The forgetting gene

I used to think of myself as clumsy and disorganized, but I have since decided that I simply lack an enzyme or something required for proper remembering. I think it’s genetic. And I’m pretty sure I’ve passed this along to my children. Poor things.

Some of their antics I just can’t understand, no matter how hard they try to convince me that they “just forgot” to put this or that away. I mean, Chickadee’s Tae Kwon Do bag holds all of her sparring gear as well as her uniforms and perhaps a small farm animal or two (based on both the smell and the size of it); my point is, it is a VERY LARGE BAG, and yet, she can “forget” to put it away even if it’s in the middle of a room, blocking pretty much everything.

Come to think of it, that may be blindness rather than forgetting; but that’s genetic, too.

I forget where silly little things are all the time. I’m not talking about misplacing items (although I do that as well), but things more like where the walls are. I mean, there can’t possibly be another explanation more embarrassing than that for why I am constantly walking into them, can there? I run into the corner of Otto’s desk at least once a day. It’s not particularly inconveniently or protuberantly (totally a word) located, I just manage to clip it with my hip while I’m walking by because, I don’t know, why would I remember where an 8-foot-long piece of furniture is located and alter my course accordingly?

I have at least three glasses of water scattered throughout the house at all times, and when I’m really in a fog, all three of them end up on my desk, together. Then I have to try to remember which one is the one I was using most recently, and which one is most likely to contain bug parts amidst the dregs.

I regularly cannot find the handset to the phone in the living room because earlier I took it into the office, and then when I find it in the office it’s usually right next to the phone on Otto’s desk (which I—of course—forgot was there).

Let’s not even get into the fact that I currently have five different sticks of antiperspirant going in my bathroom. Fresh pits are IMPORTANT. If I couldn’t figure out where I’d last left the current stick I’d just assume I’d used it up and open another one, okay? Shut up.

The point is, I am no stranger to forgetting. One might say that on Planet Oblivious I might be hailed as royalty. Oh, I’m not quite queen material, of course, but I’m pretty sure I’d at least make Duchess. I’m just sayin’.

HOWEVER, despite my own experiences in forgetfulness, my children continue to confuse and vex me. It’s not just the enormous duffle bag that gets dropped anywhere. It’s other things, too.

We are a family of readers, which obviously makes me very happy, but what I’ve done with deodorant the kids are doing with books. Can’t find the book you were reading? No problem! Start a new one! And be sure to leave it somewhere, too, so that you can do it all over again tomorrow! Dude, I once tried to read two books simultaneously and my brain sprung a leak. I don’t know how they process ANYTHING when they read stuff this way, but they are not to be deterred from their “method.”

And then there is the matter of lunch bags. Before school started I did my maternal duty by taking the children to Target and allowing them to select new lunch bags for the year. The trip was excruciating as Target carries 523 different lunch sacks for back to school and it requires some serious debate to choose between the pink monkeys and the purple flowers or to determine WHICH COLOR SOCCER BALL, because it’s TOO HARD. In the end we had our lunch bags and we took them home and wrote their names on them and I told the kids to take extra-good care of them, please, because I like to hear myself talk.

On any given day, I consider myself lucky if ONE lunch bag makes it home. Now, in Monkey’s classroom, the teacher has a designated area for lunch bags (I’m not sure why; maybe to keep the kids from pawing through their backpacks at lunch time?), and I suspect he manages to put his bag BACK there by mistake. But in Chickadee’s class, she has to take her bag FROM her pack, and then walk RIGHT PAST her pack again when they return. Why doesn’t the bag make it into the backpack? The world may never know.

My succession of evil threats is doing nothing to bolster their retaining power. First I used the spare (not nearly as cool) insulated lunch bags when the proper ones didn’t come home. Now we’ve moved on to grocery sacks. I’m tempted to suggest that in the future I will be wrapping all bag-less lunches in outgrown character underwear, but deep down, I know this is a genetic defect and I really cannot punish them for something they can’t help.

Chickadee’s memory regarding food is superb, but Monkey hasn’t been so lucky. I find myself at the dinner table explaining to him that no, really, he LIKES that food, I promise. Everyone else will chime in, growing louder over Monkey’s protestations, until he finally gives in and tastes whatever the offending food is that’s on his plate. “You’re right!” he’ll declare with glee, “I really DO like chicken!” Now, we only eat chicken about three or four nights a week, so it’s understandable that he can’t remember, I guess.

On the other hand, send either child upstairs to take a shower and you’re likely to find them wandering around naked. “What are you doing? Why aren’t you in the shower?”

