Before electronic organizers, there were mothers. This fact is evident each fall as I prepare to send my children off to school for yet another year of learning. Before I hug them one last time, I ask each one, "Do you have your lunch?" "Do you have your water bottle?" "Do you have your signed permission slips?" As I watch them walk down the hill to school, I know deep inside that they are sure to have forgotten something important – like putting on their underwear – only because I have forgotten to remind them.
As a mother, I can’t seem to stop mothering. My husband started a new job two days after my children started school. I stood on the front steps and yelled to him as he got into the car, "Do your socks match?" "Do you have money for a Coke?" "Do you have your social security card?" He shouted back as he pulled the car out of the driveway, "I’m not one of the children!" just as I suddenly realized I hadn’t seen him put on shoes before he left.
I can’t help myself. Once my children were born, I began mothering everyone I met. I asked my Ob-gyn if he combed his hair and brushed his teeth before he came to deliver my son in the middle of the night. On rainy days, I question the mail carrier, "Do you have your umbrella?" I tell the UPS driver to drive careful and then ask him suspiciously, "Are you wearing your seatbelt all the time, not just when you deliver packages to my house?" I urge the nurse at the doctor’s office to sing the entire Happy Birthday song while she washes her hands. I ask my boss if she remembered to make her bed that morning. I tell the lifeguards at the pool to drink a lot of fluids so they don’t get dehydrated in the hot sun. I ask the paperboy if he looked both ways before he crossed the street to throw the newspaper on my front porch.
As a mother, I have to remember a lot of darn things. Appointments, homework, practices, recitals, medication doses, birth dates, friends’ names … the list goes on and on. I’m surprised I have any energy left to mother anyone else but my own children, but somehow it just comes with the job title. Everyone needs a little mothering, even the UPS guy who, by the way, has now started wearing his seatbelt even when he’s not delivering packages to my house.
I’ve learned over the years that the most important things a mother should remember to give her children are a gentle pat on the back, a smile, and a word of encouragement – and she can provide all of that while running down the street after you with your underwear clutched in one hand while yelling, "YOU MIGHT NEED THESE TODAY!"
No one said we had to be discreet about it after all.