Slow Learner

I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t learn any of the lessons I try to teach myself.

I would like to just learn a behavior and be done, but it doesn’t seem to work that way.

For example, I lose my keys. My husband is paranoid and so won’t let me put a hook by the door for my keys.

“Someone could break in and then all of our keys are right there,” he argued.

I argued back that if they’d already broken in, they don’t really need our keys, but he refused to relent on the key-hook issue.

“Just put your keys in the same place every time,” he suggested. Sure. Simple for a man who never, ever takes his keys out of his pants pocket. He doesn’t need a place for his keys, just someone to sew the holes in his pockets.

Yet, I would assign a spot on a surface near the door and tell myself, “This is where my keys live when I’m home.” In Utah, we even had a key basket (why the basket was okay and the hook was not, I don’t know).

I would remember to put them in the key basket about 55% of the time. The rest of the time I tossed them on the kitchen counter when I brought in groceries, or let a child hold them to give me two minutes free to put away groceries, or set them on top of the clothes dryer, or hooked them in the waistband of my pants and didn’t notice them until I went to the bathroom so they ended up there.

When I went to leave the house, I would look for my keys in the basket.

“Where are my keys?” I would ask myself, confused. “Their home is the basket. Why are they not in their home?”

Often, my confusion turned to accusation: “Did someone move my keys? They’re supposed to be in this basket by the door. Who moved them? Kids, were you playing with Mommy’s keys?”

At which point the children both give me blank stares. They know this drill. We do it at least once a day. And they know that the outcome is always going to be me finding my keys on the counter or in the bathroom or under the mail or in the back of a toy recycling truck (because sometimes someone does move my keys), and as we walk out the door I’ll say, “Next time I’ll put the keys in the basket. The basket is their home.”

Every time I come up with a new routine like this, I embrace it like a dog who sees her owner grab the leash off the shelf. “This will be awesome!” I tell myself. “All I need to do is do this for 21 days and then it will be a habit! 21 days is easy! I can do that!”

And then ten years later, I still can’t find my keys.

And that’s just my keys. No wonder I can’t keep a regular bedtime or an emotions log or remember to breathe.

But why can’t I learn these things? I don’t think that it’s because I’m stupid. I retain lots of other details, like all 50 state capitals and the list of helping verbs and every telephone number I had as a child, so I know I can both store and access information in my brain. And it’s not like I don’t care about finding my keys (I suspect that’s the reason I don’t have a routine for going through the mail).

I don’t know that I’ll ever get to the bottom of it. But it would be helpful if I could remember this shortcoming when I’m tempted to ask my children, “How many times have I told you to do X? When will you be able to start doing it without me telling you?”

I know! Every day when I wonder why my kids aren’t forming habits, I’ll remind myself of the key thing! Then after 21 days, it will be a habit! Genius!

7 Replies to “Slow Learner”

  1. When I had babies and toddlers I also lost my keys. A lot. My solution was to get many copies of my keys made so that there were always several extra sets in the key drawer. That was before all of the car keys were so fancy and cost a jillion dollars each.


    1. I have gone places using my spare house key and my “valet key” I got with my car. Why those never get lost, I’m not sure. Probably because I never use them.

      So does this mean you don’t lose your keys now? I would love to have hope for the future.


  2. I will neither confirm nor deny that blame for my missing keys is put on an innocent family member when they’re actually in the bottom of my purse which is so full of various papers, children’s socks, and other small items “to deal with later” that I cannot find my keys unless I jiggle and listen for them. (I am liking long sentences today)

    Do you know how people always get a buddy for new habits? I can be your key buddy for 21 days, if it will help. This isn’t a huge challenge like “stop eating chocolate” or “run 5 miles at dawn every day.” I could handle key rehoming


  3. Raphael loses the car keys every day of his life. So my key-related habit is to wander around the house for ten minutes before going to work every morning trying to remember which pants he was wearing the last time he drove the car in case the keys are in a pocket.

    He finally thwarted me last week, though, when he lost our house keys. In Ohio.


    1. Lost the house keys in Ohio…that’s impressive. I think I could learn a few things from Raphael.


  4. excellent point; “How many times have I told you…” I “lost” my keys last night. In my jacket pocket. I checked my jacket about 10 times too. I actually went so far as to make a checklist of the things I would have to rekey (notify the marina, get new padlocks for the boat, etc.)


    1. I lose my keys every time I put them in the diaper bag. Some might suggest I keep fewer changes of clothes, snacks, and maps in the diaper bag, but I never lose those. Just the keys. I would suggest you hold onto that checklist…just in case.


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