OOPS! The Forgotten Item Syndrome!


The dreaded phone call came at 8:10 this morning. It was only a matter of time. My girlfriend and I had already had this conversation several times during the last school year and I knew it almost by heart.  I picked up the receiver and spoke.


     “He left it on the counter."

     “Oh, no, are you going to take it to him?”

     “What should I do? I know I said I wouldn’t take it to him if he left it, but he’s still so young. He’ll starve without it because he won’t eat the cardboard sandwich they’ll give him at the cafeteria!”

Yes, it happened again. Her third grader had left his lunch behind and headed off to school.  So begins the dilemma of every stay-at-home parent: our child leaves for school minus one or two necessities and we are left holding the bag, so to speak. How old do our children have to be before we stop running back and forth to school with forgotten homework, lunches, overdue library books? Talk about the morning rush hour! The main office should have a revolving door for all the traffic in the mornings for “express deliveries” from worried, not to mention hurried, parents.

Of course, this absentmindedness is not limited to the elementary grades. My high school age kids sometimes rush out in the mornings without remembering everything they need, and it pains me to admit this, but it is all I can do to keep myself from running over to school to save the day. Yet I can hardly chide them for being disorganized since I am constantly searching frantically for my keys and checkbook. How many times have I made a grocery list and gone to the store, only to find I have left it at home on the kitchen table? No, organization has never been my strong suit, so is it any wonder that they haven’t gotten the hang of it?

 I told my friend I understood her anxiety. I have grappled with the question of whether I should practice “Tough Love” and refuse to deliver the forgotten goods, or whether I should make that delivery so that the rest of the day I won’t have that nagging feeling that my child is having a miserable day and it’s my fault for not intervening.

Oh, to have the wisdom of those TV moms of old! Donna Reed would know what to do in this situation. But I don’t have the luxury of a script writer to tie this episode up nicely for me. So my friends and I commiserate, tossing options back and forth as if this were the Paris Peace talks and not just something as simple as an egg salad sandwich and an apple in a brown paper bag. In a show of solidarity we call each other and say, “You did the right thing”, because by now lunch is over and it’s the mom who needs the sustenance that can only come from supportive friends who have been there, done that.

I still haven’t come to terms with the best way to handle this dilemma. All I know is, when I drop my son off at school and I see a parent running through the parking lot, arm raised high, lunch bag in hand, I think to myself, “There but for the Grace of God go I.” I breathe a sigh of relief and hope I won’t walk in the door to the ringing of a telephone with a harried voice on the other end saying, “He left it on the counter.”

By Patricia Eggertsson, Copyright 1999

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