I tried to slip one of my daughter’s teachers a twenty dollar bill the other day, but she wouldn’t take it. I think she just felt hinky taking unexpected cash money from me, though my guess is if I had handed her a $20 gift card to an office supply store she’d have taken it. I get emails all the time asking for paper towels and tissues and hand sanitizer and plastic spoons and blue food coloring and pipe cleaners and glue sticks and sugar cubes. Only rarely do I manage to actually get these things to the school, and I feel badly about my failure, because I know if the parents don’t come through the teachers have to reach into their own pockets, or the parents who are more coordinated than I am end up taking the lion’s share of the burden.
There is so much remembering and coordinating involved. I have to note what I’m supposed to get, buy it, give it to my daughter, and make sure she gets it to school, assuming it isn’t something too unwieldy or messy for her to bring on her own. That’s like four remembers for one simple task. I’m lucky to get one remember in before I forget.
As I type this, it is the third day of the third quarter of school. My son, who is in seventh grade, and so you’d think he’d be too old for that sort of thing, has already had requests for gummy bears, red Twizzlers™, toothpicks, and Play Doh, in addition to the standard compliment of paper towels and tissues. I wrote these things on a piece of paper as I left work the other day, knowing I was running by the grocery store to pick up a few things anyway. I made up a New Year’s resolution on the spot. This year, 2015, I was going to be the kind of Mom that came through for the teachers; the kind of Mom who made sure her kids had what they needed to make edible strands of DNA and learn geometry through clay.
I remembered to buy exactly none of these things. I didn’t even remember that I was supposed to buy these things until the next day when I put my hand in my coat pocket and found the list I’d so carefully written.
Generally speaking, I’m a pretty responsible person. I show up where I’m supposed to show up when I’m supposed to show up there. I get my paperwork in on time. I get holiday cards out before the actual holiday and pay all my bills in a timely fashion. I’ve never run out of gas in my car. There are always clean clothes in my closet, and in my children’s closet. Although there may not be any food I *want* to eat in my house, there is generally food I *can* eat in my house, and some of it even has nutritional value.
So why can’t I remember these things? Isn’t my children’s education a priority? Thinking back, I can’t remember my teachers ever asking my parents for things like this. I don’t ever remember dragging shopping bags full of supplies on the school bus. Of course, I can’t remember any hands-on type projects beyond fourth grade, either. Maybe this is the price we pay for more creative teaching methods. I guess it is just hard for my brain to latch on to the fact that a 79 cent box of toothpicks is related to my son’s education in any significant way.
Of course, it isn’t like I’m the kind of person who remembers these kinds of things in any context. When I’m supposed to bring something from home into work, my friends will leave Post-It™ notes on the steering wheel of my car and text me at least twice during the night and once in the morning.
I am proud to say that I have never missed a Court date in twenty years of practicing law, although about a half dozen times I have driven to the wrong Courthouse.
So what’s the difference? Why am I completely reliable in one context, and completely unreliable in another?
I think I knew once, but I forgot.
Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Told You…” is set to be released in the Fall of 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here.