My ten-year-old son is not what you'd call easygoing.
Sometimes, depending on what mood you catch him in, he's more tolerant of things. But when he's grumpy to begin with? Watch out. It's like living with an old man whose pudding is too lumpy. The complaints start rolling in. My socks are itchy. This tag in my shirt is scratchy. The air conditioner is too cold. My nose is stuffy. Yesterday, he griped because one of his brothers held eye contact with him for .0275 seconds too long.
Don't get me wrong - he's not a sourpuss all the time. But it happens enough for us to be accustomed to it. And because we're so used to hearing him kvetch about random (mostly minor, often ridiculous) issues, we tend to tune it out sometimes.
So when he came home complaining that his brand-new backpack smelled like pee, it didn't even register at first.
"Smell it!" he insisted. "Right here!" Jab, jab, jab with a finger at the offending spot.
To appease him, I sniffed. It had a burnt-rubberish smell. "That's just the smell of the foam rubber padding inside," I said. "They put it in there to make it more comfortable against your back."
"IT'S PEE," he huffed stubbornly. I rolled my eyes and hung his backpack on its hook. End of conversation.
The next morning before school, I caught him trying to persuade his first-grade brother to trade backpacks - even though Coby's is camouflage, not at all Colin's style.
"Colin. Use your own backpack."
"But it smells like pee!" he argued.
I gave him "the look." He took his own backpack to school.
That afternoon, when he walked through the door, he started immediately harping on the pee smell. His backpack was gross, he couldn't stand the smell of pee, he just wanted to throw it away and use his backpack from last year. And I lost it.
"Colin!" I snapped, irritable. "We just paid good money for that nice new backpack. You are going to use it and you are going to like it. That smell is not pee. It's just the foam rubber padding. It will go away. Now stop complaining about it!"
"Well my teacher thought it smelled," said Colin. "And so did my guidance counselor."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. This child! "You ... went to the guidance counselor because your backpack smells like urine?"
He shrugged. "I wanted another opinion."
At that point, I just couldn't even. I held up my hand to let him know that the argument was over, and walked down the hallway.
As I neared the end of the hall, I noticed that my second-grader, Cameron, had thrown his backpack on the floor. His is the same brand and style as Colin's - just a different color. And I noticed that our cat, Vanessa, had just been standing on it.
Oh no. No no no no no.
I snatched up the backpack, squinting, and sure enough - there was a small wet spot. Right on the foam padding.
I sniffed. Burnt rubber.
The same smell that was on Colin's backpack.
And then it all came together. Nessa isn't spayed, and she's currently in heat. And when she's in heat, she tends to pee in weird places - never on the carpet, thank goodness, but in my potted plant or the dustpan or someplace crazy like that. Or, you know, on a backpack.
Being wrong when you've insisted you're right is bad enough. Being wrong when it's your kid who's right is even worse. But, I had to eat crow. So I apologized to Colin - who, because he's a good kid, didn't even gloat - then cleaned up the backpacks.
Next on my to-do list: call the vet to get Nessa's "girl problems" taken care of once and for all.