Dads Are (Harried) Parents, Too!

by Linore Rose Burkard

My husband thought he was immune to the apparent "Lost-Mind-Syndrome" that had afflicted me during our childrens' toddler years. What, you haven't heard of "Lost-Mind-Syndrome?" Okay, so maybe it's nothing more than being scatter-brained from having ten thousand things to do each and every day! But read on to see that even the most practical-minded man is no match for the beleaguered mind-weariness of parenting!

I think it was during our toddler invasion years (we had three at home) when I realized that losing one's mind -- particularly a portion of the memory feature -- was an unavoidable by-product of parenting. Why didn't the baby books warn that lost car keys, lost eye glasses, lost bottles and pacifiers -- things that turn routine days into triathlons -- would become par for the course? There is probably a specialized branch of the government mothers should work for. Who else can conduct a frantic search for vital home security items in less than a minute -- and still make it to the pediatrician's office on time?

My husband has hinted that "lost-mind-syndrome" (or, LMS, as we affectionately call it) after parenthood can only happen if one is prone to it in the first place. In other words, that I was really just plain nuts and parenting was bringing it out. Ha! Little did he know that his day would come!

I admit that I had been displaying grave signs of the malady: There was the time we were traveling with two friends when we had to stop so Mike (my husband) could check the engine. Climbing back into the driver's seat he complained that he'd gotten some antifreeze on his bare arm. Instantly a wayward maternal instinct leapt up in me like an alarm and I blurted, "Don't lick your arm!" To peals of laughter from the backseat, my husband thanked me profusely for reminding him not to lick his arm since, of course, he was in a terrible habit of doing so.

Another time we were visiting friends and I spotted a pretty lamp, which our hostess explained was a "touch-lamp," the kind you simply have to touch to turn on. They were NEW at the time, and, impressed, I gushed, "Oh, so it's good for blind people!" For the split-second the thought was in my head until I spoke it aloud, it actually had made sense. Acute LMS in action.

Fortunately lots of parents display symptoms of the syndrome, so I never feel alone. For instance, at the supermarket you can always spot the harried parents at the checkout: they are the ones rocking the shopping cart back and forth. No matter that baby is home -- they don't even know they're doing it.

Or the 19 mothers in the department store who turn their heads simultaneously when a young child cries "Mommy!" The brain affected by LMS always thinks, "that could be my child!" So what if we left the kids home with Dad? Reality has nothing to do with it. Yup, and friends tell me I am not the only one who has offered a visitor a nicely warmed bottle of milk instead of the tea they were expecting. And I've actually seen other people begin to chop meat into teensy, tiny little pieces -- for their spouse.

Often, when bottles or Binky's were missing, my husband would shake his head. "Didn't we just buy a few?" he'd say. I could answer that yes, we had, without even thinking about it -- we were ALWAYS just buying a few.

One evening I had just finished bathing our two older kids. As I walked past the den Mike spotted me and asked, worried, "Is the (baby) gate on the stairs closed? Make sure it's closed!" I saw that Matthew, our youngest at 16 months, was safe for the moment, but I checked the gate anyway. It was closed.

When I passed Mike again shortly afterwards, he fretted, "Did you leave the bathroom door open? Matthew could be getting into the bathroom!" He was worried that I had left water in the tub, and that Matt might be at risk. I had not left water in the tub and stopped in my tracks, suprised to see Mike getting even more indignant. I hadn't even answered the question when he demanded, "Where is Matthew, anyway? WHERE IS HE?!"

I gazed at my husband, shaking my head softly. In a gentle voice I broke the news to him: "Honey, you're feeding him." I felt sorry for the guy as he looked down at Matthew on his lap, sucking quietly from a bottle, and it hit him: He, too, had lost his mind!