I used to be so accurate when asked to report the ages of my children.

Like most new moms, I could tell people how old Jimmy was to the day.

When Tommy arrived a couple of years later, I could only report my sons’ ages in months. If I happened to be off by a month or two or six, the smell of spit-up and soggy Pampers kept anyone from sticking around long enough to correct me.

By the time Ronnie was born, anyone could tell my mind was only prepared to handle the simplest of questions while trying to balance Ronnie on my shoulder and somehow keep Jimmy and Tommy within grabbing distance.

Instead of asking how old the boys were, well-meaning folks became more interested in finding out how many more Zichs I was planning to produce.

Total strangers didn’t hesitate to ask if I planned to "try for a girl." Luckily, I was too busy to compose a sassy comeback.

Now that I have finally caught up on my sleep, I can think of plenty of wisecracks, but thankfully, I don’t have to face that question any longer.

I’m back to reporting their ages, in years, and I can’t even get that straight.

Nine years should be enough time for me to figure out the mathematical difference in my children’s ages, but I keep reporting the wrong numbers. This time, I think I’m in a state of denial rather than one of confusion.

Jimmy turned 14 last November, which was much easier to take than his first teenage birthday the year before. I didn’t panic until February, when it suddenly hit me that he will be driving a car in less than two years.

When Ronnie celebrated his ninth birthday, I took cupcakes in for his classmates and made sure we honored the occasion with plenty of hoopla at home.

It wasn’t until March that I realized I was still telling people that my sons were 14, 11 and 8. Why was I having such a hard time with three numbers?

We spent most of Tommy’s twelfth birthday, March 15, driving to North Carolina to visit my parents. I did my best to make up for all that car time spent in the car by giving Tommy a bit of extra attention.

Despite all that celebrating, I still keep forgetting Tommy’s age.

Last night, I had to stop and force myself to do the math in my head in order to accept the fact that he’s one year away from being a teenager.

Math was never my favorite subject, but this is getting ridiculous!

I’m going to keep repeating the numbers "14, 12 and 9" to myself until they are etched into my memory. That way, I’ll be in the clear until November.

By that time, I will be sending Jimmy, Tommy and Ronnie to three separate schools for the first time, which is certain to create all sorts of new confusion.

Maybe I’ll just start telling people what grades the boys are in and let them do the math.

Pam Zich has moved eight times in 17 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at or find the Zichs online at

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