The book bag struggle

I looked down at my pleading 5-year-old and stood firm.

We were at Eddie Bauer with my rewards dollars. Joey wandered over to the hiking area, coveting a bright green $100 Adventure backpack. It was bigger than he was.

“I think I’m going to need this for kindergarten.”

“No. That’s more than I’ve ever spent on a purse in my life,” I replied.

Joey continued to follow me around the store begging and offering to pay me back once he had a job. You know. In 11 years.

I threw out what I thought to be a negotiation killer.

“If I get you this bag, it goes with you to college. You are not getting another book bag for the rest of your life.”

Surprisingly, Joey quickly agreed.

Joey is in sixth grade now. The bag is 6 years old. When I retrieved something out of it the other day, I noticed it was torn and filthy. It looked like it had survived several combat missions. While his older brothers clamored for different, trendier bags every year, Joey had stuck with his solemn word. I was about to put it in the laundry.

“You can’t wash it, mom. The dirt is what’s holding it together!”

I was once a very consistent parent. What I said was law. Over the years, I’ve been beaten down, and I now forfeit more battles than I win. My older boys know this and push the limit.

But Cap’n Literal? He still thinks of me as an immovable object.

I decided to let him off the hook. I told him he needed a new book bag and we’d look for one over the weekend.

“NO! I want to bring this one to college. It holds all my memories.”

“Joey, the bottom is about to fall out.”

“We do nothing until that happens.”

The idea of the bag collapsing on the way to school toting Joey’s books and random treasures made me nervous. I envisioned my youngest child stopping traffic on Western Avenue to collect homework and Wiffle balls.

Yet I admire his integrity.

Not too many 5-year-olds negotiate a deal and stick to it a whole lifetime later.

In an era where everything is disposable and promises are broken when the wind blows, I had a child who valued his word. 

Then I remembered Joey had once promised he was going to live in an RV in our driveway with his five dogs forever.

I am so screwed.


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This article originally published in November 2019 issue. Read the rest of the issue.  

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