When my twin boys were two years old, I gave birth to another set of twins, and though I tried not to use that as an excuse for being sloppy and frazzled, having four kids under the age of three did unique and disturbing things to my mind, body and the smell of my home.
I thought I had it together. I managed to occasionally wash my hair and exercise, and usually got everyone out of the house almost on time. But one day, I had an epic fail. Like, a big one. For any parent who’s ever messed up on a colossal scale, I have two words for you:
First the backstory. I’m Jewish – incase my last name didn’t give it away – and my religion says I can name my children after family members who have passed. (And my Jewish mother says I have to, so really there’s no choice.) But my sister had four kids before I had my first, so she pretty much covered the entirety of my small group of deceased relatives. By the time it was my turn we only had a few names left to honor, and the middle names were all ours to play with.
For my three sons’ middle names, one got my maiden name, another a family name, and my husband asked if we could name Adin after the New York Jets, making him Adin Jett and setting him up for a lifetime of failure. In return, when my daughter was born I requested a middle name that meant absolutely nothing to me other than the fact I had heard it and loved it. He agreed, and we named her Alexis Harlow.
When Alexis was four months old I took her with me to pick up my sons from Nursery School, when I ran into a woman I had often seen around. “Oh, she’s beautiful,” cooed the woman. “What’s her name?” she asked.
“Her name’s Alexis,” I sang as I waved her chubby little hand at the woman as if to say hello.
“Hi beautiful Alexis,” said the woman. “What a pretty name! What’s your middle name?”
Wait a second. What’s her middle name? Oh my g-d… what the fresh h*ll is her middle name? I can’t remember her middle name. OMG OMG what do I do? I could make something up. It’s Rose. She’s Alexis Rose. No I can’t do that. What do I do?
“I don’t know,” I said under my breath. “Excuse me?” said the woman, “you don’t know your daughter’s middle name?” I looked at the floor and shook my head. “No, I don’t know,” I said in disbelief. “I can’t remember. I’m sorry,” I mumbled.
I forgot my daughter’s name.
I replayed that moment for years, always getting a pit in my stomach when I think of how I must have looked. I’ve heard of some pretty dumb lapses - I’ve gone to my share of birthday parties on the wrong day and have often explained why the tooth fairy got lost on the way to our house - but this one left me feeling ill. Of all the things to forget, don’t let it be your kid’s name.
But the best part of the story was still to come.
A few weeks ago, almost seven years after this occurred, I was telling friends this story in front of my children, who had never heard it before. When I finished, my sons look really confused.
“Wait, what’s Alexis’s middle name?” asked Jonas, appearing baffled. “It’s Harlow,” I said. “You know that.” They all looked at each other, and then at me. “No, we didn’t know that,” said Adin. “We always thought it was something else.”
“What did you think it was?” I asked. And they all answered at the same time:
“We always though it Carlos.