“Ummmm… I don’t know.” They’re embarrassed to admit it, but I know the truth: They forgot.

The children have assignment books from school, which so far have only been left behind once apiece. These books contain their homework assignments (duh) as well as their schedules and any important communication. Every day when they get home, we have a snack and look over their books, and then they do their homework and put it in the handy pouch for that purpose inside their assignment books.

Yesterday Chickadee still had a bit of homework to finish after dinner, and it was becoming a nag-fest to get her to finish up, and she FINALLY completed it and stuck it into her folder and put the assignment book back into her back. At that point, for some reason—I don’t know why I did it, maybe mother’s intuition?—I stuck my hand into Monkey’s backpack and found a worksheet that had NOT been in his assignment book.

“Monkey, what is this?” I asked.

“Oh!” he said, completely unperturbed, “that’s more homework. I should do that.”

It was, by this time, five minutes until bedtime. I’m pretty sure I felt a blood vessel in my eye rupture.

I think there should be further medical research to help people like me and my family. In fact, I may just have to get things rolling myself. Maybe start an organization, or something. I’m going to get right on that. As soon as I find my antiperspirant.


  1. Leandra

    I love the idea of wrapping their lunches in outgrown character underwear!

    With Bubba it’s not that he’s forgetful, it’s just that he’s waaaayyy too entranced in the televsion. I can walk in and find him naked with his underwear around his knees — stopped in mid-dressing — staring googly-eyed at the television like he’s never seen one before.

  2. StephLove

    I will be joining you on the Planet Oblivious real soon now, unless I get lost on the way because I can’t read the map. I think I’ll be a Countess. We will be ruled by my 6 y/o, the King.

  3. Katie

    It’s lucky you are down where it’s warm because I’m sure your kids do the same forgetful things with coats, hats, etc. I have enough “spares” to cloth a small army in Siberia now.

  4. saucygrrl

    I used to walk into one of our doorways so often that Sean threatened to divorce me if it didn’t stop. He HATED it and I couldn’t explain why it kept happening. Now he does it with the corner of his desk. Ha! Take THAT genius!

  5. janet

    I had something BRILLIANT to add here … but … um … I forgot.

  6. Anne Glamore

    Wow. I am Type-A, anal-retentive, and this would drive me mad! I should try to relax and not act as if a lost (insert boy’s possession here) will lead to a cerebral hemorrhage on my part. It’s difficult, though, when I feel the blood rushing to my head as I yell, “You lost your WHAT?”

    If my head does explode, however, the boys are trained to grab the 409 and paper towels and clean up messes on the floor PROMPTLY. I take comfort in the fact that when I’m found dead, my surroundings will be pristine.

  7. Jenni

    I had a pair of pajama bottoms that I was constantly getting my left big toe stuck in the right cuff of when I walked. Did that make sense? Anyway, they were really cute and comfy and I had them for about 7 years. Everytime I put them on I totally forgot about the tripping thing. Finally, last winter, after tripping and breaking my finger my husband literally ripped them off of me and threw them into the fireplace. I miss them.

  8. Mel

    It’s not you forgetting the desk – it’s the desk. You see, when it sees you coming, it moves just enough to get in your way. I have 2 pieces of furniture in my house that do the same thing to me. We’ve lived in this house for 19 years and the footboard of my bed constantly jumps out to run into me. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

  9. merrymishaps

    The footboard of my bedframe is curved wood, the ends fall about mid-thigh on my 5’3″ body. More often than not, the ends of the footboard will line up perfectly with a large bruise on one thigh. Coincidence?

    I like to blame it on the fact that my bedroom is an odd shape and I have to zig around the bed, however, my husband does not have this problem.

    Though, my mother has a habit of walking into things, too, so I think you’re onto something with your hereditary theory!

  10. LuAnn

    Can I be a charter member of your organization? I can put my keys down and have to spend half an hour looking for them 5 minutes later. Ugh.

  11. Sara

    Finally, the answer I’ve been searching for! My 8 year old son is YOUR child, apparently. I mean, I gave birth to him and everything, but somehow, he got your genes. It totally makes sense now. If he came to live with you, it would be like E.T. finding his mother ship.

  12. LyndaL

    If you start that organisation, I am totally joining. This morning, when getting the children ready for school (an operation in itself) I discovered (1) a homework sheet in the Second Born’s bag that had been half completed – he hadn’t done the second half. “I forgot”. Sent off to do it. And (2) First Born’s full size atlas and full size dictionary (HEAVY!) in his bag. When asked why they were there, I got the response “Oh! We were supposed to cover them and put name labels on the spines. We should have done that….” That’s “we” as in, the boy who was told to do it and the Mum who wasn’t even given the chance to forget because she was never told! Do you know how fast I can cover a book in brown paper? Not fast enough, we were late.

