fairness, she couldn’t be happier or more eager to embrace the notion that such a tiny (and admittedly adorable) being is now entirely dependent upon her ability to perform such tasks. There’s something to be said for delayed gratification, methinks.

However it has come to my attention that a certain couple of somebodies (namely Heckle and Jeckle) have a problem with their big sister’s new role as a bona fide pet owner. It seems that someone’s panties are officially in a bunch over the matter of obtaining (or not) parental consent for the purchase of the abovementioned hamster.

Once the news broke (i.e. the furry beast was deposited upon the coffee table for one and all to behold), the vociferous rant conversation unfolded thusly: “Does MOM know you got this!?” one of my soon-to-be-ten-year-olds shouted with indignation. “Yeah! You can’t just walk into a store and BUY A HAMSTER without Mom’s permission! She’ll freak! She’ll absolutely FREAK when she finds out!” my other soon-to-be-ten-year-old barked, visibly outraged by her sister’s alleged failure to follow family protocol.

“Hellooooo, I’m 22. Okay, almost twenty-THREE and Mom will be perfectly fine with this. You’ll see,” my oldest defended, almost comically.

Indeed, I was perfectly fine with it; but I was then faced with a thorny task—that of explaining to my fourth graders the

particulars that encompass perhaps the grayest of parenting areas: when, how and under what circumstances should we relinquish authority—great or small—to our children, especially to those on the cusp of adulthood. In doing so, I found myself wrestling with the intangible nature of age as it relates to maturity, struggling mightily to define the indefinable and ham-handedly muddling through the whys and wherefores that drive nearly every decision that ultimately leads to the conferral of independence.

Somehow (perhaps because the gods were smiling upon me that day) I managed to field the barrage of unanswerables to a satisfactory degree. That said, Heckle and Jeckle seemed reasonably content with the outcome of the Great Hamster Debate, and with my rudimentary manner of defining what constitutes the fringe of adulthood. Translation: They were slightly enthralled to learn that one day (albeit not particularly soon) they’ll likely be carrying iPhones and able to adopt a herd of llamas, with

or without my blessing.

However, this exercise in frustration got me thinking about the process itself, about the supreme challenge of knowing when and how much to surrender in the way of sovereignty, about what an inexact science it truly is—as if we, as parents, needed one more reason to second guess ourselves. It’s not enough that our grasp on the vestiges of control is tenuous at best; we must also deal with the uncertain nature of when to give it up. Naturally, the training wheels are the first to go, then it’s our presence they no longer require as they careen around the block, oblivious to the fear we routinely invite. Finally, it’s out into the world they rush, headlong, eager to make their own way and to cast aside the likes of training wheels.

Nevertheless, I’d like to think I’m on the right track, no matter how inordinately awkward I feel at times, doling out freedom in embarrassingly small chunks, gauging success one child and one liberating event at a time. It’s like loosening the reins or fishing in a sense; only the goal is not to reel in the prize, but to gradually—in fits and starts—release more line, enabling said prize to strengthen and to govern its own path in the waters of life. Inconceivably, we are then called upon to snip the line and watch in wonder from afar, which is perhaps the most difficult task of all.

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

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel


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Filed under The Natives are Decidedly Restless, The Woman-Child

I Am Still Thankful

It’s Thanksgiving Day and while it’s true I burned the pumpkin pie, the dog whizzed on the floor and the kids refused to wear their fancy-schmancy clothes (despite a number of shameless bribes and idle threats), I am still thankful. Never mind that Thing One wouldn’t eat the turkey over which I had slaved for an eternity, or that Thing Two had an epic meltdown over kitty litter (don’t ask), or that our oldest neglected to text after driving TWO STATES AWAY to visit her dear boyfriend.

I am still thankful.

However, the gods of inclement weather made it snow, then sleet, then rain—which, in turn, wreaked havoc with our highways and byways, making it impossible for my parents to join us for the mother of all feasts—the one I volunteered to prepare in spite of my vastly deficient culinary skills. Our gathering would have to wait.

