I forgot, when I had children, to put a dog-tag and collar on my dignity. I’m afraid, even if someone does find it, bedraggled, cold, famished and shivering on the side of the highway, that it’s irretrievably lost to me. For no one will recognize it as mine.
My 9-year-old: “Mom, do you have to go potty or are you just dancing again?”
Me: “Um. Just dancing again. Thanks for asking, Aden.”
Aden: “You’re welcome, Mom. You always say to ask if I have a question, so that’s what I did.”
Me: “Well, I’m sure glad we had this conversation.”
Admittedly, my dignity always lived in a precarious situation. I wasn’t ever the most conscientious owner. I never walked my dignity on a leash, and it was forever tearing off down the street, chasing cars, barking at cats and disappearing into the night, not to be seen for weeks and weeks. But, back in the day, I could always count on it to come home eventually.
My 5-year-old: “Mom?”
Me: “Yes, Cael?”
Cael: “Do you know why I wuhve you so much?”
Me: “I know why I love you so much. You’re my precious baby boy, my gift from God, my sweet, smart kid. Why is it that you love me so much?”
Cael: “Because you’re so squishy for waying on.”
Me: “Aw. Thanks, Cael. I like our snuggles, too.”
Me: “Yes, Cael?”
Cael: “You know how I said ‘squishy?'”
Me: “I remember that from 12 seconds ago. So, yes.”
Cael: “I just meant fat.”
Cael: “What, Mom?”
Me: “I love you.”
Cael: “I wuhve you, too. That’s what I said.”
One day, I realized my dignity had been gone far longer than usual, and I began to wonder if it would ever return. The days turned into weeks turned into months turned into years.
4 out of 5 children: “Mom! I have to PEE. Right NOW.”
I pulled the car over.
Me: “OK. Drop trou and pee on, ladies and gents.”
Them: “But this is a parking lot.”
Me: “No one’s looking. You’re shielded by the door and your squishy mom. According to your brother, that’s plenty of cover. You have 10 seconds. It’s go time.”
Over time, I said my slow and final good-byes. I used to think there would always be a hole in my heart, that empty and unfillable place where my dignity used to live. I missed her. I longed for her. I remember all the nice things she used to do, like close the bathroom door.
Now, though, that I’ve released so many chunks of my heart into my kids’ grubby, sticky, beautiful hands, I hardly miss the old girl. My kids have stuffed the holes full, packing every nook and cranny with love, sass, and missing Lego pieces. In fact, I suspect that’s where all the dryer socks end up; shoring up the walls and holding every heart thing in place.
I guess what I’m saying is this: if you find some extra dignity laying around, don’t return her to me. I am no longer capable of responsibly caring for her, and, frankly, she deserves better than what I can offer.
Instead, in my dignity’s memory, take her in. Give her a hug. Maybe a warm bath and a hot meal. Tell her I miss her. And that I’ll always remember her fondly.