Wish You Were Here: “This is Your Brain … This is Your Brain on Kids”

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“I’m sorry, what did you say?”

It’s a Friday afternoon and I’m standing outside of Village Market in a prolonged and somewhat painful conversation with (we’ll call her “Carol”) about her trip to “I can’t remember where” and she literally told me 10 seconds ago.

Mommy brain. It happens to the best of us. One minute we’re enjoying the fresh autumn air, talking about cable-knit sweaters, and the next minute I’m trying to remember “Carol’s” actual name. I know she has one. “Carol” and I have known each other for years, or at least a few months, and she obviously knows me and my husband, our kids, their names and ages, and unless Carol is stalking me or I have that rare condition that doesn’t allow for facial recognition, I’m pretty sure I’m just drawing a terrific blank on this woman and her origin of affiliation.

Remember that old ad for substance-free America with the fried egg? “… this is your brain … this is your brain on drugs. Any questions?” How about your brain on kids?

There are words at the tip of my tongue. There are names, other than “Carol-of-the-cable-knit” struggling along a series of synapses and second cups of coffee that did nothing for my memory and everything for my ongoing caffeine addiction, if only my brain and my mouth would bury the hatchet and effing communicate already.

“We should get coffee soon,” I tell Carol finally, after oohing and aahing at a series of Vineyard Vines commercials on her phone.

I’m sorry, Carol. Truly I am sorry that my mind’s turned to mush and my verbal skills are on par with my toddler’s playdough. I need a system update or some automatic “install now” option that allows me to function as a better version of myself, like Lesley 2.0, something that enables me to string multiple words together and instantly recall your name and not date 2011 on a check or make it out to “money” when I attempt to maneuver my mom van later at the drive-thru then remember it’s like fitting a school bus thru a hallway. I give up, and after making a ridiculous spectacle of myself, am not even sure it’s actually our bank.

For a while I thought maybe the house was making me crazy, that maybe I was living in one of those black-mold-can-kill-you-or-drive-you-to-the-brink-of-insanity-or-both houses or that maybe I was just allergic to my own life (seriously, if I had a dollar for every time I sneezed, I’d just have a lot of expensive boogers, I guess). But I really think this mommy brain thing is real. I think my kids are effectively, like, giving me a lobotomy in hot little hourly installments.

I’ve tried to combat this, this fog I’m in, like I’ve tried to combat crow’s feet. But there’s only so much a bandage can help a corpse and there’s only so many times someone can explain the concept of Sudoku to me and not bring me to the brink of tears (like long division all over again or my poor husband before he was my husband trying to teach me to drive standard).

Have you ever heard of letterboxing? It’s on The New York Times app and there are all these letters around a box and you have to make words with the letters but you can’t double-dip on the same side, which only makes sense if you actually do it. I can’t think of a better way to explain it. Today’s letterbox includes W, T, I and N, and so far, I’ve managed to write “twin” and “twix,” which wasn’t on the word list, so I’ve just got “twin” apparently. I’ve only been at it for three days now.

School being back in session undoubtedly adds a whole other element of, “Mom, I told you I needed a 5×7 picture of myself for art class this morning and do you know how to make origami!” Good thing the nice people at CVS are more-than-accommodating when I schlep through the door, drenched in some sort of apocalyptic flood with a very cranky toddler on my hip, only to discover after driving to Middlebrook and delivering this must-have item that it was actually needed for next Wednesday.

Sometimes I feel like there’s this whole other person inside of me struggling to get out and no, I did not eat my twin, if that was your next thought, and no, it’s not Carol, who I’m sure can handle the drive-thru in her Suburban and definitely knows what year it is, but more like the 2.0 version who remembers the word ‘cable-knit’ instead of what I think I said — ‘braided chunk’. This version of me is organized, origami-inclined and omnipotent (definitely not on the letterbox list) in her orations with the Carols of the world, and she always, always carries an umbrella.

I know, I know. We need the rain, just like I need to find one more word with the letter combination W, T, I and N. I don’t know … too many letters, too little time. Seriously, sometimes I feel like a complete nitwit.

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.

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