No Sugar Added: Mother hen

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One day last summer, my daughter purchased a tiny yet thoughtful gift for me. A pin with an image of a white hen. And the word “mother” up above it.

I adore the mother hen pin. And while I consider myself to be a wonderfully quirky mother, and love my children with all of my heart and soul, I am most decidedly not the overly nurturing, worrywart, “mother hen” brand of mommy. I pride myself on raising independent children. I do not hover. I do not panic. I do not overreact. Losing your children’s father to cancer really puts things into perspective. The gift I received for having endured such trauma is that I am unphased by things that throw many parents into a tailspin.

Got a D on your spelling test? It’s not cancer. Fractured your wrist while snowboarding, because you’re a daredevil? It’s not cancer. Lost your bike helmet? It’s not cancer.

The reason I love the pin is because I know why my daughter purchased it for me. And it’s not because I bear any resemblance to a mother hen. It’s because my children once decided my “spirit animal” is a chicken. Not because I am afraid of things, but because of my tendency to be on the high-energy side. And to sometimes awaken with my hands folded up oddly underneath my armpits. But that is a story for another time.

I have not, as to my knowledge, made any clucking sounds while asleep. Certain ex-boyfriends may refute this claim, however.

One evening, moments after glancing at the “mother hen” pin on my dresser, my phone rang. It was a friend of mine. When I put the phone to my ear, she asked where I was. Her tone of voice was dead serious. I said I was home, to which she firmly replied, “There’s a tornado warning, get in your basement.” It was a stormy night. The sky had suddenly blackened, the wind howled and the rain began pouring from the sky in buckets. Had I lived in Kansas, I’d already have been camped out down in the root cellar.

Now, there were two issues:

#1: I don’t have a basement, just a tiny area that houses our furnace. It’s accessible only from the outside of our house and undoubtedly contains the skeletal remains of small rodents. Even if a tornado were barreling toward us, I would not go down there.

#2: Her son was at our house for a sleepover. When you have someone else’s child in your custody, it’s a whole different mommyhood ball game. Had it just been my children and me, we would have stayed in our house with two cats and one bunny and taken our chances because, well, how many tornadoes has Cape Elizabeth seen as of late?

But, because this woman’s child was, for the moment, my child, I turned into, you guessed it – a mother hen. I went to code red. Who had a basement? My friend down the street did! She sounded benignly happy when she answered her phone, which surprised me, given that we were all about to die. I asked, “Can we come to your basement?” I detected a smirk coming through the receiver as she replied, “Sure.” I then informed her of the impending tornado, and she finally understood.

The thunder, rain and wind began swirling voraciously and we were suddenly in The Wizard of Oz. Windows were rattling and curtains were blowing. I began to act like a lunatic. Like a chicken with her head cut off. I shouted frenzied orders at my expanded family, “Get into the car! NOW!!!”

As we sped off to our refuge, the children, soaking wet and unhappy to be torn from their slices of hot pizza, rolled their eyes in obvious disgust and told me to “chill.”

Moments later, we arrived to find our friends looking quite calm. The tornado warning had already been rescinded. The children clearly wanted to have me committed. Even the one who wasn’t mine.

Exhausted from the ridiculousness, I drove back home, warmed up our pizza, spit a feather out of my mouth and went back to reading my book.

Mother hen, indeed.

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No Sugar Added is Cape Elizabeth resident Sandi Amorello’s biweekly take on life, love, death, dating and single parenting. Get more of Sandi at or contact her at