I am good at knowing where stuff is. And if it’s not where I think it is, I’m good at finding stuff.

This is an incredibly useful skill to have as I live with three men, one who is over 60 and one who is four, they’re the needy ones. My son is 21, he’s in the stage of being able to Know and Find for himself; Four hasn’t got there yet and Sixty has, well let’s just say he’s moved beyond the stage of Knowing & Finding and more into the stage of Looking for & I Just Had. As in “I’m looking for my _______,” insert any inanimate object here: glasses, hats, keys, eye drops, credit cards, wallet, iPad, phone, remote, bottle of lotion, knife, gloves and as in, “I just had my _______,” insert any aforementioned inanimate object.

Let me reveal something less-than-flattering about myself here (and I trust that soon I will be making amends; that is, as soon as Sixty reads this). There have been times during Looking for and I Just Had that I coldly watched him try to find something. During those icy times I spoke to myself, in the tone of voice that I use when I speak to myself about important decisions, and said, “No, I’m not helping him. Helping him find _____ is an act of enabling.” And then, instead of helping to find, for example, the car keys, I just stood by the door waiting for him to find them all by himself. Those were the kinder times. At other times, either while I was helping to find or not, I would lecture about having a system of keeping things, of being more organized, of being more ritualistic. And oh my god, let me find the missing object! I’d present it with such attitude, with such superiority, such certainty that I will never be in the position of Looking for and I Just Had because I am, after all, very good at Knowing & Finding.

Then there’s Four. The key with Four is Knowing where things are. There must be a system or I am doomed. That’s why there are boxes in cubbies and each box holds a category: “guys” or guy-like toys, essentially, anything with legs or arms of some sort. Then the box of “vehicles,” “dress-up,” “Power Rangers,” (yes they are guys but there are so many of them they get their own box).  My point here is that there must be a plan. There must be a system of storage. And helping to clean-up is essential–the laying on of eyes so that later, when an item is requested, there is chance for recall.

“Really?” you’re wondering. “Certainly you exaggerate Susan. What’s the big deal if Four can’t find this or that toy,” or, “Four should just find it for himself.” But you’re only wondering this if a) you don’t now or have never had, a Four of your own and so can’t possibly know the importance of one particular toy at a particular moment in time; and b) you’ve never seen the way a Four looks for things: When looking for a small toy, Four feels that they have legitimately “looked” for it by walking into a room and announcing that it isn’t there. It doesn’t matter if the room is dark, say or, that Four has never been in that room with said toy before. In these moments, it is not enough for me to know that a toy is “in Four’s room.” I must know and be able to describe exactly where it is. “On your nightstand, by the horses,” “On the shelf by your bed, second shelf down.” “In the toy box by your dresser.”

Sometimes, no matter how careful, no matter how much planning or system I have, toys will go temporarily missing. They will be placed somewhere that makes sense while Four is playing, but later, not so much. Then, no matter how great I think my Finding skills are, they’re not good enough. Usually what happens in these times is diversion and waiting. Diversion to get Four interested in another activity or toy while we Wait until the lost toy reappears. For instance, the Batmobile has been missing since yesterday morning. It reappeared this afternoon when I closed the window against the damp breeze. There it was, behind the curtain on the window sill.

I feel useful. Admittedly, Knowing & Finding give me worth. It’s my role in the family. But other times, and again, less-than-flattering, all this Knowing & Finding make me feel over qualified for my own life. I start thinking that surely I should be doing more important things than looking for Legos or the Dino charger for the Morpher gun. I get so frustrated at hearing, “Nana I can’t find ____,” and knowing that, unlike Sixty, I won’t let Four struggle alone. And even with Sixty, I often think, who doesn’t need help finding what they’re looking for now and then. If I’m honest, I only feel over qualified when I’m not fully in the moment; when I’m looking for the missing Paw Patrol pup but thinking about what I could be doing instead. When I’m looking for Sixty’s car keys (again) and thinking, life should be more than finding the same thing over and over. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe this is exactly what life is: Looking for and Finding.