Mommy Mnemonic

By Mir
January 29, 2006

I had about a million things I needed to do this weekend.

Fortunately, the kids were spending the weekend with their father, which theoretically freed me up to get lots of things done.

Unfortunately, I’m fighting a whopper of a cold.

Fortunately, I didn’t let that stop me from beginning my training on Saturday morning. Said training being heading out BEFORE DAWN like CRAZY PEOPLE to see how far we could walk before our noses succumbed to frostbite and fell off. (Answer: Farther than we’d thought.)

Unfortunately, I seem to be sicker today, after having done that. Go figure.

All of which is to say, I’m not feeling particularly productive or bright these last few days.

So the kids came home this evening full of beans. They had new toys to show me, and a weekend’s worth of adventures to relate, and I sent Chickadee upstairs to take a shower while Monkey climbed all over me, demonstrating the fifty-gagillion possible permutations of his new Transformer. I tried to convince Monkey to change into his pajamas. He was uninterested. Eventually Chickadee emerged smelling of shampoo and soap and lotion, scrubbed pink and damp.

Somehow I got Monkey to get into jammies (although this did involve quite a lot of hopping around with his pants around his ankles, for some reason). Eventually we were all assembled for bedtime stories, and I read them a couple of old favorites.

Chickadee chimed in on several key lines, never content to just sit and listen.

After stories I got Monkey settled in his bed, and returned to Chickadee’s room. I was about to bid her good night when I remembered.

“Chickie! You didn’t do your memorization for Tae Kwon Do!” Her lip started to quiver.

“Mama… I have class TOMORROW. What do I do?”

“Well… you did your homework. This is just extra.” Her lip was still quivering. (She’s already told me–multiple times–that she intends to “graduate” with high honors. Tasks like memorization exercises are extra credit for additional stripes. Depending on the number of stripes the kids can graduate, graduate with honors, or graduate with high honors.) “Alright, hang on… I’ll be right back.”

I ran downstairs and grabbed her TKD folder. Back in her room, I flipped the light on again.

“Alright, let’s see…” I pulled out the sheet with the 5 Tenets of Tae Kwon Do and the Black Belt Oath. “Do you know either of these?” She looked over the sheet and bit her nails.

“I didn’t study. I’m supposed to know them for TOMORROW! I’ll never be able to learn all that in time!” She looked from the paper up at my face, her pleading expression silently asking me to figure out how to FIX THIS.

So: It’s bedtime. She hasn’t done her (optional) homework. I could say too bad so sad–indeed, I say that, as a mom, often–and let it go. Learn it for the next class. Or I could let her stay up late, which doesn’t seem like a great idea. Or I could split the difference. I glanced at the clock.

“Alright, Chickadee. 10 minutes. That’s all we’re spending on this. You ready?” Her grin lit up her entire face.

“I’m ready! How do I learn all this?” She peered at the paper again. Together we hunched over it; her, reading intently, me, scanning letters. When in trouble, use cheap memory tricks!

“Okay! Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to give you a sentence. Each word in the sentence is going to start with the first letter of one of the tenets. If you can remember the sentence, you’ll be able to remember the tenets.” She looked skeptical. “Trust me. Okay. The 5 Tenets. ‘Can I please say it?’ That’s your sentence. Can you remember that?”

“Can I please say it.”

“Right! Good! Now look at the sheet again.” Once more we bent our heads over the paper and I traced my finger along it as I talked. “Can is for Courtesy. I is for Integrity. Please is for Perserverance. Say is for Self-Control. And It is for Indomitable Spirit. ‘Can I please say it?’ Courtesy, Integrity, Perserverance, Self-Control, Indomitable Spirit. Got it?” She looked up, bit her lip, and covered the paper with her hands.

“Can I please say it. Okay. Courtesy… integrity… perserverance… wait. Can I please say… self-control! And indomintabuble spirit. I have trouble saying that one.” I laughed and she giggled with relief. We had a brief lesson in how to say indomitable, then I quizzed her again. She got them all right and beamed with pride. I checked the clock. 6 more minutes to work on the Black Belt Oath.

Every line of the Black Belt Oath starts with “I shall,” which makes it either easier or harder, depending on your point of view. We came up with another sentence (‘One race needs big boots,’ if you must know) and went over it several times, then I quizzed her on the 5 Tenets again, then on the Oath one last time, and our 10 minutes were up.

“You, my darling,” I told her as I tucked in the blankets around her, “are AMAZING. You are going to rattle those off for the Master tomorrow and get your stripes. We’ll go over them again at breakfast but I really think you’ve got it. Awesome job.” I kissed both cheeks and smoothed her hair back from her forehead. “Night sweetie. I love you.”

