You’re not supposed to be here, you know. You’re just a baby, and babies don’t sit in the front seat. Everyone knows that.
But, here you are.
You’re supposed to be sitting in the back seat, a bundle of soft blankets, dimpled arms, and chunky thighs, alternately cooing and grunting and screaming your head off. And I’m supposed to be dividing my attention between the road and the rearview mirror that reflects your round face back to me, trying to decipher the sounds you’re making. Snack? Toy? Diaper?
You’re not supposed to be changing the radio station. That’s my job. You’re definitely not supposed to sing along to this music, if you can even call it that. I appreciate that you make a point to skip the bad words. You see, all you’re supposed to do is clap and squeal when I decide whether we feel like listening to either Elmo or Veggie Tales on our morning ride. But, here you are, jabbing those nail-bitten fingers at the presets in a rapid-fire succession that’s at once both incredibly annoying and highly impressive. It’s a skill that you almost certainly inherited or learned from me, along with the nail-biting. But, instead of making me proud, it makes me worry about what a detriment the station-seeking habit will be once you are the one behind the wheel. And those nails. You’re not supposed to bite them. It’s a habit you’ll never break. Trust me on this one.
You’re not supposed to be wearing my jacket. Because my jacket is not supposed to fit you so perfectly. When did you even get it out of the closet? I was supposed to do that for you. You’re supposed to be giving me your toughest fight, bending and squirming, as I try and shimmy your noodle arms into the sleeves of an overly stuffed jacket that’s too heavy for this slightly chilled day. I’m supposed to be grappling with your zipper, and when I finally get the darn thing all the way to the top, I’m supposed to give your sweet button nose a little boop. That’s when we’re supposed to laugh.
You’re not supposed to be trying your hardest to look away from me, with your jaw, the same as my jaw from 20 years ago, clamped shut, so determined not to let a bit of information leak out. You’re supposed to be demanding my attention with a string of continuous Mama, Mama,Mamas until I finally say, too sharply, “What?” You’re supposed to ignore my impatience and tell me a neverending story about the caterpillar you saw on the playground. You’re supposed to be amazed by all the smallest happenings of our day. You’re not supposed to be flippant and prematurely world-weary.
You’re not supposed to be jumping out of this passenger seat and striding into a building full of teenagers all by yourself. You’re supposed to be holding out your arms to me as I unclick you from the backseat. You’re supposed to take my hand, and I’m supposed to carry your lunchbox, and we’re supposed to walk into our quaint preschool together. You’re supposed to get a little teary, and even if I feel like I might, too, I’m supposed to steady my quivering chin and give you a quick hug and tell you it will all be fine, and I’ll be back before you know it.
I’m not supposed to pull up, let you out, and just drive away. You’re not supposed to be able to steady your chin, pull on that heavy-laden backpack, and stride ahead without a single glance back.
But here we are.
And there you go.
Doing what you’re supposed to do.
Being where you’re supposed to be.
So now what am I supposed to do?
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