Biggie and Smalls made a visit to the dentist this morning. The appointment was at 8:40 am, so we actually got to sleep in a bit. I can’t say it was a relaxing start to the day, though, since Ad Man woke me up in a panic. “It’s 7:40!!” I had to do a half asleep, self brain scan, quickly going through the following inquiry: 1) Is it light or dark out?, 2) What day is it?, 3) Weekend or school day?, 4) What time does the bus come?, 5) Holy crap, we’re late! Is there a reason we slept late?, 6) Yes, dentist appointment! What time is the appointment?, 7) Can I get away with not showering?…and on and on until I determined that we were perfectly fine and had plenty of time to get to the dentist’s office (without me showering, of course.) The foregoing took approximately 2.5 seconds.
It amazes me that I can’t walk into a room without staring blankly and asking whoever is nearest, “Is there a reason I came in here?” And, yet there are moments when, barely conscious, in mere seconds I can flip through my internal calendar and determine that, yes, today is the day when both girls have appointments, that I’ll have to rush them back to school because Biggie has “lunch” at 10:30 am and I don’t want her to miss it and starve all afternoon, Smalls has violin at 5:45 pm, Biggie has piano at 6:00 pm, and Ad Man will be home for dinner, but not to worry because we have leftovers in the fridge. It’s no wonder that in my downtime I’m a blathering fool who can’t seem to memorize my own husband’s cell phone number.
I call this phenomenon “Mommy Memory.” Mommy Memory is a tricky thing. Like a toddler in a bubble bath, it can be slippery and unpredictable. When it comes to mundane, everyday tasks, it will let you down every time. Like, for instance, you know that little part of your brain that reminds you to move the load of wet laundry from the washer to the drier instead of leaving it to fester for days growing deadly spores? I don’t have one of those. I’m pretty sure it came out with the placenta when Biggie was born. I do, however, have a precise mental record of the bowel movements of each of my daughters and my dog. Hey, don’t judge. Some superpowers are more advantageous than others.
Ad Man has no such powers. His memory is reserved almost exclusively for work, driving directions and sports stats. He may have twenty-five things on his to-do “list” at work, but he doesn’t actually keep a paper (or computer) record of anything. It’s all neatly filed inside his head. But, ask him to remember anything I’ve ever told him and we’ve got a problem. I’ll say, “Honey, remember you need to get home early tonight because there’s that thing at school we need to go to…” and I’m greeted with a quizzical stare. He’ll insist I never told him about The Thing at which point I will lose my f’ing mind because we had a conversation about it just last week…a conversation in which he was an active participant. Moreover, I’ve written The Thing in all caps on our family calendar and mentioned it in passing, yet again, just yesterday.
I hate to generalize, but I will anyway. I don’t think men’s brains have the capacity to store and retrieve information regarding the minutia of everyday life. I should actually say men or whomever in a couple is not the primary, day-to-day, childcare provider. (You know who you are.) At the dentist’s office this morning, there was a dad who’d apparently gotten suckered into kid-taxi duty. He impatiently paced around in his business casual uniform, cell phone at the ready just in case someone at the office called about a problem with the big presentation or couldn’t find the TPS reports. He also appeared to be approximately 98% clueless about the details of his child’s life.
Clueless guy–let’s call him Stuart–was there with his sweet, teeny-tiny daughter who was at most five years old. I got the vibe that Stuart’s little girl was there for her first filling or some other potentially scary procedure. At one point, a nurse came out to the waiting room to tell Stuart that they were just getting ready to start and his daughter was being a trouper. Stuart did not seem at all concerned. The nurse went on, “She’s chatting away telling me she just went to a birthday party and it was so fun with the magician and bouncy house…” as Stuart just shrugged his shoulders as if he were being asked to recall the date on which his daughter lost her third tooth.
I observed this exchange thinking, “I’ll bet his wife (or husband or nanny) could tell you the name of the birthday boy and his parents, that he is allergic to peanuts and that he was the one who hit another kid with a stick at preschool two years ago. She would also have remembered that the kid is obsessed with snakes and, therefore, purchased the perfect Jr. Herpetologist Kit for his birthday gift. Stuart’s wife knows this because she actually listens when her daughter chatters on about her friends, her day at school or the birthday party she attended yesterday.
Not only does she listen to what her daughter tells her, she remembers it. She carefully stores it in her brain files knowing this information could prove valuable someday if, say, the dentist’s nurse happens to mention the party in passing or when she finds herself wandering the toy store aisles looking for a birthday gift for no-peanuts-stick-swinging-snake boy.
Mommy Memory is not without its drawbacks, however. Mentally storing an infinite number of tiny bits of detailed information means that other things have to go. An internal hard drive can only hold so many zeros and ones. As I mentioned, I can walk from one room to another and in the course of a few steps, completely forget the purpose for my change of venue. See? One bit in, one bit out. I may remember the name of the paint color in that room, but have no recollection that I was on a mission to track down that book I was reading. You know, the one about that woman? It was made into a movie? With that actress who’s divorced from what’s-his-name?
Alas, Mommy Memory, with all its positives and negatives is mine to keep. It’s not one of those things that eventually go away after your child is born, like milk-filled porn boobs or the ability to eat ice cream every night with no effect whatsoever on your waistline. So Ad Man, please stop taunting me for not being able to recall the directions to anywhere, ever, and I won’t ask you to remember which brand of little girls’ underwear runs small and which one has itchy waistbands. Feel free to thank me for keeping your already touchy and dramatic daughters from being tormented by their underpants. You’re welcome.