The long arm of the mom | Living with Gleigh

My daughter and I had to leave the house early last Saturday to help with the regional solo/ensemble contest her band director hosted at the high school. I put her flute and my bags in the car and went back in to hurry her along. She had to grab her dress, shoes and music for her contest performance and she had a bagel in her hand.

She asked me to grab her dress because she couldn’t manage it as she already had the folder of music, her shoes and bagel  in her hands. I let out a quiet, exasperated sigh knowing she could pick it all up if she would just think it through.

I am a mom, I can pick up many things all at once; it’s just a matter of knowing how things can be held. For instance, because the shoes had straps on them and the dress was on a hanger, she could have used one hand for those, put the folder under her arm, leaving the other hand free for bagel eating.

I’ve notice in the past that my children seem incapable of picking up and carrying more than one or two things at a time. I don’t know if it’s something learned as we grow older and wiser or if it’s a parenting skill, but for whatever reason children seem unable to problem-solve pack mule situations. It’s impossible to try and explain to someone how to juggle many items at once, it has to be a spontaneous skill because it usually means the carrier (mom) is rushed.

Sometimes I’ll sit back and observe the show of my daughters unloading the groceries from the car. I get my bucket of popcorn (because it takes that long) and just watch. They bring in only as much as their two hands can handle. When I unload, I bring in as many items as I can stow on my body (bag handles go over elbow crooks, leaving hands free for more).

I don’t remember if “pack animal” was a skill I had before I had children. When my first daughter was born, my husband, sister and I took her to Starbucks for some grownup coffee time. For some reason, when we got out of the car, my sister loaded up on all the baby supplies new parents can’t live without. So as we walked into Starbucks my husband had the baby, I had my purse and my husband’s free hand, and my sister had the baby seat, the diaper bag, a small blanket, the baby’s hat that had fallen off and her own purse.

I remember the scene of my husband and I walking serenely into the coffee shop and my sister behind us struggling to balance all the baby paraphernalia; much like a cartoon character would juggle a precarious load. As we walked through the door a woman coming out took one look at our little band of baby handlers and gave my sister a strange look. My sister looked her square in the eye and said, “I’m the Sherpa.”

A Sherpa is a person hired to carry equipment. You can hire a Sherpa in Nepal before you climb Mt. Everest or, as I recently learned, photographers also call their equipment handlers Sherpas. The name stuck, and instead of Aunt, my sister is still fondly referred to as Sherpa.

But I didn’t have my sister’s assistance for long; I had to figure out how to juggle all the accessories of motherhood on my own. Without thinking about the nuances of the situation, I figured it out. The need to grow extra arms just happens, or perhaps from packing babies around, our arms become longer and thus can fit extra things in them.

So in my exasperation last Saturday morning, I just grabbed my daughter’s dress and didn’t say a word. Six thirty in the morning is not the time to try and teach your teen daughter about the long arm of the mom.

Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is committed to writing about the humor amidst the chaos of a family. You can also read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website or Like “Living with Gleigh” on Facebook. Her column is available every week at under the Lifestyles section.

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