Try To Remember.
1. Feed him.
2. Change his diapers.
3. Put on cute small outfit in the 90 minutes during which it actually fits.
4. When you have done the above, he's probably ready for a nap.
Then they get bigger, and the list gets longer, quietly. They are mobile and your list becomes:
1. Feed her.
2. Change her diapers.
3. Remember that she’ll only stay still for a diaper-change if she gets to hold Baby Giraffe.
4. Let her roam as you search the house for Baby Giraffe.
4a. Remember to start laundry which has been soaking because you thought it might help get rid of the sweet-potato stains.
4b. Remember to pop thank-you notes for birthday party into bag.
4c. Remember to read article on how to get gum out of hair because you just know that's going to happen eventually.
4d. Forget why you're walking around with a clean diaper in your hand.
4e. Remember and find Baby Giraffe.
5. Wrestle child back on to changing table for diaper change.
6. Let now clean child go and realize that the rest of the afternoon will now be spent cleaning up the mayhem an ambulatory child can wreak in the time it takes to find a Baby Giraffe.
Getting to the park requires a flow-chart in the parent’s head that would unnerve the Army Corps of Engineers. And yet the child’s needs are met, lovingly if not perfectly, most of the time. We parents remember nearly everything we’re supposed to and learn to fake the stuff we forget.
They get older and the list of things to remember grows longer. Yes, you no longer specifically need to remember “Feed child” because child is now four and has an endearing habit of standing in front of you acting out Mimi’s death from “La Boheme” to indicate she’s feeling a mite peckish. You do, however, need to remember what the last eight meals in this child’s life have been, otherwise she’ll talk you into pasta again and develop something like scurvy or rickets and you have to remember that carrots are eaten but only if ranch dressing is offered. And then you have to make sure that there is ranch dressing. And then you have to remember that you’re trying to add broccoli to the repertoire while she's still in the “sneering and shunning” phase but is sometimes acceptable, but only with ranch dressing. And then you have to remember if you got the cookies currently in favor which look nearly identical to those other cookies which are, unaccountably, disgusting. Only then do you remember that you, too must eat, only thinking about food makes you both really hungry and flatteningly tired, which is why you’re eventually discovered hiding in the bathroom eating a pint of ice-cream using potato chips as a spoon.
And then they get older and ther are more things to remember. We volunteered to bring the class frog his crickets every third Friday. Your kid seems to have skipped the head-lice which went through the school but she could still be in the incubation stage for strep through the end of the week. The girl she wasn’t talking to last week is now her best friend. Her haircut is on Saturday and she’ll outgrow her school shoes right around spring break. By Monday, she needs a costume to perform her role as Pinocchio’s left arm. I won't say that I remembered all the details, but I was definitely falling into the psychologically acceptable realm of “The Good-Enough Mother.” People might think I was kind of competent and even a little fun to be around, as long as Daughter never got emotionally invested in good cooking or attractive sewing. And if only she'd gotten her father’s teeth.
It was the palate-stretcher that energized the droning harpy side of me. There’s nothing like a tiny object the looks like an untwisted paper-clip, can fit in the palm of my hand and costs more than my first car to make me want to ask questions. Questions like “Where’s your palate-stretcher?” and “You haven’t just put the palate-stretcher in the paper napkin next to your plate, have you?” and “Do you want me to tell you again about the times Nana made me go through restaurant trash-cans to find my palate-stretcher I had forgotten to take out of my napkin?” To Daughter’s credit, she sighed significantly less frequently than I nagged…I mean, reminded.
A year has passed and I am proud to say my daughter has the same palate-stretcher she started with. This is not a bet I would have taken. I’d like to think this is because of some wonderful blending of her sterling character and my endless commentary on the palate-stretcher, but it’s probably just the sterling character. I've come to realize that Daughter now senses when I’m talking about her orthodontics and tunes me out completely. Truthfully, I mostly tune myself out at this point, but it’s always on the “To Be Remembered List” until the orthodontist says we’re in the clear. I had hopes last week at her most recent appointment when the doctor motioned for me to come over to the chair. I thought we might have a ritualized removal of the palate-stretcher and then a nice celebratory stomp.
But, no; it turns out that Daughter’s tongue, when at rest, leans against her front teeth which — while it might seem logical to those of us who have never actually thought about tongue-placement — is terribly, terribly wrong. Untreated, this can lead to moving her teeth right back to where they started. The orthodontist alluded to social isolation in adulthood and, eventually, dating those people who dress up like stuffed animals for romantic reasons. He handed me a sheet of tongue exercises she was to do twice a day. I read them and squinted dubiously.
" Okay. I’m supposed to believe that an exercise done five minutes a day can override an unconscious act done the other 23 hours and 55 minutes a day?”
He shrugged, “Can’t hurt.”
Even he didn’t believe in these exercises. Daughter might as well avoid walking on sidewalk cracks and lines to keep my vertebrae safe. But, dutifully, I had the paper laminated and placed it next to her bathroom mirror. Now, every morning and night, after I have reminded her to do every single thing that had already been on the list, I get to utter the deathless phrase “Have you done your tongue exercises?”
I think I’ll try to forget that.