I’m feeling a little blue at the moment; my youngest and I had a skirmish. He is newly 12. He’s in sixth grade. He runs late every morning… no matter how early I wake him, he never gets downstairs until 8 and then he drags around and we have not been at school on time in weeks.
Today, I packed his lunch bag in his backpack. It was 8:25. We had a chance… we could’ve been out of the house by 8:30. But I discovered he’d pulled it out of that space and was trying to jam it into another compartment.
It wasn’t fitting, and he was snarfing and huffing to get it in. He was also completely bitter that I’d put it in a place where it just went “phoomp” into place. (But we all know he wasn’t mad at me, he was frustrated at his conundrum.)
SOMEHOW WE LOST FIVE MINUTES IN THIS SPACE.
I was putting on my coat and looping my scarf. The clock beamed 8:30. I stepped over to undo his efforts and redo mine: putting the lunch bag back where I had it. He’s snarfing and snarling.
As we were walking down the steps out front, he was still bitching about it. About how it was fitting just fine when he was putting it in. About how the delay was my fault because I put his lunch in “the wrong place.”
But where I put it wasn’t the wrong place. Where he was trying to jam it was the wrong place. The zipper simply wouldn’t zip around it; it wasn’t going to fit in the backpack. Plus the lunch bag was not going to stay in the backpack all day. The moment kids get to school they take it out… I disagreed with his protests.
Step step step.
Huff. Grumble. Step.
Dragon’s breath plumed from our faces in the cold frosty air. Mittened hands flopped and flapped, gesticulating and emphasizing our perspectives. Muffled voices pointedly pressing through the scarves.
We shared twenty more steps in relative embattlement.
So we were about 1/2 way down our pipestem and he was still grumbling about it. “I’m going to be late because of YOU…”
That was it. I was done. I turned to him and said, “Ok. you’re entirely wrong about this. You were late to begin with; this is a daily thing with you. No matter when I wake you, you don’t seem to appear before 8 am. With your shoes missing most of the time. The lunch bag simply wasn’t fitting. It fit the way I put it and where it is now. It might not be where YOU want it, but it works. It’s 8:33, the late bell is in seven minutes. You MIGHT make it if we dash. ”
Then he starts to tell me how wrong I am. He’s 12. I’m 48.
I get it.
I’m arguing with someone one-fourth my age. So what do I do? The mature thing:
“I’m out. Goodbye. Go on.”
He swiftly looked at me with huge eyes: half scared, half stunned. Then a mental shift and a set of his jaw: he got a cocky look on his face and kept going.
I then turned around to go home. I decided right then and there, after nearly 13 years of consistently walking at least one of my children to school every day, to pack it up. We were having a moment. We each needed to be alone.
I let him walk himself to school, hoping he would use the crossing guard. His little body, behooded and scarved kept going.
He didn’t look back.
I didn’t say anything else.
No “I love you.” Or “I love you.” Or even “I love you.”
Now I’m sitting by the phone hopeful it won’t ring with an absentee notice from the school. I’m hopeful he didn’t run into assholic Scary Cretin on the path with his giant shit-dropping dogs.
I’m sure he’s fine and he arrived without a scratch; he’s in 6th grade and younger kids with far sterner parents walk all by themselves from as far as a mile.
But I’ve never done that: I’ve never sent him out on his own because I was fed up. We have had far worse irreconcilable differences and walked all the way to school, usually cuddling halfway there.
So now it’s gnawing at me, because of my filter, from when I was a kid. On days when we were too late waking up and we couldn’t get rides with our neighbors, my mother made us walk to school, probably about a mile and a half away. A brother and me, alone all the time in all sorts of weather through Buffalo’s tougher city streets, crossing big-time, city-express, 4-way traffic intersections where metro buses and 18-wheelers traveled and pounded. I’m sure she drove us a handful of times, but she didn’t get her license until she was in her 40s and her unpredictable sobriety created a challenge for us to get there safely if she was a driver. So I have this huge rut of guilt and shame of making him walk on his own.
He used the crossing guard. I’m sure of it. It’s a vow he’s made. We might be angry at each othe, but he’s not crazy stupid. The rest is all path amongst the trees.
I fought the urge to run after him. I was like a magnet fighting off its polarity, forcing myself to stay in the house and not chase him down like Scarlett running after Rhett.
He’s fine. Right?