Abandon Ship by Noreen Heffernan


Let me set the scene. My (almost) 3 year old daughter didn’t take a nap. We were on vacation out east with my in-laws. There were a lot of people over, some of them I have met before and some of them I have never met; my husband’s very warm and inviting family friends. It was about 3 pm, prime meltdown mode via no nap. It was at that time that a boat ride was decided. My older daughter didn’t want to go (thank goodness). I was determined to distract the little one right out of it, but it didn’t work. She had her Dora life jacket on and she was ready to go, determined to go. I really wanted someone to say that there wasn’t enough room for us, but there was. Of course there was. On the walk over, I knew. I just knew. This won’t go well.

Did you ever decide that mid-event/trip/excursion, that it was enough? That you couldn’t take another minute and so you ABORT the mission? It can happen anywhere, the park, the pool, the museum. All of the sudden, enough is enough. Even on the ride over, you know. You know it is a mistake. Someone won’t be able to take it. Someone is going to lose it. Maybe it will be you? Most likely, it will be them. So you decide at that MOMENT…”we are leaving.” Pack it up. It’s over. It could literally be 5 minutes into it but it doesn’t matter. You are done.

On a bright sunny Saturday, as a Mom, that was me. I got myself into a situation where I needed to ABORT. And so, I did what I had to do. I had to Abandon Ship.

At the beginning of the boat ride, she was fine. But then everyone started tubing and she wanted to go. She was too little, of course, and the tube was too small for two people and so I had to say no. Well, that was not on her little agenda. Her little 2 ½ year old mind could not possibly fathom this alternate scenario. She screamed and cried. I knew it was coming. I sensed it early on. The tubing and the fact that she wasn’t allowed to drive the boat, just exacerbated it. She didn’t stop and at that point, I needed to get off. I needed to get out. She was tantruming in a small, somewhat unsafe space. Everyone was having a blast, enjoying the sun, riding the tube, and I was trying to think of an escape plan. I finally told my father in law; we need to be dropped off. (Not to mention the fact that my husband had scheduled a dinner with clients and I had to be ready by 6 pm). It was 4:45.

I sat and talked to her in a quiet voice and she somewhat calmed down, but I knew another storm was brewing. One misstep and it could be set off.

And so, he stopped the boat about 30 feet from the shore. Brain overload. I guess I assumed we would be dropped off at the dock, but because everyone was still tubing, this seemed to be our only exit option. But I’m fully dressed, I thought. I didn’t have time to get into my bathing suit before the ride. My husband and a few other people were floating on rafts along the shore of the bay and I handed our little one over board to my husband. He passed her along. I, on the other hand, was fully clothed, still decked out in my 4th of July red and white striped dress with a full blue skirt. I had shoes on. My husband said to me, “step on the raft and I will pull you over to the beach.” Am I doing this? Do I really need to get off this boat that bad? The girl with me said, “I think you are.” Because of time constraints, I said, “I guess I am.” A fully clothed 30 something-year old woman, a raft, and 30 feet of bay to cover. How do you think it went?

I stepped on the raft, it deflated, and I went under. I started treading water like I was drowning and my father-in-law leaned over the side of the boat and said, “Noreen, you know you can stand.” Oh. I guess I don’t have to flail my arms around and gasp for breath. Ha! I walked through the water, tripped over a rock on the way, and then finally made it to shore, soaked and salty with seaweed literally hanging off my legs and arms. It’s ok. You can laugh. At that point…who cares, I was off. I took a shower and was ready by 5:45 (with time to spare).

We had a great night and rehashed the story a million times over, everyone laughing about it, me included. Of course you have to laugh at yourself. The things we do as Moms. What we will do to get out of something. The things we will do to avoid a meltdown in front of strangers. (Thank goodness they had a sense of humor). Realizing when the moment is over. Understanding yourself and your children enough to know when the trip/excursion/outing is done. Figuring out that it is time to get out with the least amount of casualties, saving ourselves and maybe a little bit of pride, a smidgen?! Knowing that sometimes they had enough, but sometimes it is us who has had enough. And when we find ourselves treading water in 3 ft., fully clothed with a 4th of July dress clinging to our every part, holding our shoes in each hand, we know that a Mom will always do what we have to do, to survive.

~Noreen Heffernan,Writer, MA in Public and Corporate Communications, Certified in PR Writer, Growing Ladies

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