“Oh no!” She says. Her voice is tight, panicked. I have to admit that ┬ámy response skates the line between compassionate and annoyed.

I peek at her in the backseat. She looks so small wrapped in Minnesota’s winter necessities. Puffy coat and too big gloves and the headband that sits just a titch too low to be taken seriously. “What happened?” I ask, softening at those eyes.

With her, it’s always the eyes.


It was a lovely morning — the slow kind that I love. The kids were up early and deftly moved from sleep-stained cheeks to ready-for-the-day and had time to loom and read and sing ridiculously loud songs.

We maneuvered “the big hill” and the other parents and the drop-off patrols and I had just pulled into the sweet spot in the drop off line when I heard that Oh no.


“I forgot my snow pants,” she explained.

Oh. What to do about forgotten school items. This is one of those unwritten parenting rules that I learned before I became a mom and for some reason those old thoughts and opinions and ideas have stayed with me, etched in my mothering mind.

Glassy eyes means a fever. Stirred Sprite and saltines solve tummy problems. Play doh and sand are therapeutic. Kids share more in motion. And forgotten school items are not to be dropped off (because they’ll remember better on their own next time).

While I’ve found most of those pre-mothering words of wisdom to hold true (Although I would argue that cleaning up play doh isn’t all that therapeutic!), this one I struggle with.


A few weeks ago Chloe forgot her meticulously full reading calendar on the kitchen table — in between an open book, pages creased to the table, and a reading timer, paused to the second — which meant that she missed out on free choice time at the end of the day. After school she shared that this was her “low light” and my answer, without putting much thought into it, was Why didn’t you ask to call me?

And I meant it. One of the benefits of me working from home is that the kids can call and ask for help. I might not be available if I’m in the middle of work or a meeting, but if I am free, I’ll come.

That’s what I told her that day facing each other across the kitchen counter, afternoon sunshine and snacks and end-of-day easiness between us. So beneath today’s first light, when I saw disappointment — clearly — written in her almond hazels, I told her I’d come back to drop off those snow pants and that’s exactly what I did.

There are so many chances to teach kids to be more independent and responsible. And I know I’m missing one when I drop off forgotten items — both for my constant forgetter and for my almost-always rememberer.

But I guess in this case, I’m choosing to teach that mistakes happen, you can always ask for help, and that if I can — I’ll be there.

What do you do when your kids forget things? Do you bring them to school or consider it a lesson learned?



At allParenting I wrote an article about Rethinking Homework. It’s based on my belief that homework isn’t the bees-knees. I’m ducking, but I’m also excited to have you join me there and share your thoughts on homework — is it beneficial? Are you sure? See you there!

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  1. You’re teaching a valuable lesson there too, my friend.
    To know that they can rely on someone to have their back, always. xo

  2. And grace! You are teaching grace and that in your family, you take care of one another and helps each other. In fact, I think teaching that you can and should ask for help is the more valuable lesson. Suffering through the day with things I’ve forgotten (because I still do it myself!) hasn’t prevented me from doing it again :)

  3. You bring up such a great point with this post, there are not a lot of absolutes with parenting. I too have played hardball at times, but I have also brought a folder up to school because I know that someone worked really hard on their homework and sometimes you need a hand. It is a delicate balance. And I think kindness is a lesson too! Thanks for sharing this. and thank you for always sharing the best photos!!

    • I so appreciate — and agree with — what you wrote here. There aren’t that many absolutes in anything, are there?

      I’ve played both sides of this game, too, obviously since it didn’t occur to her to ask to call me while I thought it was a given!

      I, for sure, have my core beliefs about parenting, but the biggest and best lessons I’ve learned are to not get set in a way and to not lose sight of the situation (and the kid) in order to prove a point. It’s rarely worth it.

      Thank you for the discussion — and for saying my photos are pretty — I appreciate both! :)

  4. I adore that lesson. While I likely will always work out of the house and bringing forgotten things will be difficult for me, I think I’m the type of Mom who would also go back for the forgotten thing. I remember when my Dad used to do that for me.

  5. Yes to supporting when we can – even if we’re “breaking” other rules.
    One of the reasons why I wanted to be more flexible and work from home is my family – so I can be there when they need me. xo!

  6. I am *so* with you on this. I am the mother of a forgetful little one, too. He comes by it honestly – and because of this, I know that panic and that sinking feeling of being unprepared. So I bring forgotten items, too. I have brought lunch and gym pants and snow pants and mittens. But I have never brought the same thing twice – so that tells me that he is learning. I want him to be organized, but I want him to know that I am there for him more.

    • I love that you’ve noted that you haven’t had to bring the same thing twice!

      The snow pants were my first drop-off visit to school this year — I’m trying to think what I would do if she forgot them again?!

