When you have more than one child, it becomes difficult to remember their names. Oh, you know who’s who. And it is easy to pick them out in a crowd of other kids: “Mine…mine…not mine…looks like mine…etc.”
But you have to admit that there are times when their identities blend. Times when you yell a name and find yourself sputtering a series of vowels and consonants that no one would ever write on a birth certificate.
My four brothers and I caused Mom to yell out gibberish on many occasions, much to our delight: “MI-JI-RO-BU-BI-….”
She sounded like a Romanian woman hawking vegetables in her village. We would look at each other and roll our eyes. Who did she want?
“KIDS!” she’d finally scream. Then we knew she meant business. We’d all trudge inside the house to see what she wanted. From whom.
As Mom grew older, we kids became each other in her memories. “Remember when you go stuck up in the tree and we had to send your brother to drag you down?”
“That wasn’t me. That was Jim.”
“Remember when you got locked in the outhouse at church and we didn’t find you until after services?”
“That wasn’t me, either. That was Butch.”
“Oh…well, then…what did you ever do?” And Mom would wait patiently to hear the story her forgotten child chose to relate. We could tell her anything — tales of high adventure or horrible indignities. She’d look at us doubtfully, but only nod.
She didn’t want us to think she’d forgotten. It just wasn’t motherly.
Every parent has been through it. With the first baby you document every milestone. From yearly inoculations to daily eliminations, it was all memorized and logged.
But by baby two or three, it’s all a blur. The baby books get mislaid and you’re just proud you haven’t mislaid the baby.
The years pass in a flurry of diapers, tricycles and lunchboxes. You find yourself starting sentences with “One of the kids—I don’t remember which one…”
Sometimes when you hear them talk, they all even sound the same. You have to stop and gauge ages and faces like a scientist scrutinizing his beakers to decide whose voice said what.
We parents spend years watching our children grow and change. Just the time we think we know who they are, they become someone else. Each one tries on personalities like socks, wearing them until they no longer fit.
And just when we think we can tell who is who, our kids become teenagers and start to remind us of ourselves at that age.
Maybe it would be best to do it the way they used to. Get rid of the trendy, unique names—the Sophia-s and Aiden-s and Mia-s—and go back to Junior and Sis and Son.
“Hey, You!” would work. I know. I’ve used it.
I’m convinced that someday, when my time is up and my obit runs in the newspaper it will read: “Robin Joyce Leach was the mother of three children who were all loved the same. Their names include: ‘I don’t care what your name is, get in here,’ ‘Who else would I be talking to?’ and ‘If I’m looking at you, I mean you’.”