Sometimes people ask me how I knew that I was ready to have children, which I think is kind of like asking someone trapped beneath a building how they knew they were ready to settle down. The answer, at least, is the same: do I really look ready for anything right now? But I get that what they are really asking is how do they know that they are ready to have children, and for that question I actually have an answer. Well, at least I have a test.
Pay someone to hide your shoes.
Every morning. Or rather, every night, before you go to bed. I’m not saying that children will take your shoes away from you (except for those fifteen minutes between growth spurts when your son is wearing the same size shoe as you, or on those rare—very rare—occasions when the shoes you buy happen to be considered “cute” enough for your daughter to steal); no, what I’m saying is that when you are a parent there will be valuable time spent every single morning searching for somebody’s shoes, and it would be better to find out now whether or not you can handle it.
Although “handle it” might be sugar-coating it, because no one is capable of “handling it” every morning. That’s because for every morning that you approach the daily shoe hunt from your happy place—beatific (or heavily medicated—your choice) smile firmly in place—there will be another morning when you stand in the middle of the living room doing your best Mommy Dearest impression, eyes flashing and teeth gnashing as you vow to bring down all the wrath of heaven and hell upon the next person who dares to place their shoes anywhere but the pre-appointed spot. (Yeah, my kids still do an impression of me from that one time—one time, I swear—that I totally lost it over a pair of shoes.)
Still, you might be wondering why I am advising you to hire someone to hide your own shoes from you, and not just hide a random pair of stranger’s shoes in your house instead. Well, for one, that’s kind of creepy, and for another, even though you might think you can replicate these feelings by having a pretend hunt, trust me, you can’t. Although, in the end, when you are already running late it really doesn’t matter whose shoes you are tearing a part the house looking for, because the end result is the same: chaos and despair.
Sometimes, when I explain this parenting test to people, their reaction is, “Well, that won’t be the case in my house, because I’m going to make sure my children know how to be organized.” My reply is always—well, usually—a demure, “I hope that works out for you.” At least out loud. Inside, I’m too busy chortling for much else. That, and trying to hold back from saying, “Gee, why didn’t I think of that?”
We all start out with plans for being organized. We buy the tubs, and the bins, and drawers, and we label them “ballet shoes,” “soccer cleats,” “dress shoes,” etc., and we feel calm and prepared for the upcoming season. And then the perfect storm of dance recital followed by ra eception followed by an early morning game the next day happens, and suddenly you’re back in the shoe hunt game once more—with a vengeance.
Perhaps one day they’ll come up with some kind of shoe security device that lets you locate a pair of shoes the same way car alarms help you find your car in the parking lot. Of course, with the sheer number of shoes most families lose a day, most neighborhoods would sound like the aftermath of an earthquake every morning.
Although that would be an improvement over the screams of frustrated parents.