The line that was overused by my mother growing up irritated me to no end, “It’s not you I don’t trust, it’s the other people that I don’t trust”. Let’s get this straight: My mom is overprotective, teeth-gritting, hair-pulling overprotective. She might as well have shoved me in the kennel alongside my Labrador so she could’ve kept a better eye on my 12-year-old antics. I was not alone. Many teenagers live in a shadow of overprotective mothers but it is time to step out of the shadow and shed light on the reality of the situation our mothers are facing: the safety of their children. I learned a valuable lesson one day: that mothers always hold their children close to keep them safe, not to punish them.
It was a shopping day for my mother, my sisters and I; we were only able to make the 3 hour trip to Fredericton a few times a year from our remote and rural village of Plaster Rock. Excitement, and possibly a touch of car sickness, bubbled in my stomach as we entered Fredericton. It was time to get some confidence-boosting new clothes to show off in the hallways of our school on Monday morning. Parking in the crowded lot of the Regent Mall proved a hassle, which wasn’t surprising on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the end of summer vacation. Once mom parked the SUV in the spot farthest away from the entrance, (Mom didn’t want a single scratch or dent on her baby), we piled out and stretched; our muscles creaked and groaned from the car ride.
I set off first, all determination and purpose, but my mom hollered my name and I halted, inwardly groaning at the predictable delay. I spun on my heel and faced my mother, who was searching her oversized-20-pound purse for her phone.
“Ah-ha!” she took out her phone and advised me in her ‘stern’ tone, “Try to stay with your sisters please.”
“But Mummmm,” I couldn’t help but whine. I mean, my sisters were so slow, “Why don’t you trust me?”
Oh wait, oh no, she sucked in some air. Wait for it… “It’s not you I don’t trust, it’s the other people that I don’t trust.” Bam! So predictable.
I’m a lone ranger, so I make the worst shopping partner ever. I go at my own pace looking at and trying on whatever catches my eye and then speed walking from store to store. I could hardly keep track of myself, let alone my sisters who were annoying me that day.
The worst part was my mom actually thought that I was going to get abducted. Not that I was brushing aside the possibility; I wasn’t that naïve. I knew that the majority of my Kung-Fu skills came from watching Kung-Fu Panda and Karate Kid as a child, but have a little faith in me Mom. Bummed but not defeated, I plastered on my best innocent smile and nodded enthusiastically. I topped it off by waiting for my sisters to catch up at a painful pace, and followed them inside. Once my mom went out of sight, I took off alone.
That afternoon went by uneventfully; I got a new assortment of clothing: jeans, blouses, bras and leggings, the teenage female ‘essentials’. Mom hadn’t texted me in a tizzy yet for flying solo that day. She shouldn’t have been surprised really, since I did this every time we went somewhere. Honestly, I was, and still am, an overprotective mother’s nightmare.
Outside of Ardenes, I decided to take a well-earned break and plopped myself down on an empty bench. I was texting my sisters my whereabouts when I heard a wail coming from Toys R Us behind me. Thinking that a child didn’t get his Play-Doh, I turned in my seat to view the spectacle. Shockingly, the wail actually came from an older woman at the cash. She was hysterical as she begged the poor cashier to check the back rooms.
“He is only a little baby,” she sobbed, “I-I look away for one second, and-and-“, she buried her face in her hands, mortified by her behavior. The cashier, a young male who was probably planning his next employment, picked up the phone and had a quick conversation with the person on the other end. A middle-aged woman with the air of importance strode from the backroom and spoke some soothing words to the panicked mother. The mother nodded her head while wiping her puffy, red eyes, and attempted to steady her shaky breathing. She followed the woman into the backroom, and after about 10 minutes, they came back out shaking their heads, empty handed.
“Hey Mommy!!” A little boy stuck his head out from one of the plastic cars in the display case, “Look at me! I’m a good hider aren’t I?” He beamed with pride of his accomplishment.
If I could have taken a picture of this moment, it would have been a treasure. Capturing the expression of joy, anguish, fury, love and relief that shone through the mother’s face when her eyes found her baby boy, who was now safe and sound, moved me. It struck a chord in me, all too familiar, of my daily antics I performed on my mom. I was then ashamed of myself and the worry I have caused my mom, even though harming her psychologically was never my intention; I just had a free, independent spirit. As I watched his mother sweeping him into her arms, laughing off her anxiety, I understood children are not put on a tight leash to be punished, but it’s our mother’s way of keeping us safe.
Later on, once my mom realized I went off on my own again, she was frustrated but not surprised. She expected it by now, with her lecture well-practiced and ready on the tip of her tongue, yet I realized that didn’t ease her constant worry for me. Even though I don’t fully understand the nature of mothers, since I’m thankfully not one myself, I respect her more now for what she has and continually endured because of me. When I get annoyed now by my mom’s constant nagging and frequent checking-in, I remind myself of the mother in the Toys R Us. I realized a mother’s love will always have her searching for her children no matter where they go or how old they get.