Tag Archives: identity crises

Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me, I Think I’ll Eat Worms

Purely for the sake of argument, let us just say that I have a difficult child. One that unwittingly, yet ever-so-skillfully, drives me to the brink of lunacy as a matter of course—or to the recesses of a closet, where the din cannot follow and some semblance of my sanity can be reclaimed.

Granted, I love this child—and for the past nine years I’ve appreciated her uniqueness, her special gifts and her uncanny ability to make my heart smile even on the darkest of days. Oddly enough, though, she has trouble finding her smile at times—which is the crux of what makes her difficult, methinks.

Indeed, the aforementioned child is periodically consumed by negativity, self-loathing and doubt—not to mention the belief that pretty much everything in her life is decidedly horrible. From hair that won’t remain perfectly parted and math facts that refuse to be summoned to the wrinkly socks and days of the week that ostensibly hate her, she is tormented by all that is even remotely frustrating to the average fourth grader. And although she hasn’t explicitly uttered the phrase, “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me…I think I’ll eat worms,” most assuredly, she has thought it.

Needless to say, the local worm populace and I have seriously entertained the notion of fleeing to a faraway place so as to escape from the torrent of intolerableness that lives and breathes here whenever PESSIMISM comes to call (i.e. the epic meltdowns during which the seething child in question stomps and shrieks and writhes about in a fit of rage—whenever failure and disappointment lurk, whenever flexibility is in desperate need, whenever the Homework Monster rears its ugly head, making demands and finding fault). Moreover, the above-mentioned creature is disturbingly obsessed with sameness, given to self-contempt, to catastrophizing and to hostility—practically imploding while tackling that which is deemed too difficult or smacks of change. And alas, much of the time I am unable to pull her from the wreckage—demonstrating (yet again) my woeful ineptitude as a parent.

To be sure, that is the point at which I feel like a failure, fumbling around in the dark for a perfectly hewn snippet of speech that promises to remedy all that is ailing. The right words, as it were, are elusive at best, buried beneath volumes of discourse and drivel that fail to deliver. Granted, I’m not the only parent on the planet faced with such a challenge, and I need only turn to Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day to be reminded. Given the title’s enormous popularity, I know that I am not alone as I endure the doom-and-gloom assertions that riddle my child’s thinking: “My life is ENTIRELY HORRIBLE!”, “My socks ABSOLUTELY HATE ME!” and “I’ll NEVER, EVER understand math, Mom!”

But, I am happy to report, what I’ve spelled out in horrific detail exists only in the distant past. The meltdowns that occur beneath this roof in the here and now are very nearly manageable—mostly, I’d surmise, because the gods have been smiling upon me this past year. Indeed, so many individuals (near and far, through church, school and the like) have had a hand in leading us to a better place—so much so that I can’t begin to express enough gratitude for their efforts.

Furthermore, I’ve been able to employ the sage advice of Dr. Tamar E. Chansky, author of Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking, which has been nothing short of a godsend. Translation: I devoured it three glorious times—gleaning something new and different with each successive read. In sum, it is a 295-page, 11-chapter gem-of-a-parental-resource jammed with a host of insightful observations, pragmatic strategies and user-friendly language that even I can exercise and understand. More specifically, my dog-eared copy (the one I keep at my bedside) has provided me with the tools necessary to better manage the daily barrage of “I’m stupid…my life is stupid…even my stupid hair is stupid” commentary to which I had grown far too accustomed. Further, Freeing Your Child has given me an abundance of skills—enough so that I might teach the smallish being I love so completely how to quell the angry beast within—even when I am not by her side, poised to pluck her from the unmerciful depths of negativity. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

That said, it’s likely the worms in this particular region are now safe—at least as it relates to human consumption.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (giving thanks to the locals who’ve been indescribably helpful and revering Tamar Chansky and her invaluable book, Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Bookish Stuff, Daily Chaos, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Kid-Speak, School Schmool, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

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. (Confession: Some days I need a compass, a map and volumes of inspiration just to find the fricking stove).

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 decent 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).

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Me Myself and I, Meat & Potatoes, Mushy Stuff

Everyone is Beautiful

Dearest reader: I wrote this book review some time ago (as was the case with the Bright Side of Disaster), but this is a newish site and I thought it was only fair to Katherine Center to feature my ramblings in praise of her second novel once more. On a side note, Get Lucky, Center’s third novel, hit stores just last week!

As I type these very words, I am hopelessly mired in a grievous state of mourning. My head is hung, my drapes are drawn and the sad reality that comes with turning the last page of an engaging and truly palpable read has settled deep within my soul. I may as well drag my sorry self into a corner and sulk while I wait for Katherine Center’s third novel to be released.

That said, Everyone is Beautiful is utterly fabulous in an I-can’t-put-it-down-to-save-my-life sort of way. And as was the case with The Bright Side of Disaster, Center’s first novel, I devoured its pages multiple times, hoping to sink again and again into the tangible existence she so vividly painted.

Not surprisingly, Center’s cast of characters and the remarkable web of relationships she crafted are as colorful as they are complex. And the crux of the narrative she serves up provides a meaty and satisfying meal for those fortunate enough to partake. Her depictions of parenthood, involving poop and Play-Doh and the glorious sacrifices we make for our children each and every day, are spot-on, making the tale that much more believable. Further, she skillfully employs a series of heartwarming flashbacks, giving readers a glimpse into the past and helping us piece together the whys and wherefores of everyone’s actions—especially relevant to the logic of love, if there is such an animal.

