One of my favorite stories of childhood comes from when I was in high school. My younger sister and I were shopping with my mom. We were complaining — in the way that only teenage girls complain — that we were starving. My mom quickly opened up her bag of tricks, pulling a banana from it like a rabbit out of a top hat. She saved the day. We still laugh about it today. Who keeps a banana in her purse? A mom does.
I didn’t understand love at first sight until I saw my firstborn, squalling baby. I didn’t know exhaustion until said baby never slept. And I most certainly was not prepared for the avalanche of baby supplies that I alone was supposed to keep organized.
I went from toting a cute, small purse to watching YouTube videos late at night on what will fit in a diaper bag. Phrases such as “crumb drains”, “waterproof” and “sponges clean”, had my ears perking up and me getting out my credit card.
The first trip out with my new baby made me feel like I was a pack mule ready for six weeks in the Alps. Diapers – check, wipes – check, toys – check, wallet – check , pacifier … pacifier … NOOOO!
I have learned that is one of the cardinal rules of “the keeper.” Something will be forgotten. Hopefully it is not vital to the successfulness of the trip or my sanity. Note: House keys are very important for both!
During our first overnight with our baby, our car never seemed so small. Pack and play, extra diapers, blankets, stroller, bathtub (yep we brought one), toys. Packing the car morphed into a high-stakes Tetris game where there were no winners.
I finally managed to master keeping up with everything my son needed, and then entered baby number two.
Now trying to get out of the house with a baby and a toddler is a true test. Diapers, wipes, underwear, change of clothes for kids, snacks, drinks, toys (similar enough not to cause a fight); and some days it is even wise to have a change of clothes for myself.
As my 3-year-old has gotten older, continuity is very important. I may have forgotten to bring bunny crackers and apple juice and ruined an entire outing. I have left behind favorite pool floaties at a friend’s house, forgotten to pack pajamas on a trip and I leave a trail of sippy cups wherever we go.
Being “the keeper” of the stuff doesn’t stop once you are back at home. I realize now I am also supposed to mentally catalog each and every toy, and know exactly where it might be found at a mere moment’s notice. The green dinosaur is in the bathtub. The squishy shark (the one he hasn’t played with in three months): bottom of the toy basket in the living room. His lunch he wasn’t quite done with: bottom shelf in the refrigerator. The list is endless.
My husband seems concerned with my forgetfulness. He even goes as far as to tell me that I seem to forget to pack items on trips. I agree with him and mentally add it to my ever growing “to do” list, “be less forgetful”. What I don’t tell him though is I am not just keeping track of everything for myself and two little boys, but let’s be honest, pretty much his schedule too.
I schedule doctor’s visits, eye exams and dental exams for four people and two canines. Trying to find time for playdates, haircuts and birthday parties (so many birthday parties), is now pretty much a part-time job. Scheduling mommy-and-me swim classes, music, soccer, preschool drop off and pick up, story time and naps. I never knew that I alone would be the one responsible for keeping track of all of it. My oldest is 3. I can’t imagine what our calendar is going to look like in a few years.
As the months of motherhood continue, I am becoming a little wiser and a little bit more tired. But I am realizing, it’s much more than just keeping track of stuff … it’s keeping track of childhood.
I snap pictures and document memories that little brains are too young to remember on their own. I journal first words, first steps and when they finally sleep all night. (Still waiting on that milestone.) I mentally capture days of babies sleeping snuggled in my arm; days of hunting down garbage trucks and following them on their routes for my little trash truck enthusiast; how the “Itsy-Bitzy Spider” is the only song that makes my baby smile after doctor visits. I am “the keeper” of Christmas mornings and afternoons at the splash pad.
I get to keep all these memories for myself. But even better: I get to tell and retell the stories of their childhood to my sons. I am “the keeper” of every memory. I will tell tales of nights of little ones trying to delay bedtime as long as possible with outlandish requests. Days of endless dinosaur roars, snacks and playing with the water hose while still in their pajamas. Stories of long car rides full of crying when we were just trying to take them to the zoo. All the tiny moments I log in my brain, just like where to find the long lost dinosaur tail and the last package of fruit snacks, create a lifetime of memories for all of us.
I now realize being the keeper really is the best job in the world. But with any job it pays to be prepared, and to perhaps pack a banana.