September 09, 2009
Today the school bus dropped a small blondish-sort of child wearing a bright yellow backpack off at our doorstep. The child watched the bus drive off for as long as he could, waving goodbye before coming inside, casually slipping his backpack off of his shoulders. He then requested his most difficult puzzle -- a 100-piece floor puzzle depicting Noah's Ark As Painted By One Of Those Holiday Inn Art Show Artists -- and quietly completed it by himself while I sat on the couch wondering when the bus would come back with MY CHILD.
You know, the one who doesn't wear a backpack. Who won't wear a backpack.
I watched him step down the bus steps and immediately looked behind him for the aide to hand over his backpack. I was about two seconds away from making an idiot out of myself, lost-sunglasses-on-top-of-my-head style, when I finally realized OH MY GOD, HE IS WEARING HIS BACKPACK. And I stared at Noah and then back at the aide, who had simply slid the backpack onto Noah's shoulders after unbuckling him from his seat, the way he probably does with every other child on the bus.
That's the way it goes with them, always. You imagine some strange alternate universe where you say, "This is a backpack. It goes on your back. Here, like this." Aaaaand...done. Your child wears a backpack, happily taking his place with the rest of the general backpack-wearing population. But instead, YOUR child flips the fucking freak OUT when you first put the backpack on his back. And the second time. The third time, okay, quicktakeapicture, but then right back to the screaming for the fourth time, and the fifth time, when all you did was SUGGEST that he put the backpack on his back. And then maybe you give up for awhile, like, whatever, carry your backpack, there are bigger things to worry about, I AM PRETTY SURE.
You tell yourself that he'll get over it, outgrow it, whatever IT is, the wigging out over a backpack. It is the...straps? The way it feels? A balance thing? The fact that he can't see the backpack? You maybe try a messenger bag, a tote bag, but no, he wants the backpack, he just won't wear the backpack. You maybe get a little weary of it, two years later, still having to interrupt camp counselors and teachers after they offer backpack assistance to your child and are confused by his shrill refusal. "He doesn't like to wear backpacks," you whisper. Which sounds so stupid, like OF ALL THE THINGS TO MAKE A THING OVER.
And so many Things. Backpacks. New socks that don't look like his old socks. Taking that shortcut around the park. The sight of an egg cracking. Eating pizza crust-first and upside-down. No forks or spoons, except for macaroni and cheese, but just the yellow kind. This juice in That cup. Toys played with in one specific way, all the time, just. Like. So. You live with these imaginary, arbitrary rules, walking a fine line between keeping the peace and going along with the rituals...and putting your foot down, as if you can just FORCE some flexibility into him.
And then one day he steps off the school bus wearing a backpack, because the school bus aide helped him put his backpack on, completely unaware that he just performed a goddamned Christmas miracle, that he is now the personal lord and savior of a makeup-less, bra-less mother in sweatpants standing on the curb, silently wigging out about a backpack.
(Epilogue: Wrote post during nap, attempted recreation of Blessed Backpack event for photo-op afterward, no dice, despite bribe generous offer of two granola bars. Decided child wants to destroy me, sent him to room for general mouthiness, throwing backpack at dishwasher.)
(Epilogue, part 2: Just attempted to spell S-N-A-C-K out loud to husband, failed miserably, twice. "I don't think that word has an E, babe.")