There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my children. But that doesn’t make me special because I really don’t know too many mothers who don’t feel the same way about their own children. We go to such great lengths, some greater than others, to have children in the first place. And once we have them, we experience a love far greater than we ever knew was possible. Our children become more precious to us than anything. So if something or someone threatens our kids, moms can relate to getting that protective “mama bear” feeling.
As energetic as my children can be, luckily I haven’t experienced too many instances of having to go “mama bear” on people on my kids’ behalf. I’d like to think I am a relatively calmer mother than some (depending on who you ask) so I’d also like to think that one of the reasons I haven’t gotten “mama bear” on people, is because I have not wanted to overreact. Maybe I naively assume the best in folks before feeling the need to take it to the “mama bear” level.
But at times I have felt a rise in my blood pressure and have felt the need to protect my kids. The most obvious example that comes to mind is when I’ve shot someone a icy look when trying to cross the street and they didn’t slow down or give us enough time to cross before speeding back up. If looks could kill, I’ve probably killed a few dozen drivers for such offenses against us, not that it changed their driving habits or made a difference really.
I thought about my girls swimming this past week at the gym. I am usually right there in the pool with them or watching them intensely as both none of my girls can swim yet. It took a split second for me to check my cell phone when out of the corner of my eye I saw Georgia go under. I wasn’t in the pool but another mother who was right there lifted her up. I was there as fast as I could manage, grabbed Georgia, made sure she was all right, and thanked the woman. Maybe it was my guilt but I sensed a reverse “mama bear” look from another woman who was in the pool. She had kids too but I didn’t sense too much empathy from her then or when I saw her later in the locker room. Even though both of my older girls are in swim lessons, as soon as I got home I started Googling swim vests.
I’ve also witnessed a fair amount of mothers going “mama bear” at the playground. I would say that sometimes these moms seem to lack an ability to let children work out their grievances. There are obvious exceptions to this, I mean, if a child is going to hurt another child, by all means, I wouldn’t argue that you should stand by and just let it happen so they could learn about how to work it out. But if looks could kill I would have witnessed a few too many murders from moms who get “mama bear” on other mothers at the playground or even at other people’s kids. I really try not to judge these moms because they are doing the best they know how to do. I just think moms could give each other a break sometimes.
I’m just grateful that Georgia, my spirited daughter, has simmered down a bit and no longer gets me killed on a regular basis. I was so happy this past month to see her playing so nicely with a little girl that she used to always seem to make cry for being to rough with. I have felt embarrassed time and time again with her mother because it seemed like we were always apologizing for things that would happen between them on the playground. Now they seem to be getting along quite well and I’m just grateful this other mom seemed to really understand children and didn’t ever take it personally or judge us for it.
Olivia, my new five-year-old, and I just took a Kidpower workshop today for the first time. If you haven’t heard of Kidpower, it’s a great organization that teaches kids about personal safety. Unfortunately, we mamas can’t always be there to protect our children. But thankfully, I got some guidance today on how to help Olivia, and ultimately all of my girls, know how to stay safe with strangers.
Kidpower walks parents and kids through a variety of role-playing scenarios. We covered topics like making sure to check back with a parent if a stranger offers you something, tries to talk to you or lure you in