But what I found utterly delicious about this literary gem was the fact that I could identify with much of what Lanie, the main character, felt about motherhood. About marriage. About choices. About body image. About longing to reclaim and reconnect with the self I once knew—before the onslaught of life and love and the wonderful mess said “fork-in-the-road” journey so inevitably engendered. Now and forever.

As a mother of young children, I, too, felt almost driven to throw myself into something—anything—that I alone could own and tap into as a source of sustenance and salvation. To consume that which promised to define me (in some sense) as something other than a mother, gulp after glorious gulp.

For some, the garden calls. For others, it’s the kitchen or the gym. Still others are drawn to journaling or scrapbooking or knitting. Nevertheless, all serve as nourishment for the soul. For me, it was pencil sketching, then pastels and finally, photography. Naturally, the irresistible desire to write struck at that time as well—a compulsion that is perhaps as fervent today as it was on Day One of motherhood. Looking back, I’d surmise that such diversions helped to shape me and perhaps strengthened my ability to handle all that was on my plate—which is a good thing, I think. All moms should have something that shouts, “This is me!”

Center, of course, gets that and reminds us throughout the novel of the inherent worth and meaning we possess as parents, the deluge of precious gifts we receive as a result and of the beauty contained within each and every human being.

In the end, she is right—everyone is beautiful—much like the lovely gentleman I met in the grocery store who asked if I might read aloud a Mother’s Day card for him. He wanted to be sure the words intended for his wife possessed that perfect blend of romance and undying gratitude for all that she is and has been in years past. He could have selected just any old card in that section and hoped for the best with regard to its message, but instead swallowed his pride and approached me, banking on my ability to manage fine print.

Of course, I was happy to oblige and after stumbling upon “the” card, he thanked me profusely, smiled and turned to walk away, content with the symphony of poetry and prose contained within. Indeed, a beautiful thing.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (anxious to lock myself in a closet with Center’s third and destined-for-fame novel, Get Lucky).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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My Dog Needs a Shrink

I remember well my dog’s early days–when (much to my amusement) he oscillated from feeling like the King of the World to the cowardly lion of his kingdom.

My dog, Jack, suffers from an identity crisis. And a profoundly amusing one at that. I know I shouldn’t make light of his pitiful situation. The poor thing probably needs therapy. Or at the very least, some “me time” and a generous stint at Club Med—so that he might find himself. Preferably sometime this century.

Deep within that fluffy little bichon frise head of his, lies a reservoir of confusion—the sort that fuels delusions of grandeur and fantasies beyond all canine imagining. In sum, the muttonhead fancies himself as a steroid-fed, beast-of-a-thing with anger management issues.

In reality, Jack is a creampuff. A stinking creampuff that barks at his own shadow, bobbing and weaving to and fro—thoroughly convinced that he can somehow fake it out or swallow it whole. Then again, he’s foolish enough to yap at dogs ten times his size. Dogs that could have him for lunch. Dogs that have cohunes the size of cantaloupes.

So it makes little or no sense for him to behave in such a manner—especially given the facts: He has but a veneer of courage coupled with a pervasive fear of all-things-meek-and-mild. The Caspar Milquetoast of the neighborhood. The cowardly lion of his kingdom.

That being said, my inane dog is unspeakably intimidated by a host of things for which he should possess no fear—like fire hydrants (Oh, the irony!), recycling bins and clusters of garbage cans huddled together as if trading secrets, wayward leaves that skitter like spiders across the pavement and tall, green grasses that swoosh and sway in the breeze. Even a vacuum cleaner, left for dead at the curbside one morning, apparently posed an imminent threat to my sissified little man—as did the seemingly hostile trees we encountered (i.e. the ones with “faces” cleverly tacked to their trunks). At least no apples were hurled in our direction. Nor did the trees verbally abuse us, a la Wizard of Oz.

Mind you, most of the aforementioned objects that spooked my silly dog were inanimate, as in: they were SILENT, STILL AND COMPLETELY DEVOID OF LIFE. Nevertheless, Jack still cowered in fear—and continues to cower in fear whenever we stumble upon something remotely unfamiliar. Inanimate or not. Go figure.

I suppose it could just be that Mr. Fuzzypants has an extraordinarily active imagination, allowing him to conjure up all sorts of nightmarish scenarios involving both the mean and horrible fire hydrant lurking across the street, and the forest of evildoers lining our path (read: the trash cans and trees we pass—each with a penchant for devouring little dogs that venture too near). It’s also entirely possible that that warped mind of his could have envisioned the reject-of-a-vacuum-cleaner (an Electrolux, I think) eerily coming to life, grotesquely sprouting legs enough to chase his sorry ass around the block.

In any event, I have been forced to do some utterly ludicrous things in order to allay his fears. Things that I had never imagined doing before I owned a dog—like talking to fire hydrants and discarded machinery, petting trash cans ever so gently and hugging tree trunks, all the while explaining to my dog that these seemingly horrific entities are actually his friends and that they would never, ever hurt him.

“See, Jack, he’s a gooooood fire hydrant…and this is a niiiiiiice garbage can…and this funny-looking tree (with a face, no less!) would never dream of snatching up a sweet little doggie like you. Wouldn’t you like to say ‘hello’ to Mr. Tree? See him smiling, Jack? I think he likes you!” Of course, under my breath I grumbled and groused, raising a multitude of valid objections—like how stupid I felt and what an exercise in absurdity this was, and “Why couldn’t he just lose the paranoia already?!” Then, of course, I prayed to God that no one was watching the idiocy unfold before them.

Not surprisingly, that would make people wonder what sort of crisis (identity or otherwise) I was experiencing.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.notesfromplanetmom.com.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Doggie Diamonds, Rantings & Ravings, Vat of Complete Irreverence