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Mom :: Keeper of the Things

Dear Mom carrying that giant bag,

I see you.

I know how each and every item in said bag was carefully chosen and lovingly packed just in case any one of countless what-if scenarios happens.

What if the baby has a major blow-out and needs not just a new diaper but an entire set of new clothes?

What if the toddler doesn't make it to the bathroom in time and needs a new pair of pants...twice?

What if the line at the post office is moving at a snail's pace, and it's almost lunchtime and everyone needs a snack?

What if the wait at the dentist is much longer than expected, and someone needs yet another activity to keep busy?

What if it suddenly starts raining while at the grocery store, and the five-year-old actually does want that jacket she said she didn't want?

What if the preschooler wipes out yet again at the playground, and will only stop crying if a Trolls/PJ Masks/unicorn band-aid is applied?

I know you and I see you because I am you, Mama. I devote entirely too much time to packing that bag. I was never a Boy Scout of course, but I follow their mantra religiously: "Be prepared." My husband and I refer to this as the "umbrella principle." If you pack an umbrella, you may or may not need it...but if you don't, you'll definitely find yourself in a downpour. (The interesting thing about this is that my husband is from Seattle, where carrying an umbrella marks you as a tourist.)

Over fall break, my husband took our daughters to the pumpkin patch while I had to work. As everyone was getting ready in the morning, I asked him if he wanted me to pack a bag for them to take. I'm pretty sure he knew I wasn't trying to micromanage the situation (I wasn't). I just didn't want them to be out and about all day without back-up clothes or back-up snacks. Our youngest daughter recently potty trained, and while she rarely has accidents, I knew that if there wasn't a spare pair of underwear on that adventure, she most certainly would need a change. Again with the umbrella principle.

Yes, my husband is more than capable of packing this bag himself. But I wasn't sure he would think about all those situations that moms instinctively plan for. I did send a bag that day...and I'm fairly confident my family didn't use a thing out of it (minus the water bottle because it was HOT during fall break).

A lot has been written about the mental load that women bear (here, here, and here for starters). The concept of this mental or emotional load resonates with me, but the thing is that I also take a lot of pride in my ability to manage all of these invisible tasks. That is why, when I slip up and make a mistake, I am way too hard on myself.

I recently lost a baby blanket that had been lovingly hand-knit by a dear friend. I say *I* lost it even though my daughters were the ones who begged to bring it and proceeded to leave it behind. I am the adult and therefore the responsible party, and I shouldn't have let them bring it in the first place, or at the very least I should have noticed its absence. Regardless, I am just sick about the whole thing, especially since I discovered that the blanket had been found and thrown away--it is not even being used by someone else.

Unfortunately I am familiar with losing irreplaceable items. Years later, I am still convinced that my wedding band is somewhere in my grandmother's house, even though we pulled out all the appliances in the kitchen and checked and re-checked the heat registers. I am used to that black cloud hanging over my head as I dwell on a situation that I cannot do anything about. 

My talented knitting friend absolved me of all guilt when I tearfully confessed about the blanket, and fortunately my daughters don't get overly attached to things, so life will go on. It is just a thing that I have pictures and memories of. I really need to get over it. But I can't...and perhaps that's why I'm writing this post.

I miss that beautiful blanket and am feeling (overly) sentimental about it. But I also feel guilty and mad at myself for messing up. I have written on this blog before about giving ourselves grace when we make mistakes, but it continues to be a struggle for me.

I'm trying to learn from this latest ordeal (which admittedly seems a bit trivial when I consider other, real problems), and maybe the best take-away is that I need to release some control and not put so much pride in my ability to manage all the things. I need to be better at recognizing when I need to slow down and simplify and, most importantly, when I need to share some of that responsibility with others. I don't always have to be the one who packs or carries that bag. If we don't have that proverbial umbrella with us every time, the worst that could happen is that we're going to get wet.   

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