In retrospect, perhaps I should have known that this particular morning was going to be different.
That my 3-year-old, Bennett, who had been cultivating a school obsession ever since his older brother, Jacob, started kindergarten a couple weeks ago, insisted on bringing his new Paw Patrol backpack and lunchbox (which we purchased for some reason that remains unclear) when we went to drop Jacob off in the morning should have tipped me off.
And my parental radar that alerts me whenever one of my children is on the verge of a meltdown certainly should have jangled when on the way to school, as we navigated the congested morning traffic, Jacob said, “At my school, the tables in my classroom have numbers,” and Bennett wistfully replied, “That sounds amazing!”
To be honest, I probably sensed that a storm was brewing in the back seat of our SUV, but I chose to ignore it. Preferring to bask, if only temporarily, in naivety, assuming that our morning routine would proceed uninterrupted. Surely this cloud would blow over. Jacob would hop out of the car in the drop-off line, run along the sidewalk with his Ninja Turtle backpack bouncing on his shoulders, and wave frantically as we drove slowly away. Then, we’d head to the drive thru to grab a coffee. There I would decide if I was going to lie about donut holes or just buy some. Then we’d head home and continue on with our day.
Of course, as is often the case, I was a fool. The crying started almost before we turned left at the traffic light to exit the school parking lot.
“No! No! No!” Bennett yelled. “Turn around and drop me off!”
I ignored him and kept driving. Instead of heading to the coffee shop, I decided to drive straight home. Quite a sacrifice, but one ultimately made in vain. He refused to get out of the car when we got home. I tried to talk him down by explaining that he wasn’t quite old enough, we needed him at home to play with his baby sister, Olivia, and he didn’t have a classroom to go to at Jacob’s school. Obviously, none of that nonsense worked.
So, I climbed back in the car and we drove back to the school.
After parking, loading Olivia into the stroller, and fitting Bennett with his backpack and lunchbox, we began the winding walk from the parking lot to the school office. I was happy it was a long walk because it gave me plenty of time to think about how this situation might end. Surprisingly, I was feeling pretty upbeat.
I pictured myself wheeling the stroller confidently through the office door, holding Bennett by the hand. Walking in, I say loudly to Bennett, “Okay, here we go! Time for school!”
Then I look up at the school officials standing behind the front desk and give them a little conspiratorial smile. “Bennett would like to go to school please,” I say, my whole person practically overflowing with confidence and joviality. “He is three and he would like to be escorted to your nearest kindergarten class. As you see, he has his backpack and lunchbox with him.”
Then I run my fingers through my hair like Hugh Grant in the movies and the school workers place their hands on their mouths to suppress admiring giggles.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, we were about ten feet from the office door when Bennett stopped suddenly and said, “Actually, I don’t want to go to school. Carry me back to the car.”
OH, THANK GOD!!! BENNETT, I LOVE YOU TO THE EARTH AND BACK! IF I HAD A FOOTBALL I WOULD HAVE SPIKED IT SO HARD!
Because despite the little Hugh Grant fantasy, I knew what was really going to happen if we walked in that door.
First, I would have walked in backwards because our stroller is a pain and I can never navigate doors going forward. I also would have walked in backwards on one foot while holding the door open with the other foot so I could get the stroller in. Then, I would have walked back out the door (backwards on one foot, of course) immediately because Bennett started crying because he wanted to open the door. Next, Bennett would have taken like five minutes to open the door so I could backwards flamingo my way back in again.
At this point, the whole school would have been staring. That’s not the worst part, though. Because then I would have started talking. Or, more accurately, stammering.
“Hi! Um…school…three! Bennett…kindergarten? Wait…backpack. But, you know, not really. Haha! Bye.”
Then, while Bennett cried and slumped to the floor, I would have given an apologetic smile that probably skewed slightly more psychopathic than conspiratorial, gathered up the would-be school goer, and hobbled under his weight out the door, backwards and on one foot.
But thanks to Bennett’s change of heart, that sad scene was averted. Needless to say, after such a stressful morning, I decided not to lie about the availability of donut holes as we went through the coffee shop drive thru. You have to pick your battles.