“But what I really like are Margarita-flavored wine coolers.”


Seeing as I was trying not to allow myself to be drawn into this conversation any more than was necessary, I tried to make my answering “mmmm?” sound polite, yet noncommital. Not that I didn’t find the subject interesting, mind you (who wouldn’t be interested in combining tequila and wine–talk about “two great tastes that taste great together”), but because I was trying to limit the amount of time I would have to spend conversing, period; after all, standing in a South Phoenix dollar store discussing the relative merits of various types of fine malt liquor was not exactly how I had planned on spending my weekend getaway. Of course, I hadn’t planned much of anything, which is what had gotten me into this mess in the first place.

In my defense, at least it was planned unplanning. The plan was that I would allow my almost 12-year-old daughter, Clementine, to pack her own bag for a weekend trip to Phoenix. No checking behind her back, and no asking leading questions–if she said that she was ready, then that was it: I would believe her and we would go. It would be, I thought, good practice for all those times in the not-so-distant future when she really would be the one who was solely responsible for the contents of her bag. Besides, I figured: it’s only a two day trip–how far wrong could she go if she was only packing for two days? And so, aside from stashing an extra toothbrush in my own bag, I trusted her when she said that her bag was “all packed and ready to go.” Which goes a long way to explaining the laughter I heard as my husband started putting all of our things away in the hotel drawers.

“What’s so funny?” I asked him with a growing sense of dread as he stood chuckling over Clementine’s Harry Potter backpack. Without a word he laid out her entire wardrobe for the next two days–two days that were to include nothing but swimming in the hotel pool and watching a Diamondbacks game: first, a formal, full-length dress; then a heavy sweatshirt; and finally, three gloves (not three pairs of gloves–three gloves). That was it. As he pulled each item out of the bag–each more bizarre than the next–I couldn’t help but expect the whole thing to turn into some sort of Mary Poppins-esque montage. In other words, it wouldn’t have surprised me in the least to see him pull out a snowshoe, a stuffed swordfish or a barber pole; after all, any of those items would have been just as useless and odd as what she brought.

Since I was unwilling to let go of my original belief that this was all “good practice,” I decided that I would make her actually live with the results of her packing for the duration of our trip. This, of course, lasted less than twelve hours, after I realized that, really, no one would suffer more from Clementine’s inability to enjoy the weekend than myself. However, in a last ditch effort to keep the “lesson” part of the weekend alive, I declared I would not spend any more money than necessary on replacing the forgotten items. Which is why I ended up spending my first morning not lounging by the pool, but rather looking for cheap swim wear in a dollar store.

Still, even though this particular version of the independence trial run was a failure, I remain committed to the idea of it; after all, no one expects a kid to drive a car without first taking a few lessons–why should other aspects of growing up be any different?

Besides which: those margarita-flavored wine coolers turned out to be pretty good.

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