February 6, 2014 3:40 pm Rush Hour
Suzy Lawrence tucked four-year-old Lilly and six-year-old Bailey into bed. Several stories had been read and the children were very content. As Suzy reached to put out the light, she said, “Girls, I need your help tomorrow. I’m running the book fair at Bailey’s school. We will need to be in the car by 7:30. No dilly-dallying! Understood?”
The girls were silent. Suzy thought for a minute they were possibly asleep. Then Bailey said, “Okay. We’ll try our best, Mommy.”
“I want you to be happy, Mommy, so I will really try.”
“Alright, girls. Goodnight.”
Bailey whispered through the dark air, “Mommy is so different. We better really not be slow tomorrow.”
“I know. I’ll wear my pink corduroys and my blue sweater,” Lilly whispered back.
Bailey put the light back on, and got up. “I don’t know what I should wear.” She found yellow pants and a white sweater and put them on a chair before getting back in bed.
“Girls, I hope you are not talking,” their mother called. “Put out that light, now!”
After tossing around in their beds the children fell asleep. Lilly woke up in the middle of the night. She got dressed and climbed back into bed, thinking about her mother’s new voice. Finally, she drifted off.
Tom Lawrence, the girls’ father got up very early every day. Both girls heard him getting ready for work and got up to see him.
“Hi Daddy” Lilly quietly called out.
“Sweethearts, what a happy surprise. I must have been too loud this morning.”
“Oh no, we need to be up, so it was good that we heard you.”
“Oh yeah, what do you need to do? Homework?”
“We have to be all ready early because Mommy has to set up for the book fair. Today is the first day,” Bailey explained.
“Oh, that’s right. How could I have forgotten? Mommy will be so happy with you. Lilly, you are already dressed. What a helper.”
Lilly looked down at her crumpled pants. “I woke up in the middle of the night. I was so afraid I would make Mommy late.”
In the kitchen, Tom made coffee and some toast. Lilly studied her father. He was so calm and happy. He handed Lilly a half a piece of toast with a smile.
“When you get up early, you have to eat a little something, too. Here’s a piece for you, Bailey.”
“Thank you. This toast is good. Daddy, could we go with you?
Then we will be no trouble to Mommy. We could draw and make things in your office.”
“Please?” Lilly said pleadingly.
“Oh dear girls, I can’t take you. I wish I could.”
Lilly patted her father’s hand with her still buttery fingers and he kissed his children goodbye.
The girls heard their mother’s footsteps. Both of them jumped.
“Girls, it is 5:30! Whatever are you doing?”
“We couldn’t sleep and we heard Daddy. We’re all ready.”
“Go watch Cuddle Bunnies for a while. I need to think. This is my big day, remember?” Suzy said, with an unfamiliar coolness.
The girls slowly walked out of the kitchen and went back upstairs.
Lilly sat down on Bailey’s bed. “Mommy isn’t happy, Lilly and I feel sort of sick.” Bailey had tears in her eyes.
Lilly felt sad too. “Maybe she’s scared about her book fair.”
The tired little girls got onto Bailey’s bed holding hands. In seconds they were asleep.
Suzy came into their room at 7:15 and went ballistic. “Back to bed? Today? Are you kidding? I am so surprised at you two. Get up before I count to three. One…”
Jumping up, the girls ran downstairs, grabbed their coats and school bags and ran to the car. Bailey checked that Lilly was buckled in.
Suzy almost flew out of the house to the car. She started the car and sped down the driveway to the road.
When they reached Lilly’s school, both girls immediately got out of the car. They had to run to keep up with their mother, who went straight to Lilly’s classroom.
Suzy turned. “Lilly, no leg clinging. I have to go today!”
Mrs. Gardener, sensing a bit of familial strife, walked over. Bailey waved, “Bye Lilly. See you after school.”
Lilly held tightly onto Bailey’s coat.
“It’s not about you today, Lilly. Stop this nonsense. Bailey, come on.” Suzy almost stamped her foot.
Mrs. Gardener took Lilly’s hand. “I’m making new paint colors. I was hoping you’d help me. Should we make that purple again?”
Lilly let out a bleat as her mother and Bailey ran down the hall. Bailey looked back at Lilly and waved.
Mrs. Gardener’s warm hand on her shoulder soothed Lilly. She slowly stirred red and blue and saw the magic of purple. She smiled but knew she hadn’t ever felt so sad before.
“Sit with me, Lilly,” Katie said cheerfully. Lilly sniffled a bit but cheered up as she drew a purple flower next to her friend.
After lunch Mrs. Gardener read Peter Rabbit. Lilly fell fast asleep. In fact, when Suzy came into to pick her little girl up, she was surprised to see her still asleep, under her little pink and red striped blanket, oblivious to her busy classmates.
“I was so consumed with getting to Bailey’s book fair on time, I think I really frightened the girls. My need to be early was out of hand. The books flew off their racks without much help from me. There was no need to rush the girls so much.”
Mrs. Gardener smiled. “That’s a great lesson to learn. Lilly will be happy to see you.”
Lilly began to stir. Suzy went over to her.
“Hello sweetheart. I am back to being Mommy. I am sorry I was such a pain to you and Bailey.”
“Mommy, you’re happy again. Can we go pickup Bailey now?”
“Yes, dear and we will stop at Percy’s for a little treat.”
The children waved to Lilly as she walked down the wide hallway, holding her mother’s hand. As they reached the door, Lilly gave one more wave. Katie was still there, smiling at her friend.
Rushing children almost always backfires. As they sense that things are different, they respond in a variety of ways, most of which never speed things up. Suzy’s relentless advance warning obviously made the little girls very upset, as did her sudden lack of patience and warmth. They were saddened and upset by their inability to please her. A fortunate thing was that these children had each other.
Suzy will now know how to make her time with her children peaceful and productive when her next big undertaking comes along. She also knows how not to be next time.
Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.
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