My kids and their friends (the chickens) in my backyard today

A Classic Book to Calm the Chicken Herder (a.k.a. Mom)

Posted by on October 26, 2012.

Do you see these beautiful children?  Oh, they are a handful!

I love them so much, but at the end of a long day of chicken herding, I am worn out!  Like chickens, they all seem to be going in different directions at the same time. And just when you think you have got everybody rounded up one of them is falling down the climbing wall in a laundry basket. (What? Oh, don’t ask.)

In between breaking up fights, encouraging kindness, bandaging rope burn (from the laundry basket incident), and laughing at knock-knock jokes, I feel I should also try to keep the house from becoming rancid, provide fresh healthy meals, check the batteries in the fire alarm, volunteer at school, de-clutter my home, walk off five pounds, and make Halloween-themed cake pops (those last three invaded my head while I waited patiently in the check out line at the grocery store).

Oh. And then beat myself up a little bit for being slightly overwhelmed.

Sometimes I get the feeling that this is something that our generation is doing to ourselves.  This feeling is exacerbated by some women of my mom’s generation (not naming any names, Mom) who tend to imply that when they were at this stage in their lives they had everything well in hand. They were as cool as cucumbers.

When I hear this, I think, “Really?” Oh, what am I doing wrong?

But not anymore! I just rediscovered the BEST writing on family and parenting ever!! And, even better, the author is a contemporary of my mother’s. It goes to show that parents in the seventies were not as cool as cucumbers: they only remember it that way now that their kids are all out of the house and they are re-accustomed to the calm. So much so that they can’t remember the storm.

Thank you Erma Bombeck for showing up in my life today!

Thank you for reminding me that the highs and lows of parenting – the joy, laughter, frustration, mess and heartbreak – are all natural and normal, and timeless.

Thank you for reminding me that my generation is a part of a long line of parents doing their best and making some mistakes along the way.

And thank you for making me laugh at the whole thing. It’s like a balm on my busy soul.

And then, because you are a much better writer than me, I will let you take it from here.

From Family – The Ties That Bind…And Gag (1988)

The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.” 

From Aunt Erma’s Cope Book (1979)

At Halloween I just put brown grocery bags over the kids’ heads, cut two eyes in them, and told them to tell everyone their mother was having surgery.

From “Birds, Bees, and Guppies” (1966)

If it hadn’t been for neighbors, I’d have flunked my ink blot tests years ago!

From “A Mother’s Eye” (1968)

THE LOOK OF DEATH: This is used on a child with a busy finger up his nose. (It is similar to the Frozen Stare usually employed to catch a waiter’s eye, but is somewhat different.) It’s a steady gaze, unflinching and unyielding. The brow is furrowed, the lips are firm with no trace of a smile. The face remains in a hypnotic state until the finger is removed from the nose.

From “Motherhood – Love and Laughter” (1974)

I began to think about motherhood. There seemed to be several avenues open to me: a) take myself seriously and end up drinking gin right after the school bus left; b) take the children seriously and end up drinking gin BEFORE the school bus left; c) admit to the fear and frustration and have a good time with it.

From “Favorite Child” (1981)

All mothers have their favorite child. It is always the same one, the one who needs you at the moment for whatever reason – to cling to, to shout at, to hurt, to hug, to flatter, to reverse charges to, to unload on, to use – but mostly, to be there.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Erma, she was a humorist and syndicated columnist who wrote from 1965 to her death in 1996. In between she generated some of the funniest and wisest articles about family to be found anywhere. She has many books, but I recommend Forever Erma which is a collection of her columns published after her death. Each column is short enough to read in between band aids and knock knocks and meaningful enough to be worth your while.

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