I am exactly one lost set of keys away from losing it. This morning, I sailed through the feeding, dressing, "Yes, I'd prefer it if you wore matching socks to school, but it is your choice"-ing, lunch packing, and general maintenance of my charges. We were even set for an on-time preschool arrival, which rarely happens (if Trinity Preschool handed out tardy slips, she'd have racked up some serious detentions already). I had the audacity to congratulate myself as I handed Buzzy her lunch bag. Then I reached for my keys. . . .
There are no atheists in foxholes or among mothers trying to get their kids out the door, but the problem with being a lapsed-Catholic-turned-almost-lapsed-Episcopalian is that you forget the go-to saint in these situations. (Apparently, St. Joseph is not the guy. I'm sure he has other talents, but timely key location is not one of them.) I tore the house apart. I implored Buzzy to help Mommy find the keys. I interrogated my 16-month-old to determine if she was responsible. She denied everything. I went through the laundry. I de-cushioned the sofa. My keys had vaporized along with my cushion of time.
We were seriously late. Not only was Buzzy missing school, but Rosie was missing her music class--the highlight of her week and my favorite parenting activity. I searched unsuccessfully and wondered what kind of mother causes her kid to miss school because she can't find her keys. 'The dog ate my homework' carries more weight.
A frantic hour passed. My search revealed additional evidence of my parenting and housekeeping flaws: unsorted laundry, stinky kitty litter, stacks of papers to be organized, the teetering tower of books on my bedside table. I tried hard to stop crying on the stairs. Why is this so hard? I only have two kids, for Pete's sake. What is wrong with me?
The kids picked up on my tension despite my super-phony assurances that everything was fine. Buzzy pretended that she lost her plastic necklace, and she got angry. "That's not famous," she yelled, causing Rosie to cry.
"What? Buzzy, that doesn't even make sense." I snapped at my three year old.
"Famous means nice." She explained. Whatever. I didn't have the energy to set her straight. "Famous means nice" it is.
I gave up on the keys. "Change of plans!" I announced cheerfully in my super-phony voice. We took a walk. We bought a fancy coffee for mama and muffin for the littles, and we all watched the water fountain, and we felt better. My normal voice returned. "Mommy, you're famous," Buzzy said. I didn't correct her this time. Instead, I reflected how thankful I am that we live so close to things like fancy coffee and water fountains, and that it wasn't raining today. We ate the lunch I packed for Buzzy as a picnic and returned home. I stuck Rosie in her high chair to eat a little more before her nap. As I picked up her bib from the kitchen table, my keys clattered to the floor.
Buzzy laughed. Rosie laughed because her sister was happy. I did not laugh. But I'm working on it.