I thought I’d be one of those prepared dads, with a little pocket screwdriver, duct tape, some crayons and a bunch of grapes at the ready. But I often fail to have even the essentials.

This is compounded by the new math. Getting two kids to one school at the same time sounds easier than getting two kids to two schools. But the psychology of it is tricky: you can’t psych out one child with what you know will work. Just when darling A agrees to go without a fight, darling B figures out a way to nix the delicate peace negotiations.

And I’m twice as likely not to have something I need.

Since the diaper bag, I’ve tried a variety of man purse substitutes, but the result has been carting around a lot of unneeded crap, losing a few bags, and a smash-and-grab in San Francisco that was of course my fault for leaving the thing visible. (If only there’d been a poopy diaper in there, but alas no. The thief got several hundred crayons all the 4 colors you get free in restaurants, to go with the baby wipes). I could wear myself out carting around a huge grocery sack and still rarely having the thing that’s required.

So you know what’s coming. As we neared the school this week—me, 2 kids, 2 scooters, 2 helmets, 2 backpacks, 2 coats nobody would put on—Shayla fell and scraped her knee, and I had no bandaids. It wasn’t a terrible scrape, but it was bleeding. We (dramatically) limped the block to school and got wound care from the wonderful school secretary.

It’s impossible to have my daughter get something we need-but-don’t-have from another parent or authority figure without feeling like a total failure dad. I know they are not giving me looks. It’s me with the brain problem situation, thinking “Way to go, scootering without first aid! Daughter delivered to school in pain and hysterical. Who let you be a parent?”

It made me miss my mom something crazy.

And right on time. It’s Fall, which somehow feels like the season of Mom memories. What I wouldn’t give to call her up and ask how she managed to cart everything around we needed, or if she, too, felt like a washout when disaster struck.

I’ve also wanted her counsel on reviving small animals, as the cat brought a tiny baby mouse home and we’ve been trying to nurse it to health. Sure, there’s the internet, which suggests milk in a dropper or drowning the poor thing. (There’s the internet for you, right there.)

kerr669-R1-E001But only mom would know all the critters we saved, and the details of how we did it. Foremost was Dodo the bird, rescued from the Fall Carnival at Pecan Springs Elementary School. Dodo lived with us for what seemed like a very long time. Maybe only weeks by the calendar, I’m not sure, but in kid time it was a full chapter. After he recovered his health (nursed, of course, by milk in a dropper) he became a member of the family, perching on mom’s shoulder (see photo–that’s Dodo!), flying about, following us inside and outside the house. I remember some bird poop on the carpet. He was our pet, though free. He liked us. Then one day Dodo flew off. I guess he was ready for the wild. He was prepared to fly.

I see Dodo in my mind’s eye, soaring over our suburban roofs and trees, free and happy, not a thing dragging him down. Only the love of our family and his instincts to go on.