There’s a story in my family lore about a time when I was in first grade. The bus home from St. Catherine’s stalled or something, so my brothers, third and fourth graders, decided to walk home (I stayed on the bus). The principal saw them and picked them up as they were walking down Brown Deer Road and drove them home. I don’t remember if they got into any trouble, but it’s a sort of funny story we laugh at now and then. You know, kids! Ha!
Not nearly as funny when it is your own four-year-old daughter who decides she didn’t want to be at mom’s boot camp class any longer.
She is sitting in her bed with a tear-stained face and I am sitting in the living room still shaking. Half-way through class, my beautiful barnacle left her spot in the gym where she lays around, eats snacks and occasionally looks balefully across the room at me. I saw her putting on her shoes and assumed she was going in to the kids’ playroom across the hall. Except that she wasn’t. I saw her through the window a few minutes later across the parking lot, in her daffodil-yellow jacket near the road thinking about which way to go. She was going to walk home. By herself.
Never mind that it is 3 1/2 miles and she doesn’t know the way.
Enter the scene where I run out of the gym and grab her, haul her back inside and tell her to not move, at all, while I gather our stuff. And then, while she cries, I buckle her in and scream at her the whole way home. About leaving without telling me, about crossing parking lots and roads, about how little she is, about what could have happened, about fear. I screamed at her about how little I care if she is bored for the forty minutes of the whole day that I get to myself, how she made a choice to sit rather than play with kids, about how she doesn’t know her last name, or her address, or her phone number, about what she would do if a stranger tried to help her. I didn’t bring up the what if a stranger tried to not help her which is too hard to even write.
Finally, she said “Please stop yelling about this.” And I took a big breath. And I did stop yelling. We got home and I took a shower while she laid in her bed, and came up with the meaningless punishment of no screen time for an entire week and that she has no choice any longer, that she will be in the kids’ room at boot camp and will not get to leave. She cried and quietly said, “Okay, mommy……..what’s a week?”
So, let’s applaud her independence, and hope to God that it has been properly squashed for now. Tell me this is the story we laugh about when she’s 30 and a CEO.