Mom Smart

Eliana Osborn essays

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“Honey, can you get me that…that…”

“I don’t know what you want.  What are you talking about?” My husband tries not to laugh while I just try to finish my sentence.

“You know, the thing with the drinking…”

“A cup? A soda?”

Yes. It is 8:45, the kids are asleep, and I can’t come up with the word ‘cup.’ Everyone has momentary lapses of brain power—forgetting the actor’s name in the movie you just watched, the capital of Zaire. But more and more, I can’t think of basic nouns.

With two young sons, I’m a lot dumber than I used to be. It bothers me. Every word I teach them seems to fall out of my own head, never to be recovered. I forget words like door, basic terms I kind of need to get around in society.

Imagine my delight when I read about a study from the American Psychological Association finding that the brains of mothers actually grow in the months after giving birth. This seems to go against everything I’ve experienced, but at this point I’ll take whatever good news I can find. Turns out that becoming a mother—and especially feeling good about your baby—makes your midbrain grow. All those snuggles, the nurturing, the gazing at a perfect soft little creature…it plumps up the brain and increases the number of connections between the different areas.

I think about how I’ve changed since becoming a mother. I have dark circles under my eyes no matter how much sleep I get or makeup I cake on. The words are going fast. This whole middle section of my body is entirely different from before. I drink a lot more Diet Coke.

I also notice details better. A dove sitting on the fence, the pink orange purple of early sunset. I am more patient than I ever imagined. I can tune out a tantrum and not scream back. My singing skills have totally improved with the constant You Are my Sunshine practice. I can rhyme with pretty much anything (with preschoolers fake words are a bonus, not a disqualification).

I can’t watch movies in which children suffer. I used to love Life is Beautiful; just thinking about it turns my stomach now. I don’t complain about the yelling parents at Target. I know all too well the moment when you become some other person after your kid pushes your buttons over and over and over again. How can anyone weighing under thirty pounds wield so much power?

I’m not surprised that I can’t think of words. At first I thought it was just a passing phase I would recover from once breast feeding was over. Or once a baby slept through the night. I’m still secretly hoping that when the kids go to school it will all come flooding back. But I’m not holding my breath.

There’s only so much room in my brain. The CNN space is still there, the personal hygiene cells are going strong. But the section for vocabulary had to give up some space for the kids. It was probably a big area in the first place, seeing how I couldn’t read a map or visualize 3D objects. Language was definitely the place to cut without actually killing me.

So instead of knowing that fungible isn’t a curse word off the top of my head, now I know when one kid needs to be played with and the other is only being naughty because he’s tired.

A new section of my brain has grown. It is the piece where I understand two people I hadn’t known before. It is the segment that keeps expanding with new bits of information, much more important than obscure lexicography.

Stored away for tomorrow or ten years from now, maybe longer, are memories of each moment. Some good, like boys sharing Lego guys and laughter from the bedroom. Some bad, like a crumbled granola bar mashed into the white leather chair. I may not be able to describe it all for you, what with my words slipping away, but I’ll be thinking about it in my giant mom brain.


About the Author

Eliana Osborn

is a writer, professor, wife and mother living in Arizona.

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