  13. Susan

    Oh good lord I could have written this EXACT post.

    But I probably forgot that I wanted to say all of that between the bathroom and the computer.

  14. Mama Bear

    Just so you know, the forgetting homework until the last minute thing is not a temporary situation. Good thing they have Mom’s. Mr. 17 did this all the time. I truly believe it is a boy thing. Miss 14 and Miss 9 have never done it. So blame the male genes..

  15. Aimee

    I’m sorry, what were you talking about? I forget…

  16. Genevieve

    The bumping into desks and walls is a lack of kinesthetic intelligence. I suffer from that in a big way. It’s part of that theory of multiple types of intelligence — kinesthetic intelligence is kind of knowing where you are in space, how you move your body, etc. Athletes are generally high in kinesthetic intelligence. Me, not so much, hence the frequently bruised legs, shoulders, etc.

  17. Taylor

    I look at forgetting things as the sign of a creative, often-used mind. I am constantly forgetting things, and usually it’s because I think something like “I wonder what the capital of Mongolia is” (Ulan Bator) and then 30 minutes later I discover that I am still looking at my atlas while whatever is in the oven promply bursts into flames.

    You’re smart, you’re kids are smart. That’s how us smart folks work, right?

  18. Wendy

    I don’t think it is genetics. As for women, who have children, and forget things it is because the children have sucked all the brain power out with each breath they take from the time they are born. As for the children, it is because they are born with holes in their brains. As they grow these holes close up. Some people never have the holes filled in and that is a medical condition, which medical science should find a cure. These holes allow information to slide right out of the brain. Then you are back again to the sucking the life out of you part, because how many times can you tell a person to do something or remind them that yes, they are suppose to get dressed before they go to school. It is all science.

  19. Heather

    *snort* This was an excellent entry. I may or may not understand completely.

  20. Susan

    Misery loves company. Thank GOD I’m not alone with this stuff!

  21. Karen

    Our kids and I are the same as you and yours. Daren is anal as all hell tho. This whole selling the house thing has forced us to have a place for everything and keep things neat etc., and you think about about to say it’s been great and easier and that I love it but NO. It is killing me with every fiber in my disorganized soul.

  22. Rachel May

    I HAVE to stop reading your posts during class. My freshmen were taking their biology test, and the phrase “Fresh pits are IMPORTANT.” nearly caused me to explode with laughter. Like a moth drawn to flame, I had to read, and re-read, and re-re-read it, continuing the torture.

    Finally, I moved on… but quickly arrived at “I once tried to read two books simultaneously and my brain sprung a leak.”, and repeated the process.

    Painful, I tell you, but oh-so-worth-it. :-P

  23. Barb Cooper

    I think it’s the ‘living in your head at the same time as living in your body’ thing–it’s too hard to do both. I routinely “lose” my lunch. Like I start out with it somewhere and by the time I realize I’m still hungry, I can’t find it. My kids are big readers and big forgetters, too. We compensate by having appliances that turn themselves off and a really small hot water heater. You let that puppy run too long before you get in the shower, it’s a cold shower for you. It turns out that cold water is pretty motivating. –Barb

  24. Jessica

    I combine the forgetfulness with the love of books, so I, like your kids, am constantly reading more than one book at a time. In my mind there’s nothing worse than getting caught without something to read. So I have a car book, a bathroom book, a diaper bag book, a night table book, etc… It’s much easier than trying to remember to lug my current read around with me.
    As for the bumping into things, at least you know what you’re bumping into. I just spend time every morning wondering how I got so many new bruises.

  25. mama speak

    my brother has some learning disabilities and remembering lists of things was a big part of it. You could never give him more then 2-3 things to do or forget anything past 3 (and even then 3 was a maybe). The amount of jackets, umbrellas, school work, school memos, backpacks, lunches, etc…that were lost are worth millions I’m sure. One week he lost 4 jackets by Thursday; one each day. On that Thursday I watched my mom’s head implode I swear. She made us drive back his walk route to find it, but never did. In the end she found she had to pick him up from school if she wanted him to remember everything, so she could do it for him.
    I think you’re all just focused elsewhere, like all those books being read at the same time.

  26. ScottsdaleGirl

    I finally figured out why I constantly run into the dining room table with my upper thigh. I am waaaaaaay fatter than I imagined.

    And Jenni cracked me up with the pajama pant story.

