I once read the book The Boy on the Bus by Deborah Schupack. I believe this book was born out of the very familiar and somewhat unsettling concept that children tend to change just a little bit each day, until one day you look at your kid and you think, There is something vaguely unfamiliar about this child. Is this really my child?
The book itself was unsatisfying in its lack of resolution, but the premise of the book is that the boy who gets off the school bus one afternoon is not the same boy who got on the bus that morning. He looks almost like the same boy, but there are things that are just a bit off about the child.
I would like to admit this is a fairly universal experience for parents. Well, it is for me, at any rate. The child who leaves my house in the morning is sometimes very different from the child who comes home that afternoon—whether in mood or demeanor. And every now and then, the child even looks just different enough that I question myself. Is this really my child? Maybe not.
Earlier this summer, when I retrieved a child (my child) from a week at camp, I hesitate to admit that I almost didn’t recognize him. It had only been a week, after all. What kind of mother doesn’t recognize her own son after only a week??
Well, first off, he was wearing a baseball cap. The same red baseball cap that adorned the heads of all of the campers on that day. And my kid doesn’t wear a baseball cap. He hasn’t since he was about six or so. Second, all of the campers were dressed alike. And third, he had gotten a haircut right before he left. His hair was a bit shorter than usual, making him look older than I was used to. Therefore, I would attribute my brief lapse in recognition to the combination of those obscuring traits.
It took me an extra minute or two to find my child that day. But even on a regular day, I can look at one of my children, recognize something unfamiliar, and have the unsettling thought, Maybe this is not the same child….
*image is a silhouette of my child at sunset