  7. This is one of those things that is so hard for me. I want to rush back to school with whatever item was left behind, but I leave and go into another town for work, and it is at least a 30 minute round trip not counting stopping by the house to pick up whatever was left. Most days that isn’t possible. It is always causes a sinking feeling inside to know that I can’t rush to their aid when they need me. I reassure myself that this is how they learn. I hope that’s true. (But if I worked at home I would totally take them their stuff.)

    • I know that sinking feeling all too well — and wish I could take it away from you!

      (My parents were never in the position to do this and I’m *just fine* — promise!)

  8. I always take in the forgotten things when I can, just as my mother always sent me my forgotten lunches and spelling papers. But then, we all – except my poor husband – have ADHD. Here’s what happened last night: Ballet ended and Scott picked Caroline up, but I stayed at ballet to run the front desk. Fifteen minutes before, I’d sent Caroline down to the car to get the clothes a friend of hers had forgotten at our house. Long after Caroline left, when I was locking up for the night, I realized I had no keys. I tore up the desk, the ballet bag, my computer bag … nothing. Finally, I called my husband for a rescue.

    He called back three minutes later. “Do you want the good news or the bad news?”

    “Caroline brought them home with her, didn’t she?””

    “Then forgot them in her seat until she sat on them when I rounded the kids up to come get you.”

    Here’s the kicker. When asked how that happened, Caroline sheepishly replied, “I sometimes forget what’s in my hands.” And I know without question that she was telling the absolute truth.

    • Oh dear, you. Is it wrong that I laughed here?!

      Here’s the thing — you’re parenting *your* kid in *this* moment — not by someone else’s rules and I call that a win!

      (And I’m glad they thought to rally and come get you!)

  9. One of the great privileges when I was a stay-at-home mom, was to be able to be there for the forgotten sneakers and math homework. A phone call was all it took…sometimes I had to say no, but for the most part…I was happy to be able to say yes. When being a stay-at-home mom was no longer an option…I missed not being able to be there for them for all of those moments. They survived a little better than I did. And now, that I work from home, I still appreciate the odd time I get a phone call home…asking if I can lend a hand. We’re moms…they count on us for a great many things…that’s part of the lesson in it all.

  10. I take the things. There are so many ways they can learn lessons, and I really do want them to know school is a safe place for learning. (Maybe it’s partially because I am a forgetful person, and I hate that feeling in the pit of my stomach when I know I’ve forgotten something I need.) Now if it started to turn into an every day thing, I would try to curb it, but through positive reinforcement instead of just saying no.

  11. I think it’s definitely situation dependent. Honestly, I think the kids are going to be alright either way. I don’t think bringing them their forgotten things is going to make them irresponsible (unless it’s all the time and becomes an entitlement thing), and I don’t think not bringing it causes any damage either. Like so much else in parenting, there aren’t any hard and fast rules and we are all just doing the best we can which, most often, is enough.

  12. I don’t have the ability to take them things but if I did, I would. Probably not every time, but on a case by case basis. I love how we have those hard and fast rules before we have children, or even once we have them and just haven’t been met with a particular challenge yet. I don’t like looking at it like a rule of don’t do it; it’s a lesson learned. It’s situational. And while true, they will likely pay closer attention next time (at least in the immediate weeks following something forgotten), I don’t think it automatically makes them magnets for forgetfulness.

  13. I’m so glad I’m not alone in this! From the afternoon snack to that darn reading log to the mittens! Sometimes I have dropped it off- if it has caused her distress and I can manage it. Often, it feels more like MY fault. Mornings are my Achilles heel, try though I might to be uber-organized. My daughter is reasonably responsible, and sometimes my compassion wins out over the “lesson learned” moment. Lovely post!

  14. I’ve struggled with this lesson, too. When my son started middle school it seemed he forgot at least one thing a month. I was annoyed because it was always an ’emergency’ and it was always something I had reminded him to remember. But then I remembered how many times he’s shown me grace, and I stopped being annoyed. And then he started remembering to take everything with him.

  15. I love all of these pictures, but maybe I love the last one best. It’s so natural and comforting.

    I am usually the one that has to think FOR my kids (what am I doing wrong here) so if I forget, I bring it. But when it comes to them forgetting, I think I might be tough. I’m not actually all that gentle with my kids (I say with dawning realisation). I think I can work on that.

  16. Gosh I love this.
    I was raised to believe that if you forgot it then you left it for the day.
    But I want to stop that belief. I want my daughter to know that I am there and she can call for help, just like you said.
    Love this.

  17. Since I can not ever make it out of the house without forgetting something – like oh, the birthday present On My Way to the party??!! (doh), I can hardly fault them every single time either.
    I think it was more important for them to know that they can count on someone – in this instance.
    A chronic forgettor? I might be harsher with at some point.

    besides, here? without snow pants? No way – I’d have to run those necessities straight away.