When my children were little, they couldn’t reach anything.
Which meant I always knew where the scissors were.
But then, along with growth spurts came sticky fingers, so starting when they were about 8, I could no longer find the Scotch tape, the Sharpies or the scissors.
When they were 10, it was the TV remote control that went AWOL. And food. Apparently my daughter’s one friend did not get enough food at home.
When they were 14, it was my husband’s tennis racquet. And that expensive organic shampoo I just bought for myself.
When they were 16, it was the car keys. And sometimes, the car.
When they were 18, it was the debit card they swore they put back in my wallet.
Lately, it’s kitchenware.
“Where’s the big skillet I always use for my eggs?” my husband asked, rifling through the cupboards on a Sunday morning, the same Sunday morning our 23-year-old daughter was camping in West Virginia.
“I can almost guarantee it’s sitting atop a campfire a few hundred miles west of here,” I said.
But the queen of all household items gone astray – the one most consistently unaccounted for and the single most desperately missed through all these years – is a tiny plastic cube with an absurdly short cord attached to it.
I am referring to the phone charger, which nobody in the year 2016, except maybe a few Amish, can live without for more than a few hours.
Worth about 50 cents (but selling for $40 unless you buy the off brand and then it doesn’t work) this tiny tool ends up being priceless when you’re in a phone meeting with somebody important; your phone is at 1 percent; and you can’t find the source of power you’re sure you plugged into the outlet next to the stove that morning.
My generation and our ilk, stationary sloths that we are, plug our phone chargers into one outlet on the wall, where we expect them to stay.
One person. One charger.
Millennials and other such people of my children’s generation, known for working remotely from Tokyo and running triathlons at lunch, accustomed to moving entire offices from place to place several times a day, assume all phone chargers are communal property, theirs for the taking to God knows where.
My friend painted her cube green to distinguish her charger from her teenage daughter’s.
It still went missing.
She bought another.
Off it went.
One day, cleaning the bedroom of her teenager who had repeatedly insisted, “No, Mom! I don’t have any of your chargers!” she found all three under her daughter’s bed, coiled into each other like hibernating snakes among the dust bunnies.
Worse is accusing your kids, only to remember you stuck the device in your purse that day because you had a long meeting and would need to power your phone in the conference room.
My most recent strategy for avoiding this and all other phone stress is to buy several cheap knock-off chargers – one for upstairs, one for down and one for the car, with hopes that I will always have at least one charger where it is supposed to be.
If that doesn’t work, I’m thinking duct tape and alarms.
Anybody tries to untape a charger from its assigned outlet, an alarm goes off.
Of course, when all else fails, there’s gratitude – that Oprahesque virtue a lot of mothers call on at this time in their lives.
I am indeed absolutely grateful that this is the biggest complaint I can come up with after 27 years of parenting.
I am grateful I can still afford to buy an army of chargers after 27 years of parenting.
I am grateful, most of all, that I still have children around to swipe them.
Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, Ohio, has been writing about family life since 1988. Visit her website at debralynnhook.com; email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or join her column’s Facebook discussion group at Debra-Lynn Hook: Bringing Up Mommy.)