The Shark Tooth on the Counter

Drawing by Melissa Jefferson

The other day I glued a shark tooth to my kitchen counter – with crazy glue. It was a classic teaching moment and confirmed what I had already suspected: I cannot multitask.

Multitasking is in our job description, of course. It’s a modern-day evil we claim to have perfected. In the early days, I would nurse, snack, watch the news and read a book during commercials. Granted, few motherhood tasks come with a prerequisite comfy spot, a pillow and 45 minutes of downtime, but even the hands-on toddler years have their scheduled leisure moments, such as bath time, when you can throw in an occasional pirate phrase while flipping a magazine to the next page.

Over the past few years though, those sit-down moments have dwindled and the pace has picked up — literally. When my daughter graduated from the now-closed Aquabilities swim program, we moved up to the swim team nearby. Swim meets and coffee don’t mix though. Aquabilities came with 45 min. of downtime in a climate-controlled viewing room. The parents sat around drinking coffee and chatting. Sweet! Meets offer a choice of working a minimum of four hours poolside, where it’s too hot and downright dumb to sip coffee, or a cozy spot at the bake table behind the scenes, which brings back nightmarish flashbacks of selling girl scout cookies at Redner’s during Superbowl Sunday. (I’m mathematically challenged, hence the nightmares.)

Multitasking is in our job description, of course. It’s a modern-day evil we claim to have perfected.

At work I no longer multitask, though I touted that ability during my interview, of course. It simply doesn’t work, not effectively at least. Instead, I stress over one issue at a time. My greatest conquest every day is my list — checkmarks indicate mission accomplished, deadline secured, and new stress neatly allotted for the next day. Coffee doesn’t get spilled over the keyboard, and grey hair is held at bay.

Why then doesn’t this translate into my life as a working mom? Why do I have two conversations simultaneously with my kids (“We don’t dip Grover into the potty. I think this math problem needs to be reworked.”), while wiping the counter and accidentally tossing a summer souvenir into the garbage disposal in the process, as I did the other day? When I pulled out the object, a cool shark tooth that became an instant hit with my kids, I noticed that it had split in half.

The horror! My daughter exclaimed: “Mom, you broke it!” before I could even switch to damage control and swift mommy-PR. My son then ran into the kitchen to check out the commotion and to display his own little mishap — an oil spill, aka apple juice accident, on the ocean/carpet, with trace evidence on his shirt, pants, and shoes. As if the forces of nature had planned a meticulous conspiracy to bring down multitasking, the phone rang roughly around the same time — a call I couldn’t ignore since my sister always calls from overseas at that time to catch up. So I eased the flaring temper (“Don’t worry, a little glue can fix that.”), aimed Fabreze at the spill (That’ll buy me some time…), assessed the juice damage on my son (“You can keep playing for another 10 min.”…It hasn’t reached your underwear yet.), and grabbed the phone (“Hi!”).

By the time I was done catching up with my sis an ocean away, I had successfully crazy glued the souvenir back together and placed it on the now clean countertop, where it immediately got stuck. Since I didn’t revisit the scene of the crime until about an hour later (the spill did require a bath after all), the tooth had now become a permanent fixture in our kitchen. Multitasking is a joke…

The tooth had now become a permanent fixture in our kitchen.

The tooth serves as solid reminder, albeit a hard one to explain to visitors. I do try to live in the moment with my kids and to not sweat the little stuff. To-do-lists at home don’t always work for parenting, at least not for me. They tend to take away the spontaneity and wonder of it all — the ability to stop for a moment and look at your children’s eyes then they hear the ice cream truck or suddenly dole out hugs after smacking dinosaurs over each other’s heads minutes earlier. Those are things I don’t take for granted.

There are a hundred things we have to plan: test prep, band and chorus practice, swim practice, meets, show-and-tell, doctor’s appointments, play dates, craft hour at Michaels, you name it. But when the family car is parked in the driveway, I try to take it all in, play with my guys and leave the lists at work, where I don’t have access to summer vacation souvenirs and all the sweet memories glued to them.

Marion Kase is a Berks County, PA mom of a preschooler and a 4th grader. This post was adopted from her blog, Helicopter-Caterpillar.

Categories: MomSpeak