Tag Archives: guilt

Write from the Heart

There is a special space in my children’s baby books devoted entirely to the development and delivery of a priceless collection of words. A place where parents are encouraged to share how having a baby—this baby, in particular—rocked their proverbial world. A sizeable square into which moms and dads pour a bit of themselves—giving thanks, chronicling ordinary and not-so-ordinary events, articulating hopes and dreams for the future and communicating, above all else, the infinite wonder said child has brought to this place simply by being born. With any luck, most will get a glimpse of it before they become parents themselves.

And it makes perfect sense—this opportunity for crafting a message of boundless love and gratitude—to be presented when parents are fairly awestruck by all that relates to their bundles of neediness. More specifically, before our infants morph into toddlers and tweens, and the urge to snap photographs every hour of every day dwindles to a fleeting desire to fetch the camera when something truly extraordinary happens. Guilty as charged. We all do it, though—we attend less and fall behind more with the passage of time and with each new addition to the family. Not because we become less enamored with our children and feel that documenting every nugget of minutia in their lives is no longer necessary. It’s just that we get caught up in the frenetic, nearly suffocating pace of life.

Well at least I do. And I feel slightly horrible about my failure to record, digitally or otherwise, a goodly portion of my children’s lives. Like the first time Thing One dared to fling her smallish body off a diving board and paddle to safety without a smidgeon of assistance from anyone or anything. Nor did I capture the priceless look on her face shortly thereafter, as she stood on the deck wrapped from head to toe in a beach towel, cheering on the others in her swim class. What’s more, I neglected to take a snapshot of Thing Two while she was missing both of her front teeth. Of course, I took dozens of pictures to preserve that memorable wedge of time for her sister, several of which are prominently displayed on the fridge. Let us just say that I’ve been reminded of said faux pas more than once. I suppose it’s a moot point now, however. The endearing little gaps along her pinkish gums have long since been filled. Indeed, there’s no going back.

Likewise, I failed to listen to the little voice inside my head that insisted I help my oldest move into her college dormitory. “Meet the roommates,” it cooed. “Take a pile of pictures and throw them together in a collage for her birthday,” it smartly suggested. Instead, like a fool, I honored my co-ed’s wishes for independence, allowing her to bridge the gap from home to campus life entirely on her own. In retrospect, the lugging of boxes teeming with all-that-is-vital-to-college-freshmen was a little thing that would have perhaps meant a lot to her—no matter how desperately she wanted to feel grown. No doubt, a do-over in this instance is a virtual impossibility and no one is more keenly aware of that than I. Shame on me.

As delusional as it sounds to suggest that my brood may feel slighted or even devalued as a result of the aforementioned transgressions (never mind those I failed to mention), I still lament owning them. But at least I have their baby books—and the personalized notes I scrawled therein. Better still, I have tomorrow—Absolutely Incredible Kid Day—a chance to formally redeem myself once more.

That said, this Thursday is a date set aside for the purpose of letting the impressionable youth in our charge know how truly remarkable they are. For years Camp Fire USA and Alpha Phi Omega have orchestrated a nationwide letter-writing campaign to do just that. It gives those who play an integral role in the lives of children (parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, as well as adults from all walks of life) a chance to say what they need to say. To put it on paper, as it were—a mere smattering (or a profusion) of words that speak directly to the heart, quietly, yet effectively, conveying the message: “You are special, and valued and loved unconditionally. You add sunshine and meaning and a wealth of good to this world. Ergo, you are an absolutely incredible kid. Please, never forget that.”

Tomorrow, make a pledge to say what you need to say to the children who matter most to you—and be sure to write from the heart.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (crafting three very special letters as we speak).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Mushy Stuff, The Write Stuff

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

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

Pottery Barn Lust

Stop it, Pottery Barn. Stop making my kids drool over that which I cannot afford and would never buy anyway. Have you no shame?! My children now hate me. Yes, HATE me—not for demanding that they close your four-color rag at eleven-fricking-fifteen in the evening and get ready for bed already, or for failing to “ooh” and “aah” appropriately as they flip through its pages delirious with wanton desire, but for not dropping everything to order this and that foolish bit of tripe splashed across the landscape of your wondrously opulent magazine. Grok!

Just so you know, I’m on to you. I am. I really am. I’m not even remotely beguiled by your clever little ruse: that of seducing domestically challenged moms everywhere with your pristine layouts, color-coordinated ensembles, outrageously organized living spaces and exquisitely charming patterns that make me weak with desire. Sheez, the uncluttered environment alone makes me shudder with unadulterated pleasure.

Further, you’ve seized upon every mom’s woeful lament: Oh how I long for everything to be in its place, which is utterly disgraceful, you despicable opportunists. And I find your agenda (hidden or otherwise) to be rather disturbing—one that smacks of trickery and the dastardly element of mind control. Your abundant use of muted hues, tasteful explosions of color and the artsy flair you brazenly display is likewise, contemptible, luring us deeper and deeper into your lair of deception. Indeed, your deliberate (yet smartly subtle) arrangement of children (i.e. the self-indulgent little twerps you commission to frolic hither and yon, dripping with good cheer, an obscene degree of decorum and perfectly coifed hair) is absolutely sinful. Sinful, I say!

Yea, page after page of gloriously bedecked bedrooms and bathrooms and play rooms, awash with extravagance to die for, makes me ill. Yes, physically ill—because I can’t quell the beast within that shouts, “You’re a horrible mother! If you really loved your kids, you’d buy that monstrosity of a bunk bed with its adorable little study carrel tucked beneath it, and those delicious-looking Adirondack chairs for the lawn and deck! OMG! Don’t deprive your dear children a minute more, you miserly hag! Order this instant, lest the world should stop revolving!”

That said, the ruinous voices inside my head are slowly but surely making me crazy—one insanely heinous syllable at a time. “Where, oh where will the madness end?” I beg of you. “Begone now, exorbitantly priced beach towels, backpacks and bedding! And take your foolish monograms with you! Don’t forget those pricey jungle-inspired, flower-power-ish, skateboard-esque, pretty-in-pink, ocean-and-surfboard-riddled bedroom themes either. I’ve seen enough already! My kids HATE me, remember?! They loathe the Wal-Mart-ish budget to which I am a slave and will soon be talking trash about me to their nose-mining cronies. Oh, the horror!”

“But before you go, dear Pottery Barn folk, please answer me this: what’s with the legions of baskets, buckets and boxes with which you festoon seemingly every page? Do you actually KNOW children who would willingly place their beloved schlock in a receptacle so intended simply because it is labeled as such?! Are you completely delusional—or do you just revel in your ability to make parents feel pitifully inadequate, as if they couldn’t train a dog to bark let alone instruct a child to put something away?!”

“Never mind,” said the pitifully inadequate mother. “I already know.”

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (amidst an abundance of clutter, chaos and cheapass décor).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, "S" is for Shame, Home for Wayward Toys, Rantings & Ravings, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction