Dear parents of Losers,
I was a loser too.
I don’t mean “Loser” in the “…she was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb in the shape of an ‘L’ on her forehead,” kind of Loser. I mean, “MY KID LOST 3 WINTER COATS LAST YEAR,” kind of Loser. A kid who loses things a lot. That was me.
(Okay. In some ways it’s still me, but I’m getting ahead of myself.)
In high school I carried a small, firm, box-shaped purse that I left behind on in classrooms constantly. After several panicked trips to the lost and found at my high school, the kids working in the office started recognizing me and my purse and simply gave me my own spot behind the counter so that I always knew exactly where in the Lost and Found my purse was.
I left my volleyball kneepads in everyone’s car who ever drove me to games. I lost my track coach’s school key ring the one year I ran track when he gave them to me and asked me to bring the cones to practice. I misplaced the stats book for the basketball team every few weeks and almost got booted as the in-game statistician once when it happened twice in one week. I got that job in the first place because I had no way home after school and was always stuck there until my Dad got off work so I was recruited because I was the only person consistently available to do the job. They were actually stuck with me no matter how many times I left the stat book in the bleachers.
I was always terrified to tell my Dad when I lost things and basically just constantly denied things were missing by saying they were, “in my locker.” Every once in awhile in my adulthood he would bitterly joke about wondering if things were still in my locker at school and I would just look the other way, STILL NEVER ADMITTING I LOST THINGS.
I ended up saving my own money to replace some of the things I lost, like my Ray-Bans that he gave me for my 16th birthday and my Gold Coin Ring he gave me one year for Christmas. I never was able to replace everything though because some of it was irreplaceable like the bracelet he made me out of a watch we found at the beach one year. That one disappeared wrapped up with all of my other jewelry before a volleyball game and I couldn’t ever replace it and just dodged the questions about it for decades until he forgot it ever existed.
When Dad was NOT angry about me losing stuff, he would calmly explain that he understood why it happened. “Kim, your brain is always worrying about 90 million things at one time so where you put your bag or your uniform or your car keys falls through the cracks.” While I didn’t have the language for it at the time, I know now I suffered from incredible anxiety in high school and can easily see how that riddled my brain, and so now I truly support his explanation. I always had school work turned in on time and got straight-As and held down a job and did a lot of extracurriculars and was even voted “Most Dependable” my Senior year in high school, so it’s not like I was forgetting anything that jeopardized my academic career. I was just losing everything my Dad ever bought me ever.
I would love to tell you parents with a Kid Like Kim that it faded in college. But for me? It got worse because the stakes were higher. I locked my car keys in my car at least once every other month. I had to constantly put the cost of a locksmith on my credit card because I had no money. I was periodically walking around with tons of cash in my wallet to pay bills because no one liked checks from poor people without consistent sources of income. I left my wallet on top of my car once when I was visiting Huntsville (I went to college 90 minutes away) and luckily someone walking from Downtown found it and called me and I met her halfway. That time it had my rent money in it. I lost my daily planner with my utility bill money in it at the cafeteria at my school and thank GOD someone got it back to me because I was literally trying to get to the utility company before they closed to keep my utilities from being turned off.
That’s what I mean when I say the stakes were higher.
OH. And don’t forget I had a kid during that time. He was not safe from the effects of my scatterbrainedness. I locked him in my car twice…WHILE IT WAS RUNNING. Once it was outside my job on campus and a campus police officer was able to unlock my car. The other time, however, it was ON THE SIDE OF A BUSY HIGHWAY WITH HARDLY ANY SHOULDER AND OH MY GOD JUST THINKING ABOUT THAT DAY 23+ YEARS AGO STILL CAUSES ME TO HAVE A PANIC ATTACK.
So, yeah. My loser-ness persisted into college.
The worst college-related story (not including the ones involving my human child) happened when I was helping a professor collected data about the Carolina Wren on some property along the river for his research. I would take his notebook out with me and check all of his wren-boxes for nests and activity. One day I went to vacuum my car out after checking the boxes and left his research notebook at the car wash place. When I realized it later I went back and it was gone. I lost his notebook during an era where you had to enter data on your computer from your pen/paper system and he had not entered the data for a couple of weeks. I basically lost several weeks of critical data for him.
I did not use him for references after college.
The thing that helped me the most was finally graduating from college and getting a normal 9-5 job with a normal daily schedule. Something about the chaos of college where every day looks different, really kept me from being able to manage my life without losing things constantly. But once I got on a normal schedule I was able to adopt routines and habits that worked every day that kept me from habitual losing of things.
Now…as my kids will tell you…I’m still pretty scattered at times. I think someone with my manifestation of anxiety is going to always be a little scattered. Just this week I called my brother as I was leaving COSTCO and whenever I try to do two things at once (Talk to him and load my car with 45 cases of seltzer water) something tends to fall through the cracks. I didn’t know what had fallen through the cracks until I got out of my car at home and saw my wallet on top of my COSTCO receipt STILL ON TOP OF MY CAR.
How it stayed there the whole way home is a miracle.
Basically I just tell you all of this to reassure you that your child will probably keep losing shit for awhile, until they figure out a good system to manage their own personal chaos.
(I can hear you all saying, “Kim, that is not reassuring.”)
But they will eventually still make it to adulthood relatively unscathed and with the ability to hold down a job and have a family and care for pets and pay bills on time. They’ll still leave their wallet on the counter at home and won’t realize it until they go to pay for their cart full of groceries (I do that a few times a year) but they’ll learn to buy cars that have idiot-proof locking systems so they can’t lock their keys inside they car anymore. They’ll find a system of To Do lists or bullet journals to help them organize the chaos in their brains. They’ll build relationships with people who understand their weaknesses and love them anyway instead of ridicule them when they have to go back for that thing they left every time they go somewhere with them.
I know it’s stressful as a parent. Wesley went through 4 coats and 3 lunchboxes in ONE YEAR once, so I have seen it from the other end as well. But the only thing you can really do is help them find systems that work for them. Maybe it’s as simple as writing notes on their hands, or setting reminders with Siri. Maybe it’s carrying around notebooks or planners. But mostly? It’s is just going to require patience because honestly, it’s hard being in high school AND college with scattered schedules that are different every day and with extra activities and social lives and projects and exams that require different study/work schedules. It’s hard on EVERY kid but if yours tends to have an anxious brain, then things are going to fall through the cracks because you can’t build routines that help you remember things around chaotic schedules.
The key as the parent of a Loser is finding friends who you can text periodically with messages like: “Welp. Little Jimmy actually brought home a lunch box today. But it wasn’t his lunch box so now we have some other kid’s gross lunch leftovers on our kitchen counter.”
Hang in there, is all I’m saying. Everyone will survive and I promise your Loser kid feels bad every time they lose things even if they don’t seem like they do. And if life works out as well as mine did, they’ll have their own Loser kid to parent some day and then they’ll finally feel your pain.