Tag Archives: lunch boxes

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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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, "S" is for Shame, Daily Chaos, I blog therefore I am, Me Myself and I, Rantings & Ravings, School Schmool

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

Eenie-Meenie-Miney-Mo

Well, the back-to-school shopping frenzy is over for the most part and I couldn’t be more thrilled, having survived the ordeal with yet a few marbles to my name. My two kidlets have once again returned to the world of books and pencils, and the crippling sense of urgency I felt to outfit and clothe them appropriately has now passed. Amen.

No longer will I look at a rack of insanely discounted apparel and feel the need to devour it, stuffing armload upon armload of garmentage-I’ll-never-use-but-God-this-is-cheap into my cart like a maniac. Nor will I be inclined to haul my brood to 17 different stores in search of the perfect (fill in the blank with an infinite array of gotta-have-it items for the first day of school or I’ll die), pausing only to refuel, to wade through the carnage in the aisles and to visit the loo roughly 600 times in a period of 10 hours. Nope, we’re done with that foolishness. The gods have smiled upon me and my heart is glad.

But it certainly was an epic event—a shopping marathon worthy of high praise and recognition from a husband who refused to participate (except when it came to the “fun stuff” like buying soccer gear and doling out soft pretzels). That aside, I guess I expected a certain degree of pain and suffering to accompany such a woeful duty; but I never imagined the misery that would come to define our lunchbox selection process. It was pure agony. And a complicated matter at that.

More specifically, neither child appeared to be satisfied with the offerings. And by satisfied I mean COMPLETELY AND WHOLLY ENTHRALLED WITH EVERY LAST FLAP, POUCH AND ZIPPERED COMPARTMENT, TO INCLUDE SHAPE, SIZE, MOLECULAR STRUCTURE AND PICTURISH THINGIES CONTAINED WITHIN AND ON SAID LUNCHBOXES. Grok!

At one point, I felt hopelessly bound within a Dr. Seuss nightmare. Thing 1 and Thing 2 ostensibly found fault with everything lunchboxish and were virtually incapable of making a decision. (So much for the eenie-meenie-miney-mo method).

“I do not like them, Sam-I-am! Not one will suit my bread and jam. I do not like them with a fox. For lunch, I need a pinkish box. I do not like this stupid pouch. Stop rushing me; I’m not a grouch! I would not could not on this shelf. I want to pick one by myself. I do not like them in this store! Take me, take me where there are more!”

Five stores and two meltdowns later, we were still deeply immersed in the absurdity our day’s undertaking had become. I seriously toyed with the idea of offering a pony to the first child who suggested that brown-bagging it was suddenly cool.

At that point I called for reinforcements (the husband), since I was sure the madness would never end and I knew someone would need to raise the children once I had gone off the deep end. Dozens upon dozens of possibilities then lay at our feet—because our lovely charges felt it was necessary to yank them off the shelves (with glee) in order to examine them more closely (i.e. to Kid Test them and to eventually place the ones that received a passing grade in a nice, little clump on the floor—the Maybe Pile).

After a time, their tactics morphed from strange to even stranger. One child encircled the other with eight or more viable options from the heap of maybes, engaged in some sort of ritualistic rain dance and then instructed her to squat down and start spinning. Yes, spinning like a giant Spirograph around and around until one glorious lunchbox shouted out to her, “Pick me! Pick me!”

Soon, curious onlookers gathered in the aisle. Some were amazed. Others, amused. We had become a spectacle of sorts and everyone apparently wanted to be there when the final verdicts came in. I just wanted it all to end—before sunrise.

And end it did. Finally. A green ogre for one and three pink princesses for the other. It seemed simple enough on the surface, but I knew better. Choosing a lunchbox was a complicated matter after all. And sadly, the virtues of eenie-meenie-miney-mo were all but lost on my crew.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

This piece also appeared on the blog of the lovely and talented Susan Heim: (aka Susan Heim on Parenting).

Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel

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

I Do Not Like It, Sam I Am

It has come to my attention that a certain someone (Read: Thing One) is no longer fond of the cheery, little notes I tuck inside her lunch box each day—the ones I had hoped would make her feel special and remembered throughout school. Nor is she particularly thrilled with those I stuff in her snack bag. Hence, the gripes and grumbles and the oh-so-theatrical rolling-of-the-eyes performance to which I have been subjected of late. All of it, seemingly out of the blue. Of course, I find this news completely devastating—because it can only mean one thing: the end of childhood is nigh.

First, it’s “I don’t need you to hold my hand,” then, “I don’t need you to tie my shoes,” and apparently, “I don’t need you to write those silly, little notes anymore, Mom. It’s embarrassing.”

She then delivered the crushing blow, “And so are those bags. I’m the only one in my whole entire class who brings a snack in a STUPID BROWN BAG. Everyone else uses Ziploc baggies. And could you just write my name on it in plain old boring letters? I don’t want fancy bubble letters anymore. Are you trying to make me look like a baby or something?!”

Ouch.

Quite frankly, this unfortunate turn of events blindsided me, taking me entirely by surprise. I had no idea that such a practice was thought to be humiliating—much less, heinous and vindictive in nature. Usually I’m well aware of the instances during which I am heinous and vindictive, and I have a pretty good handle on when I’ve humiliated my brood—hot, angry tears followed by a barrage of foot stomping and sporadic outbursts involving the endearing phrase, “Evil Stepmother!” are fairly reasonable indicators. But this time, not so much.

At any rate, the fancy-schmancy doodles and notes must stop. Unless I can do it in a fashion that Thing One finds fully unobjectionable. “Can I just scribble something on a Post-it Note and hide it under your sandwich…once in a while…maybe on Tuesdays or something?” I posed, clinging desperately to the notion that it might still be okay for me to communicate with my child in this manner—but on her terms.

“Yeah, I guess so,” she conceded, “…but only if you quit using those Cat in the Hat notes. Do you want EVERYONE IN THE WHOLE CAFETERIA to see them?!” she spat as if I had suggested stuffing her underwear in with the Cheerios.

“Oh, no! Not the Cat in the Hat notes!” I wailed. “I love those things!” Indeed, I fondly recall the day I stumbled into what I considered to be the greatest find a parent of a grade-schooler could be blessed with—a collection of ONE HUNDRED Dr. Seuss-isms, smartly bound by Hallmark in a four-color, pocket-sized booklet, designed specifically with harried moms like me in mind (That’s code for: I did a happy dance right there in the middle of the aisle and shouted “Sam I am!” while clutching said nugget of brilliance to my breast). Truly, it was a thing of beauty and utterly brimming with ingenious rhymes like, “The cat is here! The cat came back! He thought you’d like a yummy snack.” And inspiring blurbages like, “Hot fish, cool fish. You fish, RULE fish!”

I thought it was cute. I thought it was clever. I thought it would save me from a slow and horrible death an obscenely tedious task—that of scrawling a bazillion heartfelt (and agonizingly original) notes to my children at an ungodly hour, when my brain barely functions beyond what is necessary for pouring my exhausted self into bed.

But no. The child hath spoken. “No more Dr. Seuss notes, Mom. I’m a THIRD GRADER, remember?”

“Yes, I remember,” I bemoaned that irrefutable truth. “At least Thing Two still likes them, though,” I considered. “Didn’t she???” Later, I would quiz the girl—far away from the poisoned influence of her counterpart.

“Yeah, Mom. I still want Dr. Seuss notes in my lunch,” Thing Two cheerily stated. “I like them. And I like the notes you write, too. But I get mad when you use my stuff to do that.”

“Your stuff?” I asked, incredulous.

“Yeah. My multicolored crayon pencils. I wish you wouldn’t use them to write notes to me,” she clarified. “Just use a pencil.”

“Oh,” I acknowledged, “Okay then,” deciding it was a small, albeit bizarre, concession to make. One of many I’ll apparently be making in the days, months and years ahead.

But I do not like it, Sam, I am.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (busy lamenting the finite quality of childhood). Visit me there at www.notesfromplanetmom.com.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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