September 4, 2014 12:44 pm Scaredy Cats
Jane and Lizzy had been close friends in high school and, as both recently moved back to their hometown, their friendship felt current and even stronger. Both were married with young children and they often shared parenting notes with each other.
On one bright morning, they met at the local beach. They settled into their beach chairs, sipping iced coffee as they looked at the beautiful still water of the Sound. They were happyto be together.
“So how are you, Jane?” Lizzy asked thoughtfully. “How’s our man Jake doing?”
Jane seemed suddenly troubled. “You know, Lizzy, sometimes I’m afraid of Jake.”
“Afraid? Why?” Lizzy looked hard at her friend.
“A crazy thing happened the other day,” Jane began. “Nana, Tom’s mother visited for a few days. She wanted to treat Jake to a new pair of sneakers. It seemed like a great idea and was so nice of her. But the second we walked into the shoe store, Jake went berserk. He started standing on chairs and pretending to tip over, making loud fake falling cries. Once he tried on the sneakers he wanted, Jake began to run around the store making a roaring sound, as if he were a sports car. He wouldn’t stop.“
“Oh, no!” Lizzy murmured sympathetically. “How embarrassing!”
Jane continued. “The shop owner knows us. He tried to grab Jake’s arm, and Jake started screaming, “You’re hurting me. Ouch!”
“I mean the guy was hardly touching him.”
“Nana said, calmly but definitely, ‘Let’s go! This is ridiculous.’ She took Jake by the arm, paid for the sneakers and got out of the shop with me trailing behind. Jake stomped and kicked but Nana said nothing. She kept on walking him to our car. Opening the back door she waited silently for him to get into his car seat and buckled him in. Then she got in on the passenger side. I was so embarrassed, I wanted to just walk away, but I got in, holding Jake’s old sneakers, and patted Nana’s freckly arm.”
“Sorry, Nana. I don’t know what got into Jake. Thanks for handling him so calmly.” I was shaking.
“How awful,” Lizzy shook her head. “Then what?”
“Jake kicked the back of Nana’s seat a few times and then stopped. And as we drove past the park, he said, “I guess no swings for me.”
“That’s right,’ I told him.”
“In the end it was a relief for me, Lizzy, to have someone else see Jake as a total pain. Nana’s firm way helped me so much and so simply. I still do live in fear of Jake’s wrath but he thinks I am a bit stronger. I hope I can keep feeling strong.”
Lizzy patted my hand. “Jane, I know all about it. Listening to you really helps me. Sophie is a darling and then a total nightmare. I am always trying to patch things up so there is no outburst. Maybe I can rent Nana for a day. The other day, Sophie stood on a chair to get my antique Guatemalan doll. She knows she’s not allowed to touch it. As she reached for it, she fell off the chair and hit her elbow on a table. She screamed and screamed. I know she was frightened, and fortunately unhurt, but the screaming was really overdone so I wouldn’t be upset with her. I found myself yielding, right into her little web, to keep her from going nuts.”
“God,” said Jane. “What’s wrong with us? Our mothers would never have stood for that kind of behavior. Nor would we have behaved that way for a minute.”
They stared at each other, each seriously searching for answers. Then Lizzy looked at her watch. “Oh no I have to go. Library time at Sophie’s school.”
The young mothers folded up their chairs quickly and hurried off the beach. In the parking lot, they hugged. “See you Tuesday,” Lizzy said. “Maybe we can help each other stop being scaredy cat mothers with our four year olds.”
Jane agreed. “We can do it. We need to remember Nana and stay quiet and calm, but stop the behavior.”
Lizzy closed her trunk. “Just hearing your confidence makes me know it’s possible. Being in this together will be such a support. I’ll be thinking of you.”
“Me too, Lizzy,” Jane said wistfully.
As they drove out of the parking lot, Jane rolled down her window and called, “No more scaredy cats! Supermoms!”
Lizzy laughed and honked her horn like mad. As she drove out of the beach’s wooden gates, she thought, “Forget Supermoms. How about just being moms?”
Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.
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