But I am still thankful.

Furthermore, the 16-hour day in question prompted an abundance of bickering matches among our 9-year-old warring factions, left my husband and me desperate for the suggestion of a nap and initiated a marathon clutter fest involving a disturbing array of candy wrappers and headless Barbie dolls. What’s more, our brood made roughly 63 excursions into the great outdoors (i.e. the snow/sleet/rain whateverness) which then inspired the aforementioned waifs to smuggle snowballs into our home as well as festoon the place with massive quantities of sodden clothing. Again. And again. Ugh.

I suppose it’s days like these—the square ones that fail to fit into the round holes of my so-called master plan—that remind me I have far less control over my life than I’d like to think. Of course, this makes me slightly neurotic given my control freak proclivity. But such is life.

And I am still thankful.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (still giving thanks).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Holiday Hokum, Home for Wayward Toys, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Me Myself and I, The Natives are Decidedly Restless, The Woman-Child

My Dog Ate My Homework and Other Tales of Woe

The afternoon began uneventfully enough. My motley crew leapt from the school bus like every other day and flung their backpacks into a crumpled heap at the curbside—a practice I’ve grown to tolerate over the years since it usually grants me a few delicious moments to myself. Moments during which my sole function on the planet is simply to watch them run circles around each other, screaming like a couple of banshees, weaving in and out of a grove of trees—ones that are routinely summoned to participate in their latest and greatest make-believe pirate or superhero drama. Indeed, it makes perfect sense to encourage said purging of the vat of pent up energy with which they seem to arrive home each day, and to be patient while they soak up every glee-filled ounce of childhood that is humanly possible. But on this particular day, it was all for naught.

Shortly after the beasts within were presumably tamed, the wheels flew off my Parenting Bus. Hubcaps and all. In perfect chorus, there were demands for snacks and demands for my attention, squabbles to settle and hostilities to halt, messes to manage and hurts to heal, slips to sign and studies to support. And all the while I tried to attend meaningfully to a conversation with a certain co-ed who decided to make landfall in this crazy place at this crazy hour—a hurried conversation about borrowing a sleeping bag due to the ridiculous prospect of driving hundreds of miles to a huge city where she’s never driven, to pitch a tent in Godknowswhatforest and CAMP IN THE FREEZING COLD with a bunch of like-minded bohemians she’s never met “…because it will be an adventure, Mom, and besides, I know at least one of them and I guess I’ll get to know the rest.”

Naturally, the toilet paper debate surfaced.

“You’ll need to pack some toilet paper, you know. And wool socks. Do you even have wool socks? How about long underwear? Have you thought about that?”

“No, Mom. I won’t need toilet paper. I have wool socks. And I won’t need long underwear in Virginia.”

“Yes you will.”

“No I won’t.”

And so the drama in our kitchen continued—until she had had enough of my former-resident-of-Virginia motherly advice and I had had enough of trying to deal with multiple crises of epic proportions. In retrospect, the crises themselves probably weren’t all that horrific or exceedingly unmanageable. But clustered together, into a consortium of tiny tragedies, they certainly felt genuinely oppressive—as if my world were collapsing all around me. Then the dog entered the fray (removing all doubt that my world had indeed collapsed), taking a sizeable chunk out of someone’s book—a book that belonged to the school—a book that I would ineptly try to resuscitate with massive quantities of tape and resourcefulness the next day. However, my resourcefulness met its match when I foolishly inquired as to where the rest of the gnawed upon morsels were.

“They’re in his belly, Mom. I was reading to him and then I went away and that’s when Jack decided to taste my book.” I only wish I had been present in school to witness the blow-by-blow explanation she surely offered her teacher, detailing the fate her hapless book had met. Clearly, any sentence that contains both the words dog and homework can’t hope to be well received by any teacher—even if those words happen to be delivered by a second grader with little or no expertise in the realm of conjuring lame excuses.