    Also, you are not fat so please don’t think I am inferring that.

    Um what else? I forget.

  27. Pamela

    So I am not the only one in the world that is always forgetful. We are quite the same.Chinese has an old myth. They said women will become more forgetful after each delivery. Not sure if this is true. I have 1 kid now, already sometimes I thought I lost 30 % of my memory.Pamela.

  28. Em

    I have a child that so blindly follows and obeys his older sister that when I catch him doing something and ask him why, he answers “I don’t know”. And he doesn’t know because she never told him and he never thought to ask.

  29. becky

    we have a new bed and i’m constantly scraping my shins on its gargantuan edges. with my growing belly, i keep forgetting my clearance. but near my ankles? no excuses for that. i think it’s just absentmindedness – i’m thinking of something else and don’t watch what i’m doing. either that, or i love having jagged lines on my shins.

  30. -jeanEva

    Oh, me too. I HAVE to read more than one book at a time! I about stroke out if I’m running low on the book fodder I’ve sown around the house and car. There are library books (mine) that never make it in the house but are read in the school pick-up line and drive-thru food lines.

    Kids forgetting things. Aaaaargh! I memorized a master checklist for the CAR to visually grill each kid when they hopped in: Coat, snow pants, boots, hat, scarf, mittens, back pack, lunch bag. THEN since there was time between when each one would finally show up at the car, I’d go through the backpacks and initial their test papers and whatnot. SOMETIMES I could even convince them to finish up their homework so they wouldn’t have to stop PLAYING later. Unfortunately I never mastered the front end (aka mornings) where I’d end up driving to school to take somebody their lunch, back pack or most important of all – BOOTS “Gees MOM, I have to stay on the black top if I don’t wear boots. You don’t want me to be the only one who can’t play in the mud, do you?”

  31. Lisa

    So glad to read this! I always say my youngest is in “la la land” because she can’t remember anything.! Maybe it’s the age. Whatever it is, I’m glad to see my kid isn’t so different.

  32. Libby

    Oh Mir, sign me up. I’ll meet you in Planet Oblivious. I once walked straight into a glass sliding door. Yes, there were witnesses. No, it did not break (thankfully).

    Walls, doors and random pieces furniture are constantly getting in my way and the worst part is that I am still surprised when I discover all kinds of crazy bruises on my thighs/arms/etc. I can never remember how I got them, specifically that is. My daughter also inherited this trait (unfortunately for her) and has already had a broken bone. She is barely 5.

    ….I forgot what else I was going to say. This is why I am a lurker.

  33. Sheila

    At my last house, on one of the first few days after moving in, I walked into the dining room and reached for the light switch to the left of the doorway. “Silly me,” I chuckled to myself, for the switch was on the right.

    We lived in that house for five years, and I reached to the left about 95% of the time. Now I know why– it’s in my genes!

  34. bec 36

    Mir, I rarely comment but I have to make a request. *Please* wrap their lunches in underwear. OMG would that be funny, but effective too, I think! It wouldn’t even need to sport Spiderman or anything. You’ve just *gotta*!

    bec :D

  35. lizneust

    Mir – I think you are a fabulous Mom and I am right there with you on Planet Oblivious (the coffee table gets me every single DAMN time). You’re handling of Chickie and the Mean Girls was pure genius, and I too have children who can look at the floor and not see the shoes on their own feet.

    However, please do NOT lump reading multiple books at one time into the forgetfulness category. I have always read multiple books at the same time – I used to keep a string of 4 or 5, but have slimmed down to 2 or 3 since I had kids. It is a fantastic trait that will serve them well in later life, like when they are asked to work on two completely different thought-intensive projects at the same time – high school, college, career – whenever. I understand that you don’t like doing it, but there are lots of people out there who prefer it. Thomas Jefferson is the most famous example, but your kids are not alone. (Here endeth the sermon – apologies.)

  36. lizneust

    Although my grammar could use a little work. Ergh…

  37. Cotterpin

    I don’t have kids yet to forget about things- but my husband is filling in until we have them…
    Most recent forgotten item? A hammer I found in the fridge- right next to milk. “Oh, I had gotten a soda, and must have left it behind.”

  38. Crisanne

    Count me in on the forgetful list! I clearly remember a time when my father-who had stayed up late working on a paper with me-was standing over me at my locker while I dug out said paper, a crumpled mess at the bottom. At the end of the day. When my teacher had told him I didn’t turn mine in. Why?? I had no idea! I just forgot.

  39. Amy-Go

    Does this explain the bench? I think it does!

