Friday, July 9, 2010

The Count

There are a lot of unanticipated side effects that come with parenting.  An especially annoying one is never being able to identify the needed child by their name on the first try.  I usually have to say two or, sometimes, three names to get the one I want.  I even throw in the dog's name on occasion and I almost never intend to ask the dog to set the table or practice piano or clean his room. 

Another parenting tick that I never anticipated was the constant counting.  Whenever we are in public I am constantly counting children to be certain everyone is there.  This may be because I know I won't be able to call their names correctly if under pressure.  It may be the beginnings of an obsessive compulsive problem.  Whatever it is, I find myself doing it in the grocery store, zoo, library, mall, parking lot, hotel elevators, getting in the van, getting out of the van, in church, anywhere really.

The chief irritation about this habit is that the number is not set in stone.  For the last year, I've been counting to five.  Now, I only need to count to four.  Last week when ds8 was at camp, I only needed to count to three.  You'd think that I'd be thankful for less counting.  After all, counting to three is easier and less time consuming than counting to five.  And, in theory, you'd be correct.  I should be thankful for less counting except I forget.  I forget that I only need to count to three and so I start my count, get to three and my heart stops for a moment, gripped by panic because I know in my soul that my count is five and there are two not present to be counted.  Once I breathe, I remember why I'm not counting to five today but the damage is done.  I've have that sinking, breathless feeling and I'm trying to feel in balance again.  Three, I remind myself, three not five.  Everything is fine.  And it would be, if twenty minutes later, I didn't count again and forget to stop at three and have the whole thing happen again.  Thankfully, the second time, I can let it go more easily.  The recovery time is faster and I don't feel sick to my stomach, just sheepish for forgetting so quickly.  The third time I just stop at three, take a deep breath and quietly chuckle to myself.

As my children have grown, the need to count hasn't gotten to be any less a habit.  I count the 13 year old and the 18 year old just as I count the 5 year old.  I don't have to count them quite as quickly and I can usually find them more easily.  When we are together they are always included in the count.  I'd be willing to bet that while we were visiting Disney in April I counted to five a thousand times a day.  That's a lot of counting.

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