Unfortunately, the dog wasn’t alone in striving to complete his mission of destruction that afternoon. Apparently, my heathens were also bent on ruinous behavior. Case in point: while hurling their smallish bodies into oblivion (i.e. flinging themselves into an enormous leaf pile in the back yard again and again), not surprisingly, and horrendously, they collided. One cranium and one chin famously intersected in what appeared to be a valiant attempt to occupy the very same bit of earthly airspace. The laws of physics prevailed, however, resulting in equal and opposite reactions, largely manifested by an impressive-looking goose egg and a set of rattled teeth. After being smothered with kisses that were sure to cure all their ills, my sniveling combatants headed straight for the freezer to remedy their stupidity. Ice would be their companion for quite some time.

Even still as evening approached, said idiocy refused to leave our happy home. Our brood had settled nicely into what we assumed would be a civilized game of Jumpin’ Monkeys. But in a fit of rage, Thing One viciously stomped upon Thing Two’s brand spanking new glasses (that were lying on the floor AGAIN!)—twisting them hideously into a mangled mess, necessitating an immediate and gloriously lecture-filled trip to the eye doctor’s (read: our saving grace).

“She smooshed them, Mommy! On purpose! Just because I threw her stupid, stinking monkey!”

And so our tales of woe continued. Thankfully not every day is so abundantly eventful.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel


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Filed under Bookish Stuff, Daily Chaos, Doggie Diamonds, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Rantings & Ravings, Smother May I?, The Woman-Child, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Opportunists Never Sleep

My children are opportunists. I know this much is true. Said seizing-of-the-proverbial-moment unfolded thusly.

My husband, the brood and I sat down to dinner one evening not long ago. The delectable fare was chili, I believe, sprinkled with voluminous quantities of idle conversation. Par for the course in this household.

More specifically, there was talk of tadpoles and those dastardly Bakugan toys, discussions involving loose teeth and dog breath, and naturally (NATURALLY!) there was a remarkably gruesome retelling of an Animal Planet feature on polar bears–one in which a woman was horrifically mauled at a zoo. Lovely. Just lovely. My appetite thanks you, dear offspring from hell.

What’s more, my co-ed daughter starting texting her boyfriend obsessively DURING THE MEAL. Did I mention that it was during the meal and that it was OBSESSIVE in nature? Not surprisingly, she was entirely unaware that the rest of us even existed. Translation: it was as if we had slipped in pig shit and fallen off the fucking planet. All that truly mattered was that beloved Blackberry of hers and the stupid little messages that kept popping up on her screen, making her giggle uncontrollably.

And laugh out loud.

And roll her eyes.

And fervently punch those teensy tiny keys in an effort to top the boy’s witticism in 160 characters or less.

Gag me with a spork!

At any rate, Thing One and Thing Two (my wily eight-year-old twins) took note of said heinous crime, scolding their big sister for interrupting the meal with something so completely frivolous.

“That’s reeeally annoying. You ought to stop it,” Thing One chided as she took a bite of cornbread.

“Yeah, put the cell phone away or Mom’s gonna get mad. REALLY mad,” Thing Two echoed.

Of course, the Texting Queen was totally oblivious of their impassioned demands–so absorbed was she in crafting the next 17,000 messages to the Boy Wonder.

“Hon,” I felt compelled to join the fray, “you need to stop texting. You really do. We’re trying to eat dinner here together, remember?”

“But Mom, HE keeps texting ME,” she lamely defended.

“So. Stop answering him.”

“I can’t do thaaaat. It would be rude.”

“And this isn’t rude?! Helloooo!”

“Well that’s different.”

“No it isn’t.”

“Yes it is.”

“Okay then…why don’t you tell him something catchy like, ‘STOP TEXTING ME. We’re having dinner right now and MY MOM ACTUALLY COOKED, so technically speaking that qualifies as a SPECIAL OCCASION!’?” Of course, I suggested the use of capital letters as needed.

