It was November of 1982. Wrestling five children into winter wear for a trip to the park district had exhausted me, and no one was even in the car yet. As I was readying the last, the first was pulling off his coat. “I’m hot,” he said.
This was my first outing with all five since baby Hans had been born a month earlier. “Help me, Lord,” I breathed while strapping one year old Klaus into his car seat. “Poor kid,” I thought. “Still a baby, but he already has a baby brother.”
Once at the park district, I busied myself filling out paperwork for four year old Linnea’s gymnastics class, proud of myself for remembering the checkbook. Suddenly I went cold. Where was the new baby?
“Where’s Hans?” I screeched to no one in particular. Nelson and Lars stopped rough-housing and began looking all over the floor of the lobby. “Is he still in the car?” I asked.
Leaving my checkbook on the counter, I ran for the door. The children followed. Finding Hans’ car seat empty, I shouted, “Get in! Everybody in! Hurry up!”
My tires squealed as we flew out of the parking lot toward home. How could I be so irresponsible? I was this child’s mother, for goodness sake! As we raced home, that verse from Isaiah popped into my mind: “Even if a woman forgets her nursing child, I will not forget you.”
“You’re right,” I thought. “I forgot… What kind of a mother am I?”
Leaving the car running in the driveway (more incompetence), I took the porch steps two at a time. Where had I last seen him? When had I last touched him?
Zipping his snowsuit… in our bedroom… on our bed… and there he was, still sound asleep in the center of the mattress, unaware of the crisis. The older children rushed in behind me, relieved to see the lost baby had been found, and their mother had calmed down.
Scanning the line-up for my one year old, in an instant I felt nauseous. “Where’s Klaus?” I asked. “Is he still in the car?”
“No,” said the six year old. “He never got in the car.”
“You left him at the park district.”
“Back in the car!” I was screeching again. “Hurry! Hurry!” Soon we were squealing tires again. And sure enough, there was Klaus, sitting on the park district counter next to my checkbook, securely encircled by the arms of the office secretary. He hadn’t even missed us.
“I knew you’d be back,” she grinned.
“Oh God,” I said out loud. “Please make me count my children!”
Sadly, that’s just one of many such incidents in my mothering past, but raising young children is difficult. The days are micro-chopped into minute-long pieces, punctuated by one interruption after another. At any one of those junctures, sanity is uncertain.
Thankfully, no single event defines a mother or shapes a childhood. The day of my park district debacle I didn’t receive a brand on my forehead that said “Bad Mother.” But I did realize something very important that day….
(to be continued)
“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I, the Lord, will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15)