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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

Seize the Summer!

It’s summertime. A scrumptious slice of the calendar devoted to kicking back and drinking in all the goodness a slower pace has to offer. A time to reflect upon what has transpired in this harried life since the days of early September. A time to consume shameful quantities of sweet corn, to ogle tan lines and to permanently etch upon our minds the abundance of produce, the warmth of the sun and the sea of green now present at our doorstep. Come January, we’ll doubt it will ever return.

Aah, dear summer—for you I have waited so long. And I shall savor every drop of laid-back-ness you exude. And yet, there is more—your season represents a grand and glorious opportunity for getting things done. Things we wouldn’t normally pencil into a maxed out schedule. Throughout the year we gather and garner a host of hopeful projects, solemnly promising to paint this, sell that, visit here, organize and clean there—banking on the completion of virtually everything we set out to do. In a word, we’ll get it done. This summer.

As a kid, I remember thinking that the delicious months of June, July and August were roughly equivalent to the Paleozoic Era, generously supplying my cronies and me with a wealth of endless days for building forts, orchestrating baseball games and designing rafts for numerous (and sadly, futile) attempts at creek crossings. September seemed so very far away.

Since then, decades have come and gone. I now recognize that summer is, indeed, a finite chunk of time capable of slipping through one’s fingers like grains of sand. Occasions for doing and seeing that which I deem worthy (to include lazy afternoons spent in the sandbox with my kids) are perhaps not quite as plentiful as I once thought. That said, I’ve endeavored to seize what is left of summer by compiling a list of the ordinary and not so ordinary things I’d like to accomplish on or before September 1st.

1)    Finally, FINALLY take my heathens to Knoebels at least once before they head back to school (inspired, of course, by the incessant whining to which I’ve been subjected since the first week of June). “Mom, my ENTIRE CLASS has already been to Knoebels—that’s 22 families, you know!” Note to self: Guilt is an extremely effective motivator.

2)    Learn a new language—more specifically, Pokemon. The driving force behind this particular goal is so that I might communicate with my Pokemon-obsessed children. “Mom, I got Zigzagoon, Pidgeotto, Zubat and Voltorb and all I had to do was trade my Grimer! Isn’t that entirely AWESOME?!!” Sadly, I don’t get it. But I’m hopeful that by September, I will.

3)    Convince my brood that certain things in life are of vital importance (especially as it relates to living with me)—like remembering to flush the toilet, to brush that shock of hair once in a great while and to fight the urge to litter the earth (or my floors and furniture) with wet suits and towels. Ugh.

4)    Actually FINISH something I’ve started—like a book, any number of projects, a purging mission from hell (i.e. an enormously cathartic event in which I chuck various items with wild abandon—most efficiently completed sans children).

5)    Arrive somewhere ON TIME—parties, picnics, assorted camps and swimming lessons, church—you name it. Admittedly, I am severely deficient in the realm of time management. Even my kids know the score. “Daddy always gets us places early, Mom. Why can’t you?”

6)    Train my brood to at least tolerate the ritualistic slathering-of-sunscreen (i.e. to stop hiding behind the couch and screaming, “I HATE sunscreen and I HATE how it tastes! Do you want me to eat it and DIE?!”). Likewise, it would be a welcome change if one or both progenies could perhaps consider said lotions and sprays as something other than pure and unadulterated horribleness in a can.

It’s summertime! Be sure to seize what remains!

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Daily Chaos, Kid-Speak