M came home a few days ago with the sticker worn off her bus pass. (She long ago lost the lanyard and protective cover, but the bus pass, somehow, still remains.) I carefully wrote all her information on a new sticker and stuck it to the bus pass, feeling like a good, responsible mom.
The next day, she got off the bus, and as I tucked the bus pass into her backpack, I noticed the sticker was shredded beyond recognition. “M, what happened to your sticker?”
“It fell off.”
“I was licking it.”
“First of all, ew, and second, why?”
“I don’t know. It seemed fun.”
The thing that amazes me most, both in working with children and having my own, is the number of ideas they come up with that I never dreamed of. I tell them all the usual things: “Don’t run in the street,” “Don’t put scissors in the electrical socket,” “Don’t eat old snow because birds pee on it,” etc. Sometimes, I even see the logic in her ideas. I can understand unwinding a roll of painter’s tape around chair legs to make a zoo for stuffed animals. I can see grinding up pieces of chalk, mixing them with juice and painting the driveway. I can see, though I cringe, why you might want to climb a tree with a scooter and see if you can ride it down. (You can’t.) I did not predict that sucking stickers off her bus pass would become a hobby.
She gave me such a look when I told her that she must absolutely stop doing that. First of all because it’s gross, but also because it doesn’t help anyone if she scans a blank bus pass. She fixed me with a pained look, as though I could never understand what I was depriving her of. “Okay,” she muttered with a sigh, “I’ll try. But it’s so hard.”
Nobody ever teaches you what to say in these situations. “I’m sure you’ll do your best,” I replied. I don’t know. Maybe I am depriving her of some great joy or valuable nutrients. She looked so glum as she trudged off to the bus. I’m sure I did these things as a child, too, but I gained no great insight on why. Just another of the many strange incidents that you encounter, shrug, and hope the kid grows out of it before her first job interview.