Lost. On the Mountain.

This is not a story about a climbing expedition gone wrong or hiking or skiing. It's about bad mothering.

Because if I was a good mother, I wouldn't have lost Caroline for two hours. Maybe.

If I was a good mother (read organized, interested in my children's educational progress, less willing to spend a whole day reading Let's Pretend This Never Happened alternating with Stephen King's autobiography- which oddly complement each other kinda like caramel and chocolate or better, vodka and cranberry juice, had a clean house, and made better dinners), I would not have lost her.

That is true. Well, it might be true.

But because I have certain shortcomings, I failed to sign up for parent teacher conferences. On purpose. I went last year. The teachers and I have slightly different views on progress. From my point of view, she has friends, good stories at the end of the day, not too much homework, and a backpack that resembles a homeless person's shopping cart. 

I think she's in good shape (if we ignore the backpack). Besides, she reads-for pleasure. I think that's pretty good.

Sadly, Caroline expected me to be at conferences even though I reminded her she had a singing lesson after school (three kids three different directions in three different activities on a Friday after school, plus an invitation to two parent teacher conferences- gets complicated).

I waited. She waited. We waited and waited and waited. Her at the top and me at the bottom.

I was well aware of where she was just unsure how to capture her. If I go up, she may be coming down. Then we've just reversed positions. Could go on all night. I wasn't completely panicked yet.

I had to time my drive up. As soon as a funicular came down, I had 21 minutes to drive up AND find her.

In the pitch black. On a winding mountain road without guard rails. I must really love her.

I park. Check the dark fields. No kids. Go to the funicular station. She's not there. 9 minutes left. Now, I'm feeling panicked. The mountain is big. And dark. And there are people up there. Good people. Bad people. And she's 9 but looks 6. There are also a bunch of people in formal wear. Turns out there's a wedding reception up there.

Go to the dining hall. There!  She sees me. She's a bit disheveled- but she always looks a bit disheveled when she gets home from school. Both of us melt down a bit. She puts her feverish little hand in mine and I walk her to the car.

Then I bought her an entire pizza. Then I called the principal. We sorted it out. I passed along pointers that I thought might be helpful when dealing with unaccompanied minors. Like call her mother.

I realized I could have handled things differently. Like I could have gone to the conference. And made sure her cell phone was charged. Although giving her a cell phone reminds me of giving tennis balls to a Border Collie we used to have or Tupperware to my father. I never expect to get either back.

I could also tattoo my cell number on her body but then I guess I have to get her a new one when we get back to the States and I'm sure there are organizations that frown on tattooing your children even for a good reason.

She can sing an entire library of pop culture songs and Christmas carols in GERMAN but my cell number is still a mystery.

She is totally my daughter.

PS It's not that I don't care about her educational progress but my goal- FOR HER- is to have a happy expat experience and maybe pick up a foreign language along the way. Harping on science test scores is contraindicated. This is hard enough as it is.

Besides, some of us just don't love science. For the record, I loved science. But this isn't about me. Well, the first part is.


  1. By my definition, you are an amazing mom who loves her kids and wants only the best for them. By your definition, you and I are both inadequate along with countless others. Let's go with my definition!!!

  2. By the way...its Nicole..your neighbor.. who misses you by the way!

  3. I have to be honest, this could so easily have happened to me - so secretly I am glad it happened to you first that way I won't be totally gutted when it is my turn! xxx

    1. Just call me when you lose one, I'm there for you. I'm experienced now. :-)

  4. I absolutely love reading your blog. A nugget of truth and wisdom wrapped in humor to be enjoyed by all. I was reading it to my husband and he thinks you are a talented writer, too!! Never doubt that you are the BEST mama. You are helping to make wonderful memories for your kids!!!

  5. Jen, I have arrived at the thought that I must know you better than you know yourself. I have seen you in action for many years now and I know you are NOT a terrible mother and you are NOT a terrible cook! You give your all to your family and friends.....I think you need to take a better look at yourself, because you are not seeing the real you..;-) Love Pearl

  6. Ha, I love how you started out this post about getting lost reading books rather than going to the darn conference. I am SO over going to school functions now that my fourth one is at the end of elementary school. I see these other eager mothers and I'm glad someone else is doing it, because I'm not. Same with attending every single sports match. It took me living overseas and seeing a more sane version of parents of sporting kids to wake up and realize that I have my own life to live and not just my child's. So now I happily sit at home and read a good book while they play soccer or whatever it may be in an April snowstorm by themselves, and I don't feel guilty about it anymore. Almost.


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