“Mom will find it.”
This is a recurring phrase from my life; we could even call it a leitmotif of motherhood. Along with its companion phrase:
“Mom, I can’t find my [insert any item]“
The latter is usually accompanied by shouts, whining, a bit of hysteria; the former by conviction and (a perhaps misplaced?) optimism. I have spent much of the past 21 years finding things that no one else seems capable of seeing. In my general experience these are frequently things that are right in front of our proverbial noses. Why can’t they see these things?
Since I manage a cognitive neuroscience lab, I am aware of visual neglect, a condition often following brain damage, which affects vision on one side. Here is a definition from WIkipedia:
“Hemispatial neglect [...] is a neuropsychological condition in which, after damage to one hemisphere of the brain is sustained, a deficit in attention to and awareness of one side of space is observed.”
What I am describing in this post is not a form of brain damage but is nonetheless a well-documented phenomenon which I shall call “Mom-is-in-the-room neglect”.
“Mom-is-in-the-room neglect is a neuropsychological condition in which, when one’s mother is in the room, a deficit in attention to and awareness of any item which one wishes to find is observed.”
This condition is unrelated to the size of the object one wishes to find. For example, while I frequently hear “Mom, I can’t find my glasses!” or “Mom, I can’t find my homework!” it’s not unheard of to hear “Mom, I can’t find my cello!”
The condition is also notable for the inherent ability of moms to see whatever it is that others can’t see. What is it about the condition of mom-hood that mediates this? My own opinion is that it is a Superpower, along the same lines as Superman’s ability to fly, or perhaps a more relevant analogy, his x-ray vision.
My kids have both flown the coop and I am now an empty-nester. Yesterday, I had the house to myself, and needed my laptop. I looked for it everywhere. I looked upstairs and down. I searched every room; not once or twice but three times. I looked under things. I looked around things. I finally gave up. I ate lunch. I did some knitting. Then, I walked into the living room and saw my laptop right in the middle of the couch. Right out in the open. Not disguised or hidden in any way but so apparently obvious that only someone with a neuropsychological impariment could fail to notice it. Could it be that there is a statute of limitations on Mom Superpowers? Do they fade away when one’s kids leave home? Have I developed a new condition, called The-kids-have-left neglect? Or maybe I just need my eyes checked….