Last week, her class went on a field trip to the beltline; a fancy way of saying that they went for a walk. She was wearing sneakers that day and the comfiest pair of unicorn sweatpants that you’ve ever seen. I packed her a healthy lunch for the journey which included a turkey sandwich, some delicious red grapes, and a zip lock bag full of veggie sticks, along with an ice-cold bottle of city tap water to guzzle down whenever the desert sun of the Atlanta skies was too much for her to bear.
When I picked her up at school that afternoon, it was obvious that something was wrong. But when I asked what was it was, she shrugged and said nothing.” The second time I questioned her, she glared back at me with one eye and then rolled it in a tiny circle like she was visually chasing a fly. Again, she said nothing. When we got to the car, I gave it one last try by tossing out a few unrelated questions to rule out a friend war and then I asked about the field trip. The next thing I knew, she was Lindsay Lohan—three days after the paparazzi snapped a picture of her eating a Big Mac in the backseat of a Prius—tears were everywhere. She proceeded to wail, uninterrupted, for a solid four minutes while complaining of aches and pains: her feet hurt; she was sweating hot, and starving. It was like a scene out of Shawshank Redemption, and I waited for her award-winning performance to end before gently placing a thermos full of chilled watermelon in her delicately troubled hands.
The next morning, all of the parents received an email from the teacher encouraging us to use our holiday break as an opportunity to get off our asses and play with the kids outdoors. Though he addressed it to the entire class, it was clear that he wrote it for me, and I couldn’t help but laugh. Apparently, the grievances my daughter had over foot pain and hunger had been shared with him while they wandered down a popular urban pathway as a dry run for a much longer walk in the future. I pity the fool that gets to hold her hand during that trip.
I love the confidence that our teacher has in my child. He thinks that she will complain less if she spends more time doing things she doesn’t enjoy; like walking in the hot sun on an empty stomach. What he doesn’t (yet) know is that she never touched her lunch that day. Why? Who the hell knows? She was probably too busy complaining about nothing, but it turns out that the deprivation component of her ailment was very real because she hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast.
Kids like to complain. It gives them a sense of purpose, but the nagging drip of a whining little girl is one of the worst sounds in the world. I keep thinking it will end one day that I will wake to the sound of birds singing outside my window and my child whistling along in harmony. The funny thing is that I also keep thinking I’ll win the lottery. I wonder which one has better odds of happening.