Back in the day certain offenses never failed to send my mom into orbit. One of them was using the pen in her purse checkbook without returning it to the checkbook. Another was taking her favorite pair of sewing scissors and using them to cut paper. The grandaddy event of them all was the day my sister wore mom’s necklace to school and lost it (“planted it,” in mom’s words) on the ball field during PE class.
Now I have developed the same predictable pattern of going off when my things are missing. I get settled in the coffee shop, dig into my purse expecting to pull up my ear buds and instead find…not there. Check another zipper pocket, then the bottomless bottom of the purse, then realize I loaned them to my daughter yesterday… It is only the threat of public disapproval that prevents the hissy fit to which I feel entitled.
Before kids, this frustration was directed towards myself, since I was exclusively the person who misplaced my things. At least in those days I could unambiguously blame myself. Now, not only is something missing, but I must also commence an investigation to discover who took it and under what circumstances. Nobody is going to fess up right away. And there is no excuse for 1) taking the kitchen shears to crack open a CD case and then 2) not placing them back in the wooden block. That amounts to two violations of My Stuff in one act.
There was a time when I handed over whatever the little darlings wanted because, after all, they were so adorable. My sandwich looks better than yours? Okay, sure, we can trade. You want the last stick of gum? Alright, but remember you can’t just spit it out the moment the initial sweetness fades. You’re supposed to chew it awhile, that’s how gum works.
After a few too many trades and compromises, the kids erroneously conclude that Your Stuff is in fact Their Stuff, and they start to treat it with the same level of disregard. They develop amnesia about when they last saw it and what they did with it. If your junk drawer marker is loaned out and left uncapped to bleed in the sofa cushions, the best response you’ll get is “it’s not mine.” Count the blatant violations: 1) marker used on sofa, 2) marker left uncapped, 3) marker not returned to junk drawer.
I finally realized that I have to guard and maybe even hide My Stuff, including consumables that I have any intention of enjoying. To do otherwise is to see my much anticipated only slice become their wolfed-down slice (gluttons!) and your last company-worthy hand towel become their Kool-Aid mop. Ninety-five percent of whatever is in the house is for everyone, but moms, you have got to guard your stuff – especially your purse – like a dog with a pile of bones.
By the way, the fastest way to get your borrowed stuff back is to require the kids to carry it themselves. Then it’s Your Stuff, alright.