Each time I open one of my kid’s lunch bags, I feel like a TV executive looking over the latest Nielsen ratings. The goldfish are gone—yea, we have a hit. The popcorn looked like a sure-fire winner yet it was untouched. Pull it.
I am ruthless. I can’t waste time and money on a snack that doesn’t score.
As a mom, I have to make quick decisions every day. Many are no more important than what snack to buy at the market.Too often the stakes are higher. Some choices, whether they are made quickly or with much prayer and thought, have deeper consequences.
About three years ago, I thought nothing of cleaning out my daughter’s toys. She is the only girl in our family, and is much loved by not only us, but by every teacher, therapist, grandparent, uncle, aunt, and bus driver she encounters.
Lizzy accumulates more Barbies and stuffed animals than anyone I know. She adores anything girly and pink, and people are only too happy to shower her with gifts, which she graciously accepts with her wonderful smile and giggle.
I’m not proud to admit this, but one of the benefits of having a child who has a lot of neurological issues is that her memory is pretty limited. In the past, I’ve tossed away scores of Barbies and other toys that outlived their prime, and she never noticed. She would go in her room and play with whatever she saw on her bed and be very happy.
That was before she started taking medication.
Putting our then seven-year-old daughter on a mood stabilizer was not an easy choice. We had tried everything up to that point, but nothing worked. She would have indescribable meltdowns that came out of nowhere.
My breaking point came when we were out to dinner one night and she started screaming and crying. I rushed her into the ladies’ room where she started to scream louder, “No, no, I want my Mommy.”
At that moment, she had no idea who I was. When she came out of it, she had no memory of what happened.
I cried the first time I gave her the medicine. The reality of the situation came crashing down on me. She was disabled, and this was not going to magically disappear no matter how hard we wished or prayed.
The drugs Lizzy takes make it possible for her to go to school and have as normal a life as possible. We can go out as a family without worrying she will fall apart.
The medications have also improved her memory.
This became evident after that fateful room cleaning. I was in shock when she clearly and calmly said, “Mommy, I can’t find my Princess Barbie in the pink dress.”
I was thrilled she expressed herself so clearly. I was thrilled she remembered the Princess Barbie. Until I remembered that Barbie was a casualty of the cleaning.
I wasn’t sure what to do. Would she understand why I got rid of it? Would she be hurt that I didn’t take her feelings into account? Was I the worst mother in the world?
(I sure felt like it when I heard her looking for the doll. “Princess Barbie, where are you? You are my best friend.”)
My husband, Joe, was ready to rush out and buy a replacement. I was tempted as well, but I decided to talk with her. I calmly explained that I made a mistake and let her know that the next time I would have her help me decide which toys should stay and which should go.
“I love you mommy” was her response. “I forgive you.”
Then I ran out and bought a new Barbie.
Being a decision-maker means that sometimes I will choose wrong. Just like a TV executive who turns down a pilot for a show that ends up being a hit on another network. Becoming a mother didn’t make me infallible. But it’s reassuring when one of my mistakes can be forgiven with an “I love you” and a kiss.
This piece was first published on the Dishwasher in January, 2012, titled Losing Barbie, Finding my Princess. It’s been slightly edited from the original. Thanks for letting me share it with you this week.