February 28, 2013 6:00 pm Boot Camp
Two little girls were in a luncheonette with their mother, finishing up their grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate milk. Their mother had planned the lunch as a treat. She also wanted to look for boots for herself at a shoe store that was having a huge sale.
“This is really fun,” she said.
“It is, Mommy. I love it here,” said Sally, the oldest, who was four.
“Me too,” said her little sister Annie.
They put on their coats and went to the car. Once the children were buckled into their car seats, the mother turned and looked at them. “Girls, I need new boots. Winter is coming and my feet will be cold without them. We are going to stop at a store. Can you be good for a few minutes while I try on boots?” Both girls nodded, and off they went to the shoe sale.
Once in the store, the mother picked out a few pairs of boots to try on and sat down. The shelves full of shoes and boots arranged by size were tantalizing to Annie. In no time, the lowest shelf was in a wild state of disarray. The beige carpet was full of mismatched boots and shoes that Annie was lining up in a ‘parade.’
Sally was fascinated with the stainless steel foot measure. She measured her own sneakered feet and tried to measure Annie’s but her sister wasn’t interested. She dragged the measure over to her mother, who was trying on boots that she had wanted for months, and wondering if she should buy one pair or two. As Sally passed a rack of brightly colored socks, she knocked several pairs onto the floor without noticing.
The sales people were glaring. “This is not a nursery school!” said one. “Really!”
The mother suddenly became aware of the chaos unfolding. With a boot on one foot, she stood up. “Girls, what are you doing? You’ve made a terrible mess!” Hopping around, she began to pick up shoes and put them on the shelf. Annie screamed to see her shoe parade being disrupted.
One of the saleswomen stepped forward. “Madam, I will put the shoes back. Maybe you should come back and shop without your children.”
“That’s a novel idea!” said one of the customers. Embarrassed, apologizing profusely, the mother grabbed the coats and the children and escaped.
She put the girls in the car and drove home. “I am very upset! I took you to your favorite place for lunch. I just wanted to look at some boots. I don’t think it was too much to ask for you to wait patiently for a little while and let me try on a few pairs. We can’t always do what you want. I won’t be able to take you places if you can’t behave. Now I have no boots!” Her tirade lasted all the way home. Both girls were crying when they got there.
The mother’s wish was so reasonable. She just wanted a little cooperation for a short time. The boot sale was important to her. The children’s interest in playing with the shoes was understandable as well. The shoe store seemed to them like a perfect place to play. They were more than willing to amuse themselves and give her time to look at boots. Yet all three ended up miserable.
Sometimes what seems like a reasonable request by a parent to children turns out to be an impossible one. The nature of children, their desire to explore, touch, rearrange in new situations, makes it hard for them to sit quietly while the parent is absorbed in a conversation or purchase. With all good intentions, everyone involved in this incident lost out.
This is a situation where a babysitter or friend could have made a huge difference. By staying with the girls, either at home or in the car, she would have allowed the mother a peaceful shopping experience. The saleswomen and customers would have had a pleasant afternoon. The girls would have had fun. The mother would have her new boots.
Life with very young children makes everything nicer. There are unquestionably times where parents and children have to adjust their lives so they can be together with contentment and happiness. As these changes are made, everyone is able to live more fully and feel their good fortune to have each other.
Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.
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