“I love you!” she called after me as I closed her door. I stood there in the hallway a moment, then headed downstairs. I put Chickadee’s folder on her chair at the table, so that she’d remember to go over it again at breakfast. I was loading dishes into the dishwasher when I heard her door open and the stairs creak.

“Go to bed,” I called, reflexively.

“Mama?” There was a note of urgency in her voice. I put down the plate I was holding and walked over to the stairs.

“What do you need, honey?” I was squinting up at her, in the darkness. I couldn’t make out her face.

“Mama…. Thank you.” I felt tears prick my eyes.

“You’re most welcome, my Chickadee. Go hop in bed and have sweet dreams, okay?”

“Okay. Night!”

“Night, baby.” She’s not a baby, of course. But she is MY baby. Even as she takes my breath away.


  1. DebR

    I am teary-eyed.

    And also, I bet Chickadee’s brain will be remembering this in her sleep and she’ll know those things cold when you quiz her in the morning.

  2. Carol

    What a wonderful story, Mir. My heart swelled for you and Chickadee. As you well know, there won’t be a whole lot of specific that our children remember from their childhood but I do hope that for Chickadee, this is one of them :)

    Also, I must admit that I’m envious that you have a child who actually wants to excel academically!

  3. Zee

    Ohhhhhhh, that had me all teary-eyed too. What a great mom you are!

  4. Mr. Fabulous

    That is a great story. Shame on you for making me regret for a split second my decision not to have kids LOL. Very sweet.

  5. mc

    What a great example you set for Chickadee — that, yes, tough things are worth trying for, but that they don’t have to cause a major upheaval. That is fantastic — kudos to you both!

  6. Zuska

    Sniffle. I heart Chickadee.

  7. Jenrigg

    Oh Mir (sniff) that’s such a sweet story. My DD’s favourite trick is remembering homework at the last minute, and I’ve never thought of using sentences like that! Bet she got extra credit :)

  8. Chag

    What a great story! You are a fantastic mom.

  9. Theresa

    I’m with everyone else. And you are such a great mom!

  10. daysgoby

    Oh, they break your heart, don’t they? These tiny fierce beings wanting so badly to do everything….

  11. carson

    Posts like these give me hope for the future.

    Also, I remember several of those sentences from school, but not what they are triggers for.

    Please my very dear Aunt Sally? (That’s something in math.) And something from biology about King Philip. . .then there’s Every Good Boy deserves Fudge, which is the lines on the staff in music. (Girls don’t have to be good to deserve fudge, just menstruating.) There’s a chemistry formula about Paul V– (a kid in the class) that has something to do with pressure and volume.

    Years from now, Chickadee will be remembering the just-bathed smell & feel of sheets, and you leaning over telling her the sentences. . .and have no idea what the words stand for, but remember the fact that mom was helping her with something Crucially Important.

  12. chris

    double bonus- you get to be the hero and make this lasting memory for the chickadee! celebrate the moment, however long it might last!

  13. Erin (erin-erin-bo-berin)

    As a full time Stay At Home Mom to three daughters, I may not get a ‘paycheck’, but I DO get ‘pay-moments’ like yours with Chickadee. My daughters may grow quickly into adults, but they will always be my babies!

  14. Angela

    Mir. YOU take MY breath away. Lucky Chickie.

  15. Mom

    You and she both deserve high honors. Oh, and of course Monkey too. Just because.

    Much love,

  16. holley

    All right, NOW will you take back your Mom of the Year award?

  17. yet-another-chris

    That made me teary eyed also.

    Those perfect mothering moments seem to be so fleeting sometimes, I hope you remember this one for all the times you feel like you are never quite good enough.

    Unless ofcourse you aren’t human and never feel like that ;-)

  18. Snow

    Those moments when the parenting all appears to come together with a really great kid are what make it all worthwhile. Until they start whining about something again, but nevermind!

    We believe we’re in mourning for Creepy Floyd the hermit crab, but we’re not quite certain.

  19. Dawn

    Every now and then we get to be Super Mom and save the day. Feels great, doesn’t it? She’ll remember that much longer than any of the bad moments. I still remember when I had chicken pox and my mom read to me until after I fell asleep, rather than the usual (no exceptions!) one chapter rule. That was 40 years ago.

  20. Jen the Mom

    That’s beautiful! It’s amazing how some days have us moms feeling like we couldn’t possibly do more damage to our childrens psyches and then there are those days that remind us that we’re not doing half bad.

    I’d say that was a good Mom Day for you! Congrats.

  21. Shiz

    That is very VERY sweet!

  22. Jen


    You made me cry with this one. Lucky, lucky Chickadee. :)

  23. Cele

    You and your kids are an awesome inspiration

  24. julie

    All that for 10 minutes past bedtime! Good lesson for busy parents.

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