  40. Bri

    Yes, forgetting where the desk and walls are and bumping into them is bad, but finding the bruises later and honestly having no idea how they got there is worse. What do you think, could I be a princess?

  41. Fiona

    Bumping into the desk – that is a moving house thing. It takes quite a while for one’s lower (lizard) brain to remember you are in a new house.

    I used to somehow think thst absent mindedness (in myself) was charming and of course I had my mind on higher things. As the years wear on, it is starting to annoy me and I wish somehow it had been organised out of me as a child rather than my mum going “oh well, your just like your father, but at least you’re good at school which is all that matters…”

  42. Heather Cook

    I do this. Mostly I lose the phone. Or my wallet. Or my keys. Or sunglasses. And I always yell “did you see my…” to which my husband replies, “No, it wasn’t my day to watch them.” He thinks he’s funny. Everyonce in a while I gather all same items together… like, um, pitstick… and I make them stay together until I’ve used them all up. Strangely enough this happens with Ketchup and Syrup bottles too… I end up at the store every other month saying “I’m sure I’m out of…” and then buy a bottle that quickly finds its place next to the other three in my cupboard.

  43. Cele

    I am forever turning around and running into the doorjamb/wall/funiture. Good luck, it only gets worse and more obvious, but it’s good for the amusement of others.

  44. Ayla-Monic

    I used to read 2 or 3 books at a time, no problem. I still do… (for instance, I am reading a biography, a science-fiction novel, and a book on biblical history right now.) So, don’t be surprised if the kids actually are keeping everything straight.

    Also: I always run into corners of furniture and doorframes and walls and whatever. Just today, I was in the mall and ran right into the corner of the six-foot-long, four-foot-wide bench in the very middle of the very wide and comfortably sized mall hallway-thing.

    I think it’s because of something like this: our minds are on loftier, more important things, and thinking about stuff like furniture is just a time-consuming waste for our minds, and really, the furniture should be moving out of our way, not the other way around.

  45. Brigitte

    Like Jessica, I’m so used to my clutziness that I can’t even remember where my mystery-bruises come from (and I also read multiple books at once).

    Amy-Go beat me to it: I think your bench must be right next to Chickie’s duffel!

  46. tori

    Can I be co-leader of that planet? We could help each other remember things or better yet laugh at/with each other when we forget what we are supposed to be doing even though there are two of us trying to remember. I bet we could find a whole army of people like us…I think the grown up versions all called “mom”.

    My 7 year old regularly comes home from school with all the same things in her folder I sent her with. It has gotten to be a joke (although not so funny!) when I put her on the bus I repeat over and over “turn in your papers…turn in your papers”. She still forgets even though all the school bus does is literally cross the street and she is at school. My mother in law put a string on my daughters finger one morning when she watched them to help her remember. Do you think that helped, or do you think my daughter forgot about the string even being there and then showed off her lovely ring when people noticed? She still forgot to turn in the homework!

  47. chris

    I think you should duct tape their sandwiches right to their bodies.

  48. sumo

    I think the reading of multiple books works best when they are on completely different topics. And you don’t stay away from any one of them for too long. I mostly don’t do this; I would much rather get sucked in and immerse myself in a book non-stop than read a little of this one and a little of that one. I think the multiple approach helps when I’m taking longer to read a book (probably a good indication that I’m just not that into it)… in that case it is nice to take a break with something more fun, then go back to the other.

  49. lynn

    The other night I said goodnight to my husband, went upstairs to bed, and then spent the next half hour searching all over the house for the book that I had been reading, because I simply could not go to bed without reading it some more. After going up and down, around and around several times, including back into his office, so he could say “What?” to me again, I finally remembered where the book was – um… shoot, now I’ve forgotten where I found it. (This is now going to bug me all day.) I hope I don’t leave it there again tonight… I’ll never find it!

  50. Jenifer

    My step son has the same gene.

    It came from my husband… I hope it’s recessive and my two are spared!!

  51. jessica

    I’m afraid I, too, possess that forgetting gene. However, I tend to refer to it as prioritizing. Putting dishes away when a small child falls and bumps her head? Tend to the child, or course! And then go on to do something else in the house. (Never mind the fact that I’ve left cupboard doors open, and the dishwasher’s open door at a deadly, shin killing height.)

    I have to confess I’m also a multiple book reader, reading as many as 3-4 books at the same time. Even though my oldest has only been reading for about a year and a half, he’s developed the same tendency.

  52. Jen

    I am just SO glad my child isn’t the only one. I really am. She’s just turned 17 but I swear she’s just the same as when she was 7….

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