There is a new syndrome that has swept through my household. It is contagious, has frightful symptoms, and leaves a messy trail in its wake. It is called MNR Syndrome: Mom’s Not in the Room.
Kara, 4, and Jason, 2, have both caught it. They appear to be normal, well-adjusted children. They occasionally play nicely together. There are harmonious games of hide-n-seek in the mornings while my husband and I ready ourselves for the day. Play-doh is carefully passed back and forth. I watch them frolick like two kittens on the couch and pat myself on the back with great heft for the sibling love they so obviously share.
But, when Nature calls (or the phone rings, the washer buzzes, the door bell ding-dongs…), something odd takes over my kids. Thirty seconds have passed since I left the room. I hear screams, screeches, scratching, yowling! I run back into the room to see whatever is the matter. Both children are in a puddle of tears (or juice, water, milk – name your liquid!). They have dumped the contents of their lunch on the kitchen floor. They have pummeled each other uncontrollably. I see flushed faces or gleeful faces (“Look what we did to the cat!”).
I find myself looking beneath the couch cushions to locate the monster that has infected my kids. Nothing is there.
There does not seem to be a cure for this syndrome, either. I recently gave the American Medical Association a jingle to push for more funding to study this disease. Here’s how the phone call went.
“Yes, hello, my name is Christine Louise Hohlbaum. I have discovered a new childhood illness…”
“Did you say Dr. Christine….” The voice queries.
“Oh, no. Well, Dr. Mom maybe…so anyway, it’s called MNR syndrome…” I say helpfully.
“Yeah…” the voice does not attempt to hide its disbelief.
“It’s very elusive, and no one can seem to predict its outbreak. And it only occurs when there is no adult in the vicinity…” I persevere.
“We’ll look into it. Thanks.” The line goes dead.
I thought about calling the White House to alert them of the disease, then thought better of it. Self-doubt gnawed at me for days. I began to question whether it only affected my children.
My daughter had a playmate over for the day so I decided to test it out on her. The first two hours of the visit went well. They played Snow White and even took turns being the Prince. It all seemed to be going so well. I retreated to the kitchen to let them play by themselves. After ten minutes, I heard a crash, scream, and an explosion of tears downstairs. As I bound down the stairs, I noticed that crayon markings that had not been there ten minutes ago were suddenly all over the wall. In that instant, I realized that I was not alone. As I soothed the hurt feelings of both children, I made a mental note to start an MNR support group in the morning.
Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of Diary of a Mother: Parenting Stories and Other Stuff, is an American living near Munich, Germany with her husband and two children. Visit her web site at:
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(c) 2003 Christine Louise Hohlbaum. All Rights Reserved
Submitted by: Christine Louise Hohlbaum *
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