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When Worms Fail Me

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My children have a routine when they leave the house each school day. It's a fairly logical succession of events that usually culminates with a mad dash to the bus stop, backpacks and jackets flapping as they run, their unruly manes trailing behind them. Of all the memories of motherhood I'm sure to harvest, the one that features their early morning race across the lawn, a blur of gangly legs and unbridled enthusiasm, will be a favorite. It's likely, too, that I'll remember the many times they paused in the street, still blackened and slick from the unending rains of spring, to rescue untold numbers of earthworms from what would appear to be certain death.

Quickly, yet gingerly, they scoop them up and place them where it is safe, pleased to have made a difference in a small yet meaningful way. And as I witness this determined (albeit futile) effort to "...rescue them all, Mom," morning after morning, I am moved, inspired almost, to join in their worthy deeds. Of course, it would be cruel to utter the obvious truth: "You can't possibly save them all." So instead I bite my tongue and agree that worms, too, have a purpose. "They aerate and enrich the soil, Mom." I am reminded of the exuberance of youth and of the remarkable capacity children have for storing data sure to wow me.

At any rate, it goes without saying that worms lack the ability to communicate their needs and desires -- no matter how compelling or dire they might be. Granted, they couldn't deliver any sort of message that anyone could ever hope to interpret. Crazy as it sounds, there are times that I can relate to such hapless creatures -- especially as I struggle to connect with my brood via meaningful discourse. Indeed, sometimes words fail me - -when weighty subjects arise, when reflective listening falls flat, when my children's growing allegiance to privacy rears its ugly head. But I am determined to improve the way in which we connect over the stuff that matters -- and all the little things along the way.

For starters, I've made a solemn pledge to engage my daughters in conversation each day -- to stop whatever it is I happen to be doing and tune into their respective worlds. To find out who has a crush on whom, which app on the iPod Touch is to die for these days and just how many Pokémon cards it truly takes to be complete. For my oldest, my curiosities are more akin to: which D.C. restaurant is her new fave, what, exactly, does one do with an art history/graphic design degree anyway and when (oh when!) will the desire to get a tattoo finally abate. And although I make light of it here, I understand how important it is to have these conversations. Somehow over the past decade I've allowed life's harried pace to take precedence over bonding in this manner -- even over the seemingly insignificant happenings of life, which is precisely what I wish to change.

So aside from vowing to carve out more one-on-one "face time" with my co-ed daughter (who is still away at college), I plan to call more, text more and even utilize Facebook's messaging system on a more regular basis -- a concept I never once imagined myself embracing.

As for my two youngest charges, I've taken a big step forward on the path to opening the lines of communication by purchasing each of them Just Between Us: A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal for Girls and Their Mothers by Meredith and Sofie Jacobs (Chronicle Books). So in addition to the aforementioned "face time," we now have this wonderfully interactive, perfectly confidential, writing prompt-infused means of communicating with one another -- a tool that encourages us to "talk" about everything from boys and bands to wishes and worries, all within the confines of a tangible journal that we conveniently pass back and forth. Of course, it doesn't replace or devalue our customary method of conversing, but instead offers another, perhaps deeper, layer of connecting. A good thing methinks.

Planet Mom: It's where I live. Visit me there at www.melindawentzel.com and www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel