Remember, special agent mom, never say yes to candy at the check-out counter.
Jeff LOVES Matt Damon. Well, who doesn't love Matt Damon? But he has a total man-crush on him and and admires Matt's considerable on-screen skills at evading the bad guys when he is playing Jason Bourne.
(Real quick, in case you do not know, Jason Bourne is like James Bond only he has amnesia so he does not even KNOW who the bad guy is at any given moment!)
Anyhoo, Jeff decided while we were on vacation, that he was going to scope out new hotel rooms and lobbies and coffee shops as if HE were Jason Bourne. Then he shared this fun activity with us.
Which is why the five of us were standing in the open foyer of our hotel in Half Moon Bay in Northern California, a few weeks ago, as Jeff explained how he would escape from the second-floor atrium if he were Jason Bourne and had to evade a bad-guy. This plan involved hurdling over the balcony, bouncing off the ottoman below, and parkouring against the elevator before shooting out the back exit.
The next morning, when Jeff and I had our coffee and pastry at a little shop around the corner, we watched as a young mom with two young children came in the store, holding the kids' hands carefully, looking over her sunglasses, and then scanning the room at the same time.
"Have you ever noticed," Jeff said, nodding his head in her direction, "how moms with little kids come into a restaurant or store and sort of scope it out like she's doing? It's, well, it's kind of like..."
"Like Jason Bourne?" I finished. Oh yeah, I have noticed that before because: That's. What. Good. Moms. Do.
We watched her order, pay, get the necessary napkins and stirrers, dispense the food, and calmly exit through the side door with no fuss. She was quiet, not one of those loud, self-narrarating, talking in the third-person moms (what is up with that anyway?). In short, she was as cool as, well as an international spy on a special ops mission.
Afterwards, I spent much of the day thinking of all the ways she was like an international spy and I came up with this list of what Jason Bourne and effective moms have in common when going out to eat or shop. If you think of more, let me know.
1. You must be willing to abort the mission at ANY time: That's right. You may be Jason Bourne or a young mom but the number one rule of survival is that if something, anything goes amiss, you have to be willing to leave before the mission is accomplished.
It does not matter if you just traveled to Moscow in a van from Bucharest with that spy girl you met and have not eaten since Slovenia or you just traveled fifteen minutes from home in the mini-van after waiting almost 24 hours for that first sip of your perfect latte--if you spot a guy in the corner with a watch-cap pulled over his eye who looks like former KGB or if one of your kids is about to have a melt-down because you did not time breakfast just right--TOO BAD for you.
CODE RED CODE RED LEAVE THE PREMISES LEAVE NOW, I REPEAT LEAVE NOW
For Jason, it is a matter of life and death. For the young mother it is a little more important.
Because when you are on a mission out in the real world with kids you are not just trying to get to the store and get something and avoid being embarrassed but you are trying to parent on top of it all. Jason just has to stay alive.
My friend Mary W.B. taught me this lesson early on and it proved invaluable. She made her point by telling a story of an incident that had happened to her (this was many years ago: her kids are in college now).
She had schemed for weeks to get out of the house with her tots and meet another mom and her kids for lunch at Applebees. As soon as they got there, one of her kids starting having a fit about something he wanted on the menu. Mary warned him once to knock it off or they would leave. He did not. He gambled that his mom was hungry enough and wanted to visit with her friend enough that she'd cave in and he'd get what he wanted.
Well, he picked the wrong mom. She DID want to visit with her friend. And she WAS hungry, but when he acted up again, she calmly put money on the table to cover the drinks, apologized to her friend, scooped up the kids and left. Everyone got peanut butter and jelly for lunch at home that day.
And that never happened to her again.
Mary told that story, then looked around and said, "Remember, you have to be willing to leave at any time, otherwise they have the upper hand." She looked like she knew what she was talking about and I took note. And she's right, if you employ this tactic you will permanently disarm your terrorist. If you give in even once, you've put the weapon back in his hand.
Not even Jason Bourne has that kind of power.
2. Know where the bathroom is: Moms need to know where the bathrooms are for obvious reasons. But it isn't enough to know where it is--you also need to know if all the children with you will fit in the bathroom (if the kids are all very young) and if you do need to use the opposite sex bathroom (if the kids are a bit older but not old enough to go alone) how that is going to go down.
Mom also needs to be able to go the bathroom herself while balancing any non-walking children on her lap and corralling the other kids in the stall, and she needs to figure out what can be used as a changing table if there isn't one available.
Jason Bourne needs to know where the bathroom is because the tiny window in that room is ALWAYS the ONLY way Jason will escape if the other exits are blocked.
It's possible Jason Bourne has the easier job here.
3. Spot the two or three areas of potential danger: While Jason Bourne is figuring out if there is an assassin behind the potted plant or a barista with poison, mom has her own issues to deal with. Is one of the kids what we call a toucher? The kid who has to touch everything? A clumsy toucher? Worse combo ever....quickly, she must get between her and that display of coffee mugs. Is one a curious dissembler--he likes to take things apart for fun? She must immediately get between him and the espresso machines for sale.
Young mom also knows to head all children off in front of the treat case by "selling" what they CAN have never what they CAN'T "Here's a nice muffin or fruit plate, which do you prefer?" as she keeps her gaze away from the cake-pop.
Meanwhile, Jason has figured out it's safe to go ahead and order an espresso. Or not.
4. Spot the two or three things that will serve as a distraction if needed: The flip side of distracting a small child (or the leader of a terrorist cell) from trouble is to find something constructive to amuse them with first.
This is why Jason Bourne always leads with a charm defense by chatting up or flirting with the spy before going for a throat punch. Much easier.
The young mom sees quickly that the stir sticks make an awesome game of pickup sticks. Drinking little cups of creamer is a dream come true for most toddlers. And those toys for sale that the coffee shop manager has diabolically put on the bottom shelf at kid level--well you can just explain they are "not for sale because they live in the store and are to visit with".
Distraction is great and here young mom does have an easier job than Jason Bourne because secret spies are seldom distracted by the flip-side of a paper placemat and a pile of crayons.
These are just some of the things that come to mind. There is probably a whole essay to be written on how Jason Bourne and young mothers keep enough clothing on hand at all times to completely change a disguise or a toddler's outfit after a total pull-up blow out.
My young mom days are long gone but I admire watching the new recruits as they learn and bring their own experience to the job.
So if you're new to the mom as black ops agent, please know I am like "M" (sorry, that is a James Bond reference but you get the idea) and I am watching and admiring your mad secret spy skills.