When I was a child, my favorite TV shows were always the detective dramas: Hart to Hart, Quincy, The Rockford Files—I loved them all. Even now, as an adult, detective shows are always my first choice when it comes to mindless TV watching; in fact, the last time I was in the hospital the nurses eventually had to come in and tell me that it was time to turn off the TV and go to sleep. “But Law and Order is on,” I protested. “Law and Order is always on,” they replied. “Now go to sleep.”
You might think then, given my deep and abiding love for mysteries, that I would have become a detective myself, but no: I decided to opt for a profession that not only gave me the chance to solve an unlimited number of mysteries, but also didn’t involve all of that tedious paperwork and rules. That’s right: I decided to become a mother instead.
Being a mother is very much like being a detective. First there is that whole disagreeable business of having to figure out not only when, but how you are being lied to. (For some reason it is not enough to merely catch the liar in the middle of the lie—apparently, the rules are written so that in order to receive full credit you must also be able to demonstrate how you knew that you were being lied to. This is known as the “show your work” rule of lie detection, and involves strategies such as placing a crisp twenty dollar bill inside a violin case in order to prove that, yes, in fact, you do know for sure that the violin hasn’t been practiced all week.)
Then there are the missing person’s cases. Of course, unlike TV detectives, you’re usually not searching for an actual person (although sometimes you are), but rather a vital and missing piece of information. Still, just like a TV detective, the first thing you must determine is whether or not the person (information) is missing because it doesn’t want to be found, or simply because it has lost its way. For example: in the case of a grade report, the object in question might not want to be found. On the other hand, a piece of paper asking that everyone in class show up with a packet of frozen squid the next morning probably just went astray. (Okay, maybe not frozen squid—maybe a box of dry erase markers. The point is, however, that both items are equally difficult to obtain at six in the morning, which is when you will be receiving said paper—unless, of course you did your detective style sleuthing the night before.)
Before I had kids, I thought that the only reason I would ever be snooping through their drawers or listening in on their phone calls was because I was trying to catch them up to no good. Running a drug cartel from their closet, say, or passing nuclear secrets to the North Koreans, perhaps. Now, however, I realize that the main reason mothers snoop is to find out the good stuff. “Your child has been invited to an awards banquet tomorrow,” for instance, is a harder piece of information to obtain than “Your child needs to be in court six weeks from today.” They say that bad news is halfway around the world before good news even has a chance to put its shoes on, but I would update that to “Bad news knocks on your front door with a warrant, while good news lied hidden in a backpack beneath a moldy sandwich and last year’s art project.”
Luckily for me (and thanks to TV) I spent my formative years training with the world’s best detectives before I ever took this job. Thanks for everything, Scooby-Doo.