Today I think I’ve cracked the code about what in particular takes the wind out of my motherhood sails faster than anything else: it is the shit my kids ruin.

Oh sure, we all have stories about special things our kids have destroyed or damaged or just made utterly nasty beyond public consumption standards. Some of us have more stories than others. I suspect there is a direct correlation between number of spawn and number of ruined things.

In fact there is an entire blog (and book) dedicated to this phenomenon. A damn good one too: I’ve been perusing it for about an hour to make myself feel a little better about what I experienced today. And it helped tremendously. It did. (Bless you commisserating parents with cameras and no shame.)

We had an incident this morning that is really inconsequential in the scope of things, but to me, perfectly symbolizes the bigger picture of how difficult parenting can be. I hope you can relate.

But first, some background info.

I love Oprah.

I would totally jump on a couch for her.

And not just because I was on her show once. Which I was…March 2009: Peter Walsh’s Clean Up Your Messy House Tour, Atlanta edition. Mine was one of the featured messy houses. Not my proudest moment, but hey, at least I get to say “I was on Oprah…and not as a serial pedophile or transgendered bi-species recovering drug addict/sphincter transplant patient.”

Oprah has been a part of my daily life ever since I became a Stay at Home Mom in 2002. She was my friend. We laughed together and cried together. We drank wine together. Four o’clock was something I looked forward to every day.

My kids knew this and understood it.

In 2003 I was having trouble remembering to take my daily vitamins. My then four year old son, Nature Boy, said (in front of company) “They should make Oprah-shaped vitamins…then you’d remember to take them every day.” True story.

So last week was hard for me. Saying goodbye to her and all.

Then two days ago I overheard my four year old son Bucket Head playing with our collection of vintage Fisher Price Little People in his room. He was holding “Susan” from the late 1970s Sesame Street set and saying “I love Oprah. Oprah is my favorite.” It totally made me smile.

You have to admit, with those glam eyelashes, this retro Little People figure looks a lot more like Oprah than Susan. My kid has a point there.

Okay, that’s most of the back story you need to know. Well that, and the fact that I am in the process of “rehabilitating” Cesar Millan-style a very special and traumatized dog who recently bit an armed trespasser who assaulted him in our yard.

So yesterday morning, I was in the garage, searching for the source of “the stank.” A corner of our garage that was piled high with future Goodwill donations had started to emit a foul odor. We were worried maybe a chipmunk had crawled in and died. Jealous?

A few boxes in, my 11 year old comes running up to me, “MOM! Come quick! It’s something REALLY BAD!”

“What? I’m looking for a dead chipmunk out here. Can it wait?” (I’m thinking maybe he busted one of the little ones secretly binge drinking a whole case of CapriSun.)

“No. You NEED to see this. NOW.”

Oh crap. I swear I’d get so much more done if it weren’t for the CONSTANT stream of interruptions.

So I begrudgingly dropped what I was doing and headed into the house to see what was more important than a dead rodent body decomposing in my Goodwill pile.

I was directed to the lamps in the foyer:

“What guys? What is it? I’m kinda in the middle of something.”

“Look closer, Mom.”

“So… Oprah was lost and you found her? Okay, good job guys. Thanks for finding her, Nature Boy. I’m sorry I called you the ‘World’s Worst Finder.’ You rock.”

“No Mom. Look closer.”

I peered into the lampshade, gasped, and then pulled the lampshade off.




I was flabbergasted. Then heartbroken. Then pissed. And then terrified. All in a matter of seconds.

“Oprah melted,” said Bucket Head. His bottom lip was quivering. He was clearly heartbroken and terrified too.

Dammit. {deep sigh}

I know exactly when that little antique plastic toy was placed on that pointy light bulb. I didn’t actually see it happen, or surely I would have said, “Oh no, that’s a bad idea. She could catch on fire, honey. Never ever ever put something on a lightbulb.” But it happened as we were heading out the door yesterday for our morning walk (for the good of the pack!). And I was probably SO FUCKING PREOCCUPIED with not letting our very pushy Alpha-Male dog Ike walk out of the door ahead of us that I didn’t notice Bucket Head gingerly place the toy on the lightbulb next to the front door on his way out. The point of the fancy light bulb fit perfectly into Oprah’s bottom hole. (And that is a sentence I never thought I’d ever write. Please forgive me Oprah!).

And then he forgot about her.

And those pretty little decorative lamps are attached to a timer so they’ll turn on and off twice a day.

It took extra effort to buy that timer and the special electrical attachment that enables me to plug two lamps into the one timer. Extra effort and care. We have to reset that timer with every daylight savings change. But it’s worth it, because we never come home to a dark house or wake up to a dark house. It’s one of those small touches that make a house a home. Or so I once thought.

But apparently those pointy little 40 watt bulbs get hot enough to melt the plastic bodies of vintage Little People. Poor Oprah! I can’t even imagine how painful that white hot speculum must have felt…twice. And yet, just like on her show, she maintained that perfect makeup and hair, even while she was slowly dying inside, like that time she had to interview the white supremacists or the “surprisingly monosyllabic Elizabeth Taylor.”

I know this is the small stuff that I’m not supposed to sweat. It’s just stuff. Stuff isn’t as important as people or relationships. (It’s not, right?)

But I’m sweatin’ it, people.

Forgive me for my pettiness.

I am grateful that it didn’t start a fire.

I am grateful (and surprised) that I didn’t yell at Bucket Head and make him feel worse.

But I’ve been lovingly building that vintage Fisher Price Little People collection and enjoying it with my kids since my oldest was in utero. We love Little People. Or as Bucket Head says “We yuv Yiddle People.” And I’m fucking sick and tired of my kids ruining my shit.

It’s not irreplaceable. There are a dozen or so Susans on Ebay right now ranging from $2.00 to $15.00.

Totally not the point. I think what tans my hide more than anything is the fact that it occurred while I was actually being a good pack leader (for once). You see? Even at my best, danger and destruction lurk around every corner. And I’m like an untrained mall cop air-dropped into Bin Laden’s compound.

Enough is enough. Camel’s back, meet the last straw.

I’m one tough camel (toe) though. I’m not going to let this break me.

In fact, friends, in true Oprah-super-fan fashion, my little melted Oprah has provided me with a new “a-ha! moment.” And it is this:


Wait. That sounds really bad. Maybe it’s this:

For every thing, there is a season. And this is clearly not the season for me to be surrounded by beauty, or peace, or basic cleanliness.

No. That can’t be right.

I know:

Kids are filthy little beasts who are programmed to destroy. Suck it up, bitch.

Fine. “That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.”

I need to narrow my focus, hunker down, and switch into survival mode. If I can just keep my house from burning to the ground, and muddle through this last little beastly child and the swath of destruction that follows his every move, it will be good enough. Perhaps the key to survival is lowering my expectations.

My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be.  No one else cares.  Why should you?  ~Erma Bombeck

I will survive,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.