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Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell has a Master's degree in Creative Writing and has taught writing at the University of Maryland and Penn State University. She is the author of the book Writers of the Holocaust. She has written articles for the Washington Post. She is married with four children

Sharona, 17, is standing in front of the fridge at midnight, looking for something.... Hello refrigerator, you good friend. You are there for me, all right. Yeah, who else can I turn to at 11:45 PM on a school night, when I'm bored and I'm all alone? Who else has something to make me feel good? Okay, some turkey, some nice white meat turkey, that's not too fattening, but hey let's whip up a little Russian dressing and how about some chips on the sandwich and on the side? Hey, that's good

Caryn is very concerned about her daughter, Brooke, who looks too thin to her. She feels that Brooke may have gone too far with her diet. Caryn: Did you eat anything? Brooke: I had a half a bagel. Caryn: Did you put anything on it? Brooke: Mom, who are you? The Food Nazi? Caryn: I never see you eat anymore. You're getting so skinny. Brooke: Well, who told me I was fat in the first place? Caryn: I said that you should exercise.

Charlotte is trying to feed her one-and-one-half year old daughter, Zoe, breakfast in her high chair. She has cut a banana into tiny pieces and is handing her daughter the pieces.Charlotte: Why don't you eat bananas? You used to love bananas. Zoe shakes her head. Zoe: No want nanas. Charlotte: Just a taste. Zoe: No want. Charlotte: Here, I'll mash it for you. It's yummy. Isn't it? Zoe clamps her mouth shut. Charlotte: You've got to eat. How are you going to grow if you don't eat? Zoe throws the bananas on the floor. Charlotte: Don't you do that. Zoe shakes her head no.

Yesterday I was at a nursery school party. The children were sitting in a circle singing, and a woman I know called out to her daughter: Smile, Lila. The mother said to me: "She doesn't look happy. She's frowning." I thought back to all of the times I was dressed in my finest clothes, going somewhere special, and my mother had said to me: "Smile." Or all of those birthday parties my mother made for me where I felt like crying from all the overexcitment and was told: "Smile." The next time your child is unhappy, don't assume there's something wrong with him. Connect to him. Understand him. But don't deny his feelings.

A Drama on Discipline. Tina (28) and Steve (28) are the parents of a six year old son, Josh. It's Saturday night and Tina is returning from a shopping trip to the mall. Tina: Hi Steve. (looks over to the couch). Josh, what are you doing up? Steve, what's he doing up? Steve: We were playing cowboy. We were having a great time. Tina: I assume you read him a story. Steve: Not yet. Tina: Josh, please go to bed. (She walks him to the bathroom and to the bedroom where she reads him a story.) Tina comes back down the stairs: Steve, I can't believe you. I came home at 9:00, and Josh is supposed to be in bed at 8:00. He's six years old.

It's Sunday morning. Pam, a 31-year-old mother, is getting ready to go to a party with her four-year-old daughter, Cara. Mother: We gotta hurry. Grandma said that we should be there early so she can take pictures of us. Cara: Okay. Cara stays on the floor playing. Mother: Let's get you ready. Cara: Why? Mother: I told you. We're going to Grandma's. She's having a birthday party. Cara: Is it my birthday? Mother: No, it's Grandma's. Listen it's time to stop playing. It's time to get ready. Cara doesn't look up. Mother: It's time to get dressed. Here are your clothes. I'll give you a few minutes and then we'll get you dressed.

From my mother I learned how not to be perfect. Most of the other mothers were perfect. They scoured sinks. They checked the cuffs of their kids' pants so that they didn't bring home sand. They made their kids wash their hands before each time they ate. They prepared three course meals. Then there was my mother. We ate liverwurst sandwiches in her bed while we watched the Million Dollar Movie. My mother painted our fingernails and we opened the windows for wind to blow them dry.

I had a burst of insanity last week. My friend, Jana, got a puppy. Her puppy was so cute, I decided I had to have one. Her sister from the same litter was available. Mother #4 is in touch with her inner dog. So now we have a dog. When we took the dog for his first checkup, the doctor gave us startling news. According to the vet, Jana's dog and my dog, born in the very same litter, have different fathers.

The gift my father gave me: The ability to laugh at anything. As an adult, every time I spoke to my father he told me the latest jokes he had heard, no matter how inappropriate. No matter if I was calling from across the continent. He had to share what he thought was funny. Which meant that my problems were not always taken so seriously. So that when I was in graduate school, suffering through finals, breaking up with a boyfriend and teaching undergraduates at my first job, and my father asked how I was doing and I said (not seriously) I felt like killing myself, his reply was: It won't help.

AN ALL-TOO-TRUE ONE ACT PLAY IN THREE SCENES Jenny, 38, is the mother of Jesse, 11 and Joshua, seven. She works part time as an advertising sales rep for a local newspaper. On the side, she writes a restaurant review column on small, little-known restaurants called Hole in the Wall and she also writes poetry for herself. She reads lots of books on parenting. Her husband, Jim, an account executive at an ad agency, usually gets home just before bed-time. SCENE I Wheedle, Cajole, Repeat and When in Doubt, Bribe Jenny is cutting salad for dinner. She wants to get rid of the few dishes in the sink but sees that the dishwasher is full -- and clean.

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