Tag Archives: dysfunction

Nightmare on Mom Street

Sunday afternoons are my respite in this harried place. The sanity cocktail from which I draw sweet sustenance. That said, I lounge around the house doing as little as humanly possible, embracing my inner sloth. Old movies, blanket forts and naps rule the day. That is not to say that I haven’t, on occasion, become inspired enough to throw something meaty in the crock-pot, to haul my sweeper from the bowels of its dusky lair or to plant my sorry self in the laundry room for a time despite my aversion to the insufferable place. Even on a Sunday afternoon. But for the most part, ambition is nowhere to be found in my house during that glorious wedge of downtime—sandwiched deliciously between the madness that was and the madness sure to come. Last Sunday, however, was decidedly different. Havoc rained down on my world, obliterating my precious corner of calm.

Oddly enough, what led to the aforementioned began weeks ago while traipsing through a store, my cart piled high with a bunch of schlock I didn’t need. At every turn, it seemed, I stumbled into EVEN MORE SCHLOCK and felt compelled to ogle it, to finger its veneer of worthiness and to toy with the notion of adding it to my ever-growing mound of that-which-I-would-one-day-regret-purchasing. And on the days during which I allow the guilt of motherhood to consume me, the mound is markedly higher. Needless to say, it was one of those days.

Indeed, the voices that drive much of my irrational behavior relevant to Thing One and Thing Two were especially persuasive that day, whispering words of admonishment in my ear and regaling in my grand ineptitude as a parent: “You’re a HORRIBLE MOTHER…you don’t SPEND ENOUGH TIME with your children…you MUST ACQUIRE this ten-dollar nugget of wonderfulness which promises to erase weeks of botched parenting.” All the while I considered said nugget of wonderfulness (i.e. a two-pound Chocolate Cookie Halloween House Kit, complete with 47 bats, dozens of little green candies I would later damn to hell, enough gumdrops to coat eleventy-seven teeth and an expander, a defective ghost—or rather, segments of insanely sweet candy, suggestive of something that was once intact and specter-like—and a cauldron full of powdery mixes that were sure to deliver hours of goo-inspired, edible fun and to yield the most perfect hues of orange and purple icing on the planet).

In the end, I was shamed into buying the box of foolishness. Because that’s what moms do. Just like all the other project-y stuff I haul home out of sheer guilt; never mind the games and books and techno-gadgetry thought to engender this or that brand of awe in my children. It’s all about the Is-it-as-remarkable-as-a-pony factor and Will-it-expunge-from-the-record-my-screw-ups-to-date?

So I shoved the stupid thing in our pantry (good intentions and all) and forgot about it till the Halloween craze struck with a vengeance. And since the celebrated costume drama in this household was officially over, a sinful quantity of sugary treats had been stockpiled already and virtually every corner of our home had been festooned with all-that-is-Halloweenish, there was but one thing left to do—build the stupid house. So that’s what we did—the three of us, while Dad cheered exuberantly from the sidelines.

Several hours, two meltdowns (both mine) and a hellacious mess later, we had our two-pound Chocolate Cookie Halloween House. Of course, the orange and purple mixes wound up adorning everything kitchen-ish but the inside of the refrigerator, those reprehensible, little candies rolled near and far much to my chagrin, fistfuls of trimmings were consumed with wild abandon and the icing was less than compliant as I shoveled and smeared gobs of it into pastry bags and then squeezed the reluctant mass onto the house as instructed. Translation: The cussed gloppage in question delighted in its schmutziness and its droopiness, defiantly sliding down walls, windows and slanted rooftops, leaving hideous-looking blobs everywhere. Even the spider webs I made sagged to the point of looking not-so-spider-webby. But because the gods of kitchen fiascos were smiling upon me, my brood took it all in stride, “…the droopiness makes it even SPOOKIER, Mom! You’re so AWESOME!”