For a time, a cloud of silence hung in the air. No one so much as chewed a morsel of food or touched a key. Everyone knew I was right. It WAS a special occasion.

Enter the opportunist…

“Mom,” Thing One tentatively offered out of the blue, “can I have some of your wine?”

“Whaaa?” I asked, completely taken aback by her request.

“You said it’s a special occasion, right?”

“Right. So???”

“So I should be able to have wine.”

Indeed, opportunists never sleep.

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

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Kid-Speak, Rantings & Ravings, Techno Tripe, The Woman-Child, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Smother May I?

My oldest will turn 22 tomorrow. That said, I feel slightly older than dirt or rocks or something decidedly ancient. Ugh.

Someone hand me a machete. Some scissors. Nail clippers. Anything! Puuuuleeeeez! I am in desperate need of said sharp-ish devices so that I might finally, and for all eternity, sever the apron strings that bind me inextricably to my eldest daughter, now 21.

To be clear, she is not to blame. It is I. I am the foolish one—the insanely overprotective, nurture-obsessed fusspot-of-a-mother who simply won’t let go of her woman-ish child to save herself. It is entirely possible that I need therapy. Admittedly, I have issues. Serious issues with mothering. Or more correctly, smothering.

Just last week, in fact, I gave the poor kid some money and asked her to run some errands for me, ones that would involve d-r-i-v-i-n-g somewhere, p-a-y-i-n-g for things and actually i-n-t-e-r-a-c-t-i-n-g with people. Imagine that. At any rate, from the moment she left until she returned a short time later, I was filled completely with a host of irrational fears, some of which involved the very real possibility of being abducted by aliens, being whisked away by a man in a monkey suit and, of course, being suddenly stricken with dementia—in which case she’d wander the earth interminably searching for that which she couldn’t remember anyway.

Naturally (and as expected), I also obsessed over dreadful car crashes she might have, navigational nightmares she could experience and the legions of unsavory characters with bad teeth and mismatched socks she was sure to encounter during said perilous journey to town. Never mind all the road trips to urban destinations she’s made without the benefit of mapish entities (i.e. the countless times she’s made me DERANGED WITH PANIC for not having enough sense to take along a fricking MAP of metro D.C.). Grok!

Further, I became gravely concerned that she might not remember to pick up the book I so desperately needed for comic relief that day (Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay), she would forget to count the change to make sure it was right and by some strange twist of fate, her ability to string coherent sentences together like, “My Mom ordered this book. I’m here to pick it up,” would be lost forever, leaving her at the mercy of bookstore employees who would then send her packing with an obscenely pitiful piece of literature just to clear the aisles of derelicts and whatnot.

Needless to say, none of the above mentioned horrors came to fruition. But that is not to say they couldn’t have. Because they could have.

I’m just saying….

To be sure, I sent my dear child out into the big, bad world armed with that which I deemed necessary for survival: a Ziploc baggie with enough cash, a detailed list of the stops I had planned for her (complete with street addresses and suggestions for where to park), coins for the meter and a reminder that she should call with the least little question or concern—like forgetting how to breathe, for instance. It’s a wonder I didn’t hand her milk money and tell her to look both ways before crossing the street—something my husband swears I whispered in her ear on the day she left for college.

I did no such thing. At least not that I can readily recall.

It’s true. I have issues with letting go and must fight the urge each and every day to position a safety net beneath her wherever she might venture. She’s not two anymore, despite how vividly I remember that period in time. The way she twisted and twirled her hair (or mine) when she grew tired and longed to be rocked. Her well worn thumb planted securely between those pouty lips. Those blue-gray eyes, framed by a thicket of lashes—lashes that lay like petals on her sweet face only yesterday.

Indeed, only yesterday.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (feeling wistful these days).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel


Filed under Leaving the Nest, Love and Loss, Me Myself and I, Mushy Stuff, The Woman-Child