I confess: I neglect my children.
And the negligence, like a dip in a sidewalk, trips me up unawares, which is precisely why I can be just that: neglectful.
I'm first tripped up by my negligence when I notice fingernails. "Look, Mom," Ryan said this last negligence-round. "I can play a chord now."
He was practicing his guitar as I was putting a load of laundry into the machine (their laundry; I'd let it pile up so there was not a clean sock to be had, nothing to change into from their outgrown Spiderman and Batman PJs.)
I watched him hold down the guitar strings. In a perfect chord – with nails so long they'd be the envy of a girl, if nicely filed and shaped. And clean.
They were not clean.
Which was the next clue to my neglectfulness: I'd lost track of how many days it had been since they'd taken baths. Which must have been many for them to accumulate such filth, as you can't help but wonder how their nails could get so dirty in the first place; children these days rarely spend their time digging in the earth! digging their nails into branches if actually climbing a tree. Really, they use their thumbs mostly, pressing those little buttons on their game consoles.
But it's not just the nail negligence.
"Mommy, I'm hungry."
When did I last offer them a snack? When I finally do remember, it is too close to dinner time. When they are too hungry not to grab the Oreos.
So at dinner, instead of their broccoli (which they might not eat under ordinary UN-neglectful circumstances) at least they might have eaten the starchy white rice. Which at least allows for a few more paltry minerals than a cookie.
Back to the laundry. I did get it into the machine, but forgot to put it in the dryer so they spent Sunday in their PJs. These periods of negligence are actually not all that protracted. But it is my guilt that can make the few days seem prolonged. They can seem like "A thousand million hours," as my seven year old will say who still has little sense of real time.
I perhaps analyze too hard these periods of neglect and what they mean. That I never should have had children? Of course not. That something else might be tugging my attention away from my precious children? Quite possibly. As when I was forced to ignore the pleas of my hungry boys because I was on the phone with my mother trying to help her open a precooked chicken for her own dinner.
Here's the thing. After an hour, my mother did get the chicken open. And the boys did get fed, if only cheese-sticks, finally resorting to foraging in the refrigerator for themselves.
But at least "dinner" wasn't Oreos, as cheese-sticks have calcium! And are more nutritious than plain white rice! The laundry did get dry in time for clean clothes by Monday; nails got clipped; baths taken. Miraculously, the earth's rotation continues uninterrupted on its perfect axis.