The Rockwood Files: Dropping the ball

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Once upon a time, I was on top of things. I had it together. I daresay I was even organized and mostly punctual. And now? I hardly recognize myself. What has happened to me?

Last week was one of those weeks when nothing went right. Even though it felt like I was running at top speed, I couldn’t make progress. I worked all day, but the “to do” list never got shorter. I washed several loads of laundry but hardly any of them made it out of the “clean clothes pile” and into drawers and closets. I started projects but can’t think of a single one I finished. Have you ever had this kind of week?

By Friday, my brain was the consistency of applesauce. Even though my daughter has had the same Friday afternoon gymnastics class for three consecutive months now, I totally forgot to take her. I didn’t even remember I’d forgotten it until the next day. On Saturday morning, I decided to get all caught up on work, get myself organized and get all the clothes folded. I dove into the first project with gusto, and then the phone rang.

It was Tom, who’d taken our son Jack to a soccer game. He asked if I’d realized that one of Jack’s teammates was having a birthday party that same day. But I’d forgotten to write down the party date or buy a birthday gift. And because the party was starting in less than 20 minutes, we’d just have to miss that one. I shook it off. The kid could survive one missed party, right?

About an hour later, the other two kids ran over to my desk to tell me that an inflatable bouncy house had just arrived in the neighbor’s front yard. “That’s weird,” I thought. “Their little girl’s birthday party isn’t until tomorrow.” I decided that they must have rented it for the whole weekend, and I went right ahead with my work. I was neck-deep in sorting out an accounting problem and had been on the phone with QuickBooks technical support for nearly an hour.

When Tom arrived home from the soccer game, I put the phone call on hold because he needed to ask me something. “Aren’t we supposed to go to the neighbor’s birthday party today?” he asked.

“No, her party isn’t until tomorrow,” I assured him.

“Then why is there a bouncy house, balloons and several minivans parked right outside? Are you sure it’s not today?” he asked.

And I was absolutely sure – until I double-checked the calendar. There it was in black and white. Even though I was the one who wrote down the party date on the correct calendar block, I was convinced it was scheduled for one day later. Once I realized the mistake, I was stuck. The party had started 20 minutes earlier, and I was still wearing my pajamas and in the middle of a phone call and computer download. With exasperated, pleading eyes, I motioned toward the gift I’d bought for the party, and Tom tossed it in a gift bag, grabbed our daughter and flew out the door toward the neighbor’s bouncy house.

On Sunday, we got up early to get ready for church. I checked my calendar this time because by then it was clear my feeble brain couldn’t be trusted. That afternoon, the kids were supposed to attend two more birthday parties. (Apparently, every kid they know was born during the same week in May.) So I packed the gifts into the car so we’d be ready to go from church to the two parties, back to back.

The first birthday party went off without a hitch, and we rushed over to the second one running only a few minutes late. When we got to Chuck E. Cheese for the party, the kids scrambled out of the van, and I reached for my purse. It wasn’t there. Then I remembered where it was – in a booth at the skating rink where we’d just been for the first party.

With a huge eye roll, Tom said he’d rush back to the skating rink to find my purse while I stayed with the kids at Chuck E. Cheese. So while one of the kids partied with his friends, I sat with the other two kids in a booth trying to explain why they couldn’t have any tokens to play games with. Tokens cost money, you see, and my money was in my purse which was at the skating rink across town. And spending time with disgruntled, token-less kids at a busy Chuck E. Cheese feels a lot like birthday party purgatory.

Finally Tom returned with my rescued purse and doled out tokens to the kids. When the tokens were spent, we all went home, and I wondered how an ordinary week could have careened so wildly into a ditch. But it did, and I’ve just got to make peace with it. Everybody drops a ball now and then, and sometimes we drop four or five balls right in a row. I suppose there’s nothing else to do but shake it off and get back in the game.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.