Well, it certainly wasn’t as grand as a pony might have been; but the awe factor of this nightmarish project was evident to at least two somebodies on the planet. And perhaps that’s all that matters in the end.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (admiring our droopified Halloween house).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, Daily Chaos, Holiday Hokum, Rantings & Ravings, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Welcome to My Dysfunctional World

I have a confession to make. I suffer from a completely debilitating and utterly incurable fixation—with my kitchen counters. More specifically, with keeping them clean day and night.  Maybe it stems from my well documented germ phobia, perhaps from my fanatical loathing of clutter or quite possibly it could somehow be traced to my never-ending desire to control my environment. There’s always the off chance I do it to mark territory, too—to send a clear message to those who would dare smear peanut butter, dribble jelly or toss junk mail upon that which is sacred.

Or maybe it’s simply because this particular space represents the last bastion of order that exists in my entire world (aside from my sock drawer) and I feel compelled to protect and preserve it with every ounce of my being. A bit theatrical, I agree. Dysfunctional, no doubt. But wouldn’t life be dreadfully dull without a touch of drama and dysfunction sprinkled here or there? That’s my motto. Welcome to my world.

What’s funny is that my obsession with cleaning pretty much ends there. In the kitchen. On the counters. And nowhere else. I just don’t seem to experience those overwhelming urges to dust and scrub and disinfect anywhere else. Not in the living room. Not in the den. Not even in the car or bathrooms. Nope. Genuine motivation (like knowing that guests will soon make landfall) must strike in those instances. Relentless nagging works too.

But my kitchen is a different story. I’m sure most would take one look and classify me as “thoroughly possessed” when it comes to the counter arena. It has that pristine no-one-really-lives-here look, like it had been snatched from the pages of Good Housekeeping under the featured article: Fabulous Kitchen Spaces for the Cleaning Fanatic in Your Home. Admittedly, I qualify as the fanatic in this family—at least as far as the kitchen counters go.

Once the cooking is finished I am literally driven to remove every trace of food, drip of water or dirtied dish instantaneously. To restore everything to its proper place in the universe in what many would deem record time; like it’s an Olympic event or something. Albeit an odd one. Beyond the basics of tidying up, the canisters and pasta jars have to be angled just so, fake fruit arranged perfectly in its bowl and the larger-than-necessary cluster of wooden spoons must somehow resemble a bouquet of freshly picked daisies. Maybe the term “odd” doesn’t adequately describe my dysfunction here.

I probably need therapy.

Strangely enough, those powerful impulses to clean and clear often hit me WHILE I’m actually cooking (not to worry, I don’t cook all that much). So in effect, the two rather diverse tasks become nearly simultaneous events—which for some reason drives my husband absolutely berserk. Perhaps it’s because he has a different approach to the fine art of preparing meals. I have affectionately termed his primary objective, “put-every-blasted-ingredient-dish-and-utensil-under-the-sun-on-the-countertops-and-leave-them-there-indefinitely-so-as-to-annoy-the-wife.” I find his habit of sprinkling flour hither and yon to be equally irksome. Maybe he’s the one marking territory. Not surprisingly, this master chef also subscribes to the theory: The bigger the mess, the better the meal. Needless to say, he has prepared a number of very fine meals over the years.

I suppose, though, I’ll continue to endure, as the payoff is decidedly delicious; and besides it’s not nearly as distressing as I found the insufferable Baby Bottle Era. Oy. At that time, our counters served as a veritable purgatory for plastic whateverness (i.e. drip-drying fucking forever). Sippy cups, teething rings, pacifiers, bottles, lids and those dastardly little valve-like components I never quite mastered blanketed our countertops night and day. I distinctly recall fantasizing about the disappearance of said ugliness.

Like I said, I have this fixation….

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2005 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Home is Where the Weirdness Lives

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

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

Please believe me, oh great giver-of-gifts, I know you love my children dearly and that you’d do almost anything to make them happy this Christmas. You’re a kind and generous soul. And make no mistake about it; I’ve recognized (with the help of countless reminders) how hard my heathens have tried to be good and grateful and well-mannered these past 351 days. But in the interest of preserving what remains of my sanity, would you please give some consideration to the following bit of information?

1)    For the record, I don’t need any lizards or llamas, bats or birds, real live chicks or even eggs that will hatch. Nor do I have any desire whatsoever for an ant farm and an accompanying anteater (“…in case it breaks open and ants are crawling EVERYWHERE, Mom!”). Furthermore, I have absolutely no use for a potbellied pig or a goat for that matter. Are we perfectly clear on that? NO POTBELLIED PIG. NO GOAT. Period. Also, please ignore all future requests—maddeningly incessant as they might be—for another cat. Seriously. Perish the thought.

2)    Additionally, please take note: it is totally unnecessary to spoil my charges by spending $54 (EACH!) on flimsy pajamas that happen to match those worn by the very dolls they begged for last year. That’s simply ludicrous. Get a grip, Santa. Give Mrs. Claus a new nightie or something instead.

3)    Moreover, bear in mind that I have yet to summon the strength necessary to parent those who thirst for danger. More specifically, those who would willfully and gleefully ride a skateboard, a motorcycle or roller skates down an impossibly sheer slope. Blindfolded. On fire. During an earthquake. I have enough trouble tolerating the wretched scooters they so adore. Perhaps by next year I will have purged from memory my own horrific skateboarding disaster (i.e. the face plant I made one summer afternoon on a gravelly patch of pavement at an inordinately high rate of speed). But who could forget eight stitches? They were purple. And stubbly. And infinitely intriguing to all my friends who wanted to touch the freakish goatee I had seemingly sprouted from my chin. That being said, please refrain from delivering any of the aforementioned instruments of evil.

4)    Bratz, begone! I trust this emphatic petition is self-explanatory, oh Jolly One. Barbies, by contrast, are perfectly acceptable in this household. Besides, I find it largely disturbing that many among our sprawling Barbie community have lost heads and limbs for whatever reason. Intactness would be a welcome change.

5)    Also, if you must darken my door with all-that-makes-noise (I mean music), I beg of you that each sinful device (read: trumpet-kazoo-recorder-drum-keyboard-microphone-guitar-tambourine-maraca-like piece of idiocy) be suitably equipped with soundproofing, some sort of on/off switch or at the very least a volume control thingy. Thank you, in advance.

6)    Also, kindly be advised that my humble abode lacks the space necessary to house the grand and glorious, five-story kitty hotel that my kids have been whining about since the middle of summer. Honestly, it is outlandishly opulent, highly impractical and offensively massive. If you so much as think about bestowing such a monstrosity upon us, I will have no choice but to forego the cookies next year. You can count on broccoli instead, you silly little elfin man.

7)    What’s more, I would be immeasurably displeased to discover a pile of pretend dog poop in anyone’s stocking, never mind those repugnant Walter the Farting Dog creatures. Egads!

8)    Furthermore, Santa, read my lips: NO MORE SILLY@$$ ELECTRONIC GADGETRY. I am appallingly inept when it comes to programming any and all gizmos of a technological nature. I hereby resign from said post effective today.

9)    And for the love of God, NO MORE WATER BALLOONS, GLITTER GLUE OR BATHTUB TOYS. They are the bane of my existence. Enough said.

10) And sweet Jesus, please, please, please don’t bless us with another puppy this Christmas—at least not one that routinely gnaws on furniture, pees indiscriminately, consumes chew toys, destroys leashes (four and counting), eats holes in the carpet, nibbles on Frisbees, plastic Army men and Barbie stilettos, considers deer droppings a delicacy and is entirely bent on causing bodily harm during jaunts in the great outdoors—via our garrote-like tether coupled with a frenzied demeanor and the pirouette dance I have grown to know and loathe. I simply cannot handle another floppy-eared bundle of joy. Not now. Not ever.

11) I would, however, be thrilled to receive an indestructible dog leash dipped in Kevlar, perhaps, and maybe a ridiculously huge cardboard box. Empty, of course. The one you so graciously left for my brood three years ago was far and away the most fabulous item under the tree. It was the gift that kept on giving—till early spring, as I recall.

