my need for donna reed

Some days I strive for Donna Reed in my quest for perfect motherhood. Other days I feel more like Sylvia Plath, who at least made her kids peanut butter sandwiches before she gassed herself to death.

When I found out my first child was a girl, I thought, oh how sweet, I’ll have hours of enjoyment brushing her hair every night. Nope. She runs away screaming if I even come near her with a comb, brush, or even a plastic fork to get the knots out.

When my second daughter came along, I thought, oh how sweet, they’ll have hours of enjoyment dressing up in fairy costumes and having tea parties. Nope. They’d rather wrap themselves up in towels, put their hair up in pony tails and play Sumo wrestlers.

Since Donna Reed kept a pristine House of Order, I first vow to keep on top of laundry. But my girls go through more wardrobe changes in a day than Cher, Madonna and Mariah Carey combined. Costumes are strewn all over the master bedroom. Wigs adorn lamp shades. The buffet table back stage serves only M&Ms and grape Popsicles.

You know the scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas where Raoul Duke wakes up in the hotel room wearing fisherman boots and a dinosaur tail? He wades in a foot of water and sighs, “Oh Debbie,” to Debbie Reynold’s shrine at the altar. That’s what my living room looks like.

Most days I keep up a nurturing voice like Donna Reed but I still lose my cool. I knew I had to stop cussing in front of my kids when my then 4-year-old asked me how to spell DAMMIT on the fridge with magnetic letters. Another time my older daughter said, “I’m so sick of this crap!” And I had a REALLY hard time explaining that crap isn’t technically a bad word but used in that way it is. Which really frustrates the crap out of me.

Regarding my appearance, I keep up a somewhat demure Donna Reed-like way in my choice of fashion. But with some young women that my girls meet, I can’t cover their eyes quick enough.

One evening, I took my daughters to a restaurant called Texas Loosey’s. I had “Kids Eat Free” coupons so silly me for thinking it might be family friendly. Our waitress comes to the table. She’s dressed in a bikini, leather chaps with the derriere hanging out, belly ring, and a cowboy hat (cover your head dear, Lord knows we don’t want you to catch cold). My youngest took one look and said, “WHAAAAAT?”

When the day is over and we settle down, we do have those moments that probably would make great sappy television. We get together and I’ll read a book like Nancy Tillman’s On the Night You Were Born, or anything by Karma Wilson or Eric Carle.

We also have in-depth conversations on different ages. My oldest daughter asks me what age I like. Not to let on that I want anything different from what I am, I say, “41.” She, at age 9, replies, “I like 14.” And my youngest, whom I dub “The Princess of Non-Sequitur,” says, “I want a donut.”

And then my need for Donna Reed subsides quicker than a commercial break.

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