If I had a business card for my job as a mother, the job description would read “Finder of Things.” Because that’s what I do. I find things.
I love my husband and kids but they’re terrible finders. And I wouldn’t mind it so much if they weren’t also excellent losers.
The most frustrating part of the problem is that I consider our house to be somewhat organized and generally tidy – certainly not “eat off the floor” tidy, but it’s what I’d call a “someone could stop by the house unannounced and I wouldn’t die of embarrassment” level of tidy. Chaos makes me anxious, so I organize things to make it easier for us to find and keep up with what we need. I’ve never met a storage bin I didn’t love. Clear countertops make me happy. And I own and use a label maker even though I’m fully aware of just how geeky that sounds.
Yet despite the strategies and the storage and the customized labels, we lose stuff. Regularly. I’d guess that something goes missing about every third day – a hairbrush, a belt, somebody’s gym shorts, that paper for school, her dance tights, his retainer, and a receipt that Tom swears he put right here on this counter. But then poof! The thing is gone. Vanished into the void.
Sometimes the thing is missing for only a few minutes and sometimes it’s gone for good. How long it stays gone is usually in direct proportion to the person who’s doing the looking. I won’t name names, but some people – and you know who you are – have woefully inadequate searching skills. What some people call “looking for it” is more of a cursory glance around the general area.
If I send one of our kids to the pantry to get a can of green beans, they might tell me we’re all out of green beans. Because if the green beans do not leap off the shelf into their hands, there are no green beans in the house. And if a giant, blinking, neon arrow doesn’t magically appear in the pantry and point directly to that can of green beans, then there are no green beans in the house.
When looking for something involves moving things out of the way to see it, there’s a 99% chance the thing is going to stay lost – until Mom starts looking. Kids use moms like most of us use a GPS: “In 200 feet, make a left turn at the living room. Extend your free hand and make a sweeping U-turn motion under the sofa cushion. You have now arrived at your remote control.”
To avoid being used and abused as the Official Family Finder, I’ve started putting a price tag on my finding services. Yesterday one of the kids swore to me that there were no more hot dogs in the fridge.
“No hot dogs? Are you sure? Did you really look?”
“I looked, Mom!”
“So you looked behind things and under things and on every shelf?”
“Yep. I looked everywhere.”
“So you’d be willing to bet a week’s worth of extra chores on this? If I go in there and find the hot dogs, you’re gonna be busy this week but not in a fun way. You feel that confident about the missing hot dogs, right?”
“Well… maybe I’ll go look one more time.”
“That’s what I thought.”
The moral of this story? A wife and mother is a person with stuff to do, not a homing device with ovaries. And sometimes terrible finders just need a little extra motivation. Pass the hot dogs.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.