Comfort for vexed parents: 'My kid did that, too!'

It's Monday morning at the office. Brenda, a coworker, is venting her frustration about her son's weekend school project. His teacher assigned the bug collection three weeks ago, but Jason, predictably, forgot about the homework till the night before.

"It was already dark, past 10 o'clock," says Brenda. "We drove to a dozen neighborhood streetlights before we found enough bugs to fill his shoebox. It's hard catching moths with a net made from pantyhose and a coat hanger."

I sympathize and then share a similar story: last year's tale of my son Michael and our last-minute bug search. "Only we couldn't catch insects flying around streetlamps because it rained the whole evening," I say.

So he and I hunted for bugs trapped between window screens, in basement cracks, and under appliances. We turned up mostly crumbling specimens. "Probably the sorriest looking creatures ever to grace a bug collection," I conclude.

Brenda's mood brightens when she learns that other children also remember assignments only at bedtime. I feel better, too. My son's forgetfulness now seems humorous.

I find that I often have similar conversations.

For example,onParents' Night at school, I chat with a mom who, like me, almost missed this open house because our children always leave their "take home" school-event fliers at school.

At the ball diamond, the woman freezing next to me on the metal bleachers says that her Little Leaguer also refused to wear his new baseball pants. ("Too girly-looking, Mom.")

At the public library later that evening, I wonder: Why areso many parent-child duos crowded around the same shelves? The answer is simple – we're all looking for mythology books for the Greek report due tomorrow.

Once again I find solace in such realizations, knowing that my children's quirks are not all that unusual.

Swapping "what my kid did" stories with other parents has saved my sanity many times. What a relief to discover that others are in the same boat.

There's nothing like hearing about another newly licensed teenager who nosed the family Plymouth into the closed garage door. Or that more than one boy has ants in his room from candy-bar wrappers.

It turns out I don't have the only son on laundry duty who stuffs the washer so full that some clothes don't get wet.

My daughter enters a time warp when she takes a shower – as do the daughters of my friends. My son joins other classmates whose locker doors are jammed from mountains of papers (probably those school fliers their mothers never received).

"I know what you mean" conversations help me ride out my waves of exasperation, no matter how rough the surf. It's great to trade "travelogues."

A few nights after Brenda recounted her bug story, my son belatedly remembered a leaf-collection scrapbook due the next morning. I smiled and reached for my coat. I was sure other parents around town were also bundling up for their evening of shining flashlights on shrubbery.

The U.S.S. Parenthood sails along.

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