I want my pipe cleaner

I was once a master of minutiae.

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Where the hell is my sock?

Ninja-like, I always knew where every little thing had gotten to. “Dad, where’s my other rainbow skull sock?” Fern would ask (and what parent hasn’t gotten that question?) and I could point her with some accuracy to the vegetable crisper, where I’d noticed her hide it under the beets the week before. (Monsters are afraid of beets.)

Polly Pocket’s left shoe? Got it. No, the purple one. Got that one, too.

No longer.

Maybe it’s the chaos of being in a temporary rental, or because I’ve got two kids to look after now, but for whatever reason, I can’t keep track of anything lately. I also suspect that my daughter’s tendency to hoard — and to insist on keeping every piece of clothing she’s ever had — has a lot to do with my current lack of recall. My old brain — she’s plumb full up.

And Fern’s stuff shouldn’t be my problem, right? (Experienced parents, you can start snickering.) Kids should take care of their own things, and whatever they don’t take care of, they don’t need to have. ‘Nuff said.

No, last week we said more. Fern had stolen a pipe cleaner from her friend to whom it had been given as part of a colossal box of pipe cleaners. (Artsy pink ones, don’t you know.)

Over the next few hours, the pipe cleaner became a bracelet, an anklet, a mustache, a teddy bear, a pot roast. And then, just before bedtime — zoot! — it became gone.

Fern was inconsolable — not for love or Fruit Loops could we get her to sleep without the fuzzy pipe cleaner. And as I mentioned, oblivious is my normal these days — I was far too insensible to have been aware of the pipe cleaner’s whereabouts.

So there was a scene. Every problem has a gift, though, right? And in this case, I got one more opportunity to practice my consoling-cajoling, sympathetic-annoyed, accommodating-insistent child management techniques. I’m learning a lot about those.

And, of course, I take from all this another bit of learning, too: when your daughter steals a bit of wire and fluff that’s bound to become precious, you should steal a second one — as a backup.