I had an epiphany the other day about a horrifying topic. Because I’m me, I didn’t panic. Instead, I decided to write about it. It all went down in a matter of seconds: the epiphany, the acknowledgement (“Hmm. That was sort of disturbing…”) and then the laugh. Here goes.
I know why people kill their own children. It isn’t because moms and dads are insane, or because they suddenly “snap.” It’s much simpler than that. The reason parents kill their own children is because it’s easier than teaching them how to organize their backpacks.
If you don’t believe me, go and find a random twelve year old boy, preferably one with both fresh and long-term stains on his shirt, a green Gatorade mustache outlining his upper lip and a ratty baseball cap slapped on his head backwards. Ask him if he thinks he’s dressed appropriately for going out to dinner at a restaurant where you look down to read a menu and not up. When he answers, “Yeah, why?” you’ll know you’ve got your control group. Look into this boy’s backpack. Try not to laugh or cry. It won’t be easy. Next, have a conversation with your control group during which you attempt to explain the benefits of having an organized backpack. Here’s what to expect:
Before you are finished with your first sentence, his gaze will shift from your face to something compelling off in the distance, like a moth flying erratically, or a gentle breeze. After another sentence or two, he’ll begin glancing around, mentally plotting his escape. If your mouth stops moving for more than three seconds, he’ll take it as his prompt to speak. Expect him to say, “Uh huh” or if you’re really lucky, “Ok.” You’ll know the conversation is finished when it hits you that it may be simpler to just cook him and eat him than continue talking.
There isn’t a doubt in my mind that if the forensics teams who investigate crime scenes that involve parents and children would shift their focus one muddy tennis shoe to the left, they’d have their motive. Instead, they enter a room and ignore the obvious. Stepping over the ever-present backpack, they begin throwing ideas out in the effort to figure out just what the hell happened.
“Hey, Mack, look over here. An empty bottle of Prozac. Mom went off her meds.”
“I guess that about does it, Frank. C’mon, let’s go interview the neighbors.”
It’s troublesome to me that in crime dramas, entire cases are culled from interviews with the neighbors, as if the guy next door has some kind of supreme knowledge or ability to see through walls. What do neighbors know about what goes on in other people’s homes? As evidenced recently, neighbors don’t even know if a family of three is living in a tent on the other side of a fence not fifteen feet away from their summer cook-out – FOR EIGHTEEN SUMMERS IN A ROW!
On the way out the door, the detectives finally notice the backpack, unzipped for the world to see: Piles of wadded up papers, inch long pencils sharpened to a razor point, a binder with nothing in it, a couple of bent up cootie catchers and one dirty sock. How do they not see that something is very, very wrong with this situation?? Tsk, tsk, they think to themselves. The poor kid was probably just minding his own business, doing his homework and ka-POW!
I have a sneaking suspicion of my own. I think the last few minutes of the kid’s life included a conversation similar to the following:
“Mom, have you seen the rough draft of my report on Ancient Rome?”
“No. Have you checked your backpack?”
“It isn’t there. It’s not anywhere. It’s gone.”
“It must be in your backpack. Here, let me look.” (The beginning of The End.)
“Mom, it isn’t in there and I’ve got to find it! It’s due tomorrow!”
Opening the backpack, the fully confident mom is sure she will find the very same folder she watched her son label ‘History Homework’ at the beginning of the year. I mean, why the heck not?
Pulling out the bright red folder, the one that even a twelve-year old boy couldn’t miss from fifty feet away, mom holds it up. She smiles. She is proud of herself. Her son, on the other hand, isn’t feeling her joy. He’s scowling.
“I don’t keep it in there, MOM!”
Confused by his reply, mom keeps trying, in her patient mom voice.
“Where was it the last time you saw it?”
(The End is near.)
A cast iron frying pan on the stove catches mom’s eye. Her hand twitches. The boy responds:
“Right where I always keep it! Folded up under the placemat next to the cookie jar!”