The Loser-Mom Cure

With help from a kitchen timer, one reader realizes she's not too busy to have fun with her son
boy holding checkers game

Illustration by Ben Javens

You know those less-than-stellar moments in parenting? Those times when your heart sinks and you feel like the very worst person in the world? If you don't, congrats, and please feel free to turn the page. If you do, stick around and let me tell you about one of my loser-mom moments and what I did to make them happen much less frequently.

It's a typical weekday evening: dinner is over, and I'm squeezing in some chores before the kids' bedtime. As I sit in the kitchen, immersed in making my grocery list and clipping coupons, my son, Will, then age 7, appears with the checkers game and asks me to play.

"I can't," I say. "I'm really busy, but I promise to play later." I suggest that he get out another one of his toys or find his sisters, Meg and Emma. Off he goes.

That night when the kids are in bed and I'm tidying up, I find the box of checkers on the floor. The checkers I'd promised Will we'd play with later— but never did. And, I swear, the smiling boy and girl pictured on the box are actually glaring at me. "What?" I say to them defensively. "I was really busy!" (This isn't the loser-mom moment yet.)

The next morning, I apologize to Will and ask him why he didn't remind me. "Because you promised you would play, and you should just remember your own promises," he answers.

Ouch. Loser-mom moment! I realize that lately I've been making more promises than I can keep. I feel horrible. I'm tempted to keep him home from school, spend hours playing checkers, give him ice cream for lunch, and take him shopping at the video-game store. But I exercise self-restraint, telling myself that I've apologized and should just move on and try to do better next time.

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