Tag Archives: laments

Ode to Embarrassment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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

Augustember

I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year…at once, savoring every drop of freedom now that my children have returned to the Land of Books and Pencils, while lamenting the passage of summer and all the goodness contained therein.

As August wanes and September draws ever near, I can’t help but dwell on the notion of my freedom—and how utterly delicious it will soon be. But by the same token, I am also reminded of how horribly unprepared I am for all that heading back to school entails. My charges are no more equipped for the first day of second grade than I was for the first hour of motherhood. It’s shameful really. To date, I have amassed next to nothing in the realm of kid gear and gotta-have-it-garmentage for that special square on our calendar. The square now gloriously bedecked with stickers and giddified messages like, “The BIG Day!” and “Yea! The first day of SCHOOOOOOL!!”

If I had my druthers, another 30-day chunk of time would be added to the year, smartly sandwiched between the eighth and ninth months. Say, “Augustember,” or “Pause” (which would be more of a directive than anything). We march into spring; why not pause before forging headlong into fall? Such a godsend would give people like me time to breathe, time to warm up to the idea of letting summer go, time to rummage around for the soccer cleats that by now probably don’t fit anyone anyway.

I’ve never been one to embrace change. More often than not (and if all is well), I like things just the way they are—the same. It’s simply too much work to adapt to something slathered with newness. That being said, I abhor drastic transformations. Dead asleep to total wakefulness. The mildness of spring to the oppressiveness of summer. At the lake. In the lake. Not pregnant. Pregnant. I need generous windows of transition for such things. Time to adjust. Time to switch gears. Time to brace myself for the tsunami-sized wave of change sure to thrust me forward—ready or not.

While it’s true we are on the cusp of yet another promising school year with its sharpened pencils, bright yellow buses and characteristic swirl of excitement enveloping virtually everything and everyone in its path, part of my joy is swallowed up because of what and whom I must become as a result. The bedtime enforcer. The tyrant of tuck-ins. It’s a brutal role of parenthood and one I hate with a passion.

I much prefer gathering my wily charges in from the great outdoors long after the brilliant clouds of pink, orange and crimson have faded to plum, gray and eventually an inky blue-black. There is much to relish between dusk and darkness, when the moon hangs clear and bright, begging to be plucked from the sky and the stars greet the earth one by one, gradually painting the heavens with a milky glow.

At once, the night air is filled with a symphony of crickets, peepers and barefoot children whacking at waffle balls, racing and chasing each other through the cool grass, already laden with dew. Shouts of “Marco…Polo! Marco…Polo!” emanate endlessly from the pool next door along with the muffled thwunks of cannonballs, instantly taking me back to my own youth—the one where Frisbees were thrown until no one could see, where nails were hammered in forts till the woods grew thick with darkness and alive with mosquitoes, where Kool-aid flowed freely, the pool beckoned and the rules for tag were rewritten more than once.

And all was well—much like this good night.

Fireflies are everywhere now, hugging the trees and the darkest spots in the lawn, blinking here…and a moment later, there—signaling would-be mates and captivating all who give chase with Hellmann’s jars in hand. Add the crackle of a campfire, the sweet aroma of toasted marshmallows and the thrill of eavesdropping on children in the midst of any number of conversations and I’m perfectly content. It pains me to put an end to their fun. To rain on their parade. To say goodnight to the Big Dipper and to our constant companions—the lightening bugs.

Naturally, my popularity wanes. Sleep, they must.

But in the end, all is forgiven. Tomorrow is a new day. And there will be more Augusts to savor and a lifetime of moments to give pause.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, A Tree is Nice, Mushy Stuff, School Schmool

A Horse of a Different Color

I have this delicious little fantasy—one in which I get to relive the year 1975, that interminable chunk of time during which everything revolved around the horribleness of wearing braces (or so it seemed). More specifically, I’d like to revisit life as a seventh grader, but as one who is fortunate enough to be fitted with today’s orthodontic wonders (i.e. the multi-colored bits of wonderfulness that kids ACTUALLY ENJOY WEARING—or so I’ve been informed by a certain giddified nine-year-old).

“Mom, my braces are SO COOL! Look-at-em! Look-at-em! Look-at-em! They’re PINK and GREEN and ORANGE and BLUE! Like little pieces of candy!”

Who wouldn’t be thrilled to have a Skittles-inspired smile, a rainbow-esque set of teeth, a made-to-order mouth full of cheer—as opposed to the lifeless hunks of steely gray with which I was damned? How perfectly dull and exceedingly ordinary they were. That said, I am a resentful creature—one who laments having missed out on the joys of modern day orthodonture and who waves the woe-is-me flag now and again just to remind everyone how completely unfair life is.

And let us not forget how decidedly intolerable the wretched things were way back when. That irksome hodgepodge of puny rubber bands that no one on earth should be expected to handle…those hideous-looking metal bands twisted unmercifully around each tiny tooth…and those sharpish wires—the ones that reveled in our misery, poking and jabbing our fleshy cheeks at will, causing undue pain and suffering as we (band geeks and athletes alike) caked on gobs of wax in the name of protecting our dear lips from trumpets and whatnot. Indeed, the braces of yesteryear were instruments of pure evil, likely designed by a sadist with some sort of oral fixation.

But aside from the gamut of physical adversities, I remember well the torrent of humiliation suffered, too. Getting braces in the junior high was a truly mortifying experience. It meant transforming instantaneously into a target for ridicule. “Brace Face!” “Metal Mouth!” “Tinsel Teeth!” and whatever else the non-wearers decided we ought to be called echoed throughout the crowed hallways as we snaked our way from classroom to classroom. It meant shamefully displaying that walnut-sized slab of repulsiveness (read: a pink retainer) on our cafeteria tray each day and living in fear that we might inadvertently dispose of it in the trash. It meant hiding our faces behind notebooks and jamming our heads inside lockers in a perfectly futile attempt to conceal the horrible truth—the wearing of braces. We murmured this and mumbled that, cupping a hand to our mouths almost without thinking. As if shame had become second nature. Heaven forbid we smile.

Nowadays the grand event is cause for celebration. Calendars are marked with sparkly stickers and giant “Hoorays!” in anticipation of the special day. Text messages are sent to one and all upon leaving the orthodontist’s office—
sharing the happy news the very instant those prized specks of joy are cemented to one’s pearly whites. Great masses gather ’round to catch a glimpse and to ooh and aah in amazement, the medley of specific hues that were chosen (after much deliberation) is applauded with great enthusiasm and the wearers of braces are warmly embraced by both populations: the non-wearers as well as the welcoming committee of the Bedazzled Teeth Club.

As it should be.

Ah, to have been festooned with said multi-colored bits of wonderfulness in 1975. I can’t fathom anything more grand or glorious.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (mired in self-pity, imagining the Skittles-inspired smile that might have been).

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Daily Chaos, Rantings & Ravings