Sincerely,

Planet Mom

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Cat Chronicles, Doggie Diamonds, Holiday Hokum, Home for Wayward Toys, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Kid-Speak, Normal is Relative, Rantings & Ravings, The Natives are Decidedly Restless, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

On the Cusp of Christmas: 12 Days of Lunacy

It has certainly been said that normal is relative. Clichés aside, the only notion of which I am completely certain is that my family is relatively un-normal—especially during the maddening month of December. For whatever reason, being on the cusp of Christmas seems to make those with whom I reside even more deranged than usual. I am no exception.

Once the feathery flakes and the distinctive sound of sleigh bells fill the air (and the bitter cold makes me seriously entertain the notion of spooning the dog), I am smitten with holiday cheer. I make lists. I shop. I hang mistletoe here and a slew of stockings there. I heap great masses of fake pine boughs atop windows and door frames, twisting it unmercifully around banisters and idle children. I devise convoluted and exceedingly impracticable (read: destined-to-fail) plans for that-which-needs-to-be-done-before-Christmas. I begin squirreling away Scotch tape and shameful quantities of wrapping paper that beckon to me from afar. I formulate a cheesy State of the Union/holiday letter in my head, vowing to embellish twice as much as last year. I actually clean—because it is ENTIRELY WRONG to set a crèche full of camels, sheep, the wise guys et al upon a layer of dust so thick it would choke the sweet baby Jesus. Sprinkle me with a wealth of tacky ads aimed at my heart (yet cleverly striking my wallet and guilt-ridden, impulse-buying command center) and I’m well on my way to becoming profoundly immersed in the season of good cheer. Ho ho ho.

Yet it is clear the Yuletide frenzy thing plays no favorites in this household. Indeed, I watched it literally consume a seemingly lucid individual (aka Captain Quirk) as it drove him to hoist his entire body into the far recesses of our attic at an ungodly and completely frigid hour—so that he might haul wreaths, herds of electric deer and plastic whateverness to the lawn. He then hammered a multitude of tent stake thingies into the frozen ground (sans gloves)—so the hoofed creatures would, in theory, refrain from toppling over and making a mockery of his efforts. And let us not forget the colorful language that filled the air that night, the clothes that offered a mere suggestion of warmth and the ferreting-around-in-the-basement for a tangle of extension cords that were decidedly less-than-cooperative—especially when our heathens wove deliriously in and around said lawn luminaries. For a fleeting moment, he foolishly considered stringing lights, too, and hunting for a stupid screw to repair an apparent defect that made our antlered wonder violently jerk its head back and forth.

Thankfully, though, those little thoughts went away.

Of course, the circus-like hauling-of-Christmas-décor could have waited until the wind stopped howling. Or until sunrise. Or mid-damned-day for that matter. Sadly, the man’s thoughts and actions on that particular evening were not related to anything derived by logic. December lunacy had struck with a vengeance.

Later that week, in fact, it led us both to question the notion that we were fairly sensible parents—having succumbed to the irresistible allure of a last minute/late night sale in which we chose to drag our sorry brood through aisle after aisle of wonderfulness kid-tedium on a (gasp!) SCHOOL NIGHT so that we might snatch some good deals on Christmas gifts for friends and family. “Mom, don’t you know we’re THE ONLY KIDS in here?!”

Naturally, my husband and I blame our inexcusably imprudent behavior on the celebrated 12 Days of Lunacy.

Even our charges have been afflicted with this so-called malady, cleverly weaving coveted items into everyday conversations, leaving updated versions of wish lists seemingly everywhere, laying fliers from various toy stores in can’t-miss-it regions of our home and dog-earing favorite pages for our convenience. What’s more, Frick and Frack have been acting peculiar since the first of the month—remembering to flush toilets, to pick up their shoes and to abstain from bludgeoning one another with snow shovels and whatnot. That said, they’ve been minding their p’s and q’s almost to a sickening degree, obsessing over the very uncertain nature of being placed on Santa’s “Nice List” methinks.

A coincidence, no?

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (on the cusp of Christmas). Visit me there at www.melindawentzel.com.

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, "S" is for Shame, Captain Quirk, Holiday Hokum, Home for Wayward Toys, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Normal is Relative, The Natives are Decidedly Restless, Vat of Complete Irreverence, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

The Accidental Parent

When it comes to the uncertain journey of parenting, I tend to believe that success has less to do with the desperate search for a one-size-fits-all prescriptive guide (that may or may not exist) and more to do with perceiving nuances in the landscape of our children’s lives, gathering information much like rain and trying ever so madly to adapt to the shifting terrain and impossible demands placed upon us day in and day out. To show up, to invest ourselves wholly in the process of nurturance and to do our level best—imperfect as that most assuredly is. And while I feel fairly certain of my many and varied failings as a parent, there are times during which the gods smile upon me—and I get it right, often in spite of myself. Indeed, much of what works in terms of child rearing I’ve either conveniently borrowed or stumbled into purely by happenstance.

Such was the case with the celebrated Math Hat, so named for its astonishing ability to impart both mathematical competence and never-before-seen composure in the face of frustration (i.e. that which is prompted by the inherent evil of math-related homework—or so it is perceived at times by a certain couple of somebodies presently in the fourth grade). Imagine my surprise (read: unspeakable joy) upon witnessing nothing short of a garden-variety miracle in my living room as Thing Two donned said hat in the throes of an epic meltdown (over something as asinine as arithmetic) only to emerge as a capable, composed pupil who willingly—almost gleefully—tackled the remaining problems without the suggestion of protest. It’s rumored she was smiling as well.

I’m quite sure I stood there like a buffoon, slack-mouthed and completely baffled by this seemingly fortuitous turn of events. Of course, I felt compelled to snatch the silly thing from her head in an effort to demystify that which was fairly incomprehensible to me, but I resisted. Instead I hurled a torrent of questions in her direction. “What on earth just happened?! Why aren’t you bothered PROFOUNDLY EXASPERATED by your math homework anymore?! Who are you and what have you done with my belligerent child?!” She then grinned, shrugged her shoulders and adjusted her newfound talisman. “I don’t know, Mom, but it helps me and I’m gonna call it my Math Hat (pronounced in the spirit of Aflac). Weird, isn’t it?”

Weird doesn’t begin to describe it,” I mused. Four-leaf clovers…I get. Amulets…I vaguely appreciate. The whole Feng-Shui-Chi-Yin-and-Yang thing makes a fair amount of sense to me. But the freakishly magical nature of that stupid, thrift store-inspired hat bordered on the bizarre. Clearly, it was far more impressive than any thinking cap could ever hope to be, and I was convinced that there had to be a cheerleading squad somehow stuffed inside said knitted wonder, likely shouting encouragement, praise AND ANSWERS into the waiting ears of my dear child.

Granted, I had offered the hat as a diversion—to take her mind off the dreaded task of rounding numbers and whatnot: “Stop thinking of stabbing me with your pencil…Put your pencil down and check out the funky-looking hat I picked up today for the Christmas play.” Who knew something so simple would serve as the sanity cocktail we both so desperately needed.

Logically, I was then driven to delve deeper into the notion of accidental successes, eager to lend credence to my curious findings. Translation: I Googled the tar out of the topic, uncovering a host of interesting and important discoveries that were unintentionally made. Like Post-It Notes and Super Glue, Velcro and Vaseline, blue jeans and the microwave oven. Let us not forget penicillin. Furthermore, I came across Greg Pincus, founder of The Happy Accident, another individual who embraces the serendipity effect—using social media to help create the right conditions for unexpected benefits in a variety of areas. Only then did I come to the realization that so many of my important discoveries as a parent qualify as happy accidents—including the aforementioned Math Hat.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (fetching the Math Hat on a regular basis).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, "S" is for Shame, Daily Chaos, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Homework Hell, School Schmool, The Natives are Decidedly Restless, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

Juggling Act

I’m not especially sure that I was meant for mothering—with all its rigors and responsibilities, and those insufferable shades of gray. Simply put, I’m just not wired for it. I much preferred being able to place chunks of my life into neat little boxes, where I could tend to them separately and manage my world at will. Becoming a mother changed all that. I learned that children don’t do the tidy little square thing. In fact, they don’t do the tidy little anything, nor are they built for confinement of any sort. I also learned that there is no logical formula in existence for raising teenagers. I only knew that I’d need to tie on my sneakers.

And as I look around at other women who were thrust into the role for one reason or another, I think, “Wow. They’ve really got it all together—ferrying their kids here and there without missing a beat, sprinkling their beloved charges with balanced meals and an abundance of feel-good blurbages, oozing patience and composure at every juncture in life, no matter how harried the schedule or demanding the pace.” Nothing, it seems, rattles them—even when they discover one of many cruel truths of parenthood: that they don’t get to choose their children’s friends. That realization, in particular, threw me into a tizzy—a control freak’s living nightmare.

They stay on top of things, too, these supermoms; like homework and school functions, birthday parties and soccer leagues—and of course, all the really important stuff like remembering ballet slippers, shin guards and library books for the right child on the right day of the week. They also recognize the importance of filling minds with wonder and lunchboxes with love. My paltry lunch pail offerings (i.e. “I love you” notes scrawled on scraps of paper and tossed in with the Cheerios and Cheez-Its) are at best hastily prepared, pitifully cliché and often faded and crumpled from recycling. “Have a great day, Hon!” is pretty much all my frazzled brain is capable of churning out on the fringes of my day. The lunches themselves are dreadfully dull, too, which is perhaps a sad reminder of how horribly inadequate I sometimes feel as a mom—notes or no notes.

Occasionally I fail to summon the humor and flexibility needed to approach such an impossible task, as well as the wisdom to accept that some battles as a parent just aren’t worth fighting—especially those that involve six-year-olds and mashed potatoes or teenagers and five-year plans. “Let it go,” I need to remind myself again and again. Certainly, there are more important issues with which to concern myself—like the beefy toad I found on the coffee table recently, warts and all. And the mouse tail stew that had apparently been concocted in the garage-turned-laboratory and subsequently smuggled into the kitchen. God only knows how long it had been brewing there and what other bits of foulness had been added to the stagnant pool of repulsiveness. Color me oblivious, yet again.

Kidding aside, I’d like to know how other moms do it. How do they keep all the balls in the air? All those plates spinning—as if flawless extensions of themselves? Maybe it has something to do with my multitasking skills—or lack thereof. Simply put, I stink in that realm—which contributes greatly, I think, to the whole woefully-inept-mommy thing. Over the years, I’ve been forced to develop just enough juggling proficiency to get by—enough to get me through a day’s worth of kid-related chaos to include the morning frenzy to catch the bus and the after-school circus, when backpacks are emptied, bellies are filled and the air is inundated with multiple conversations, all of which I am expected to attend to meaningfully. The homework gig is yet another monstrous challenge for my sorry set of skills, mostly because I try to do everything SIMULTANEOUSLY. Because that’s what moms do best—at least the good ones, equipped with that oh-so-dear multitasking gene.

I’m sure much of the ugliness would go away if I were capable of turning off or at least filtering the noise in my head so that I could focus on each task individually—instead of trying to absorb and act upon every silly thing that floats across my radar screen. I’m doing one thing perhaps—like driving the kids to ballet, but I’m thinking about the last 6 things I’ve done (critiquing myself to death in the process) while catapulting forward to the next 17 things I will do before bed, all the while fielding inane questions like “How can people buy invisible dog fences if nobody can see them, Mommy?”

It’s no wonder that I sometimes wind up at the soccer field curious as to why my kids are wearing tutus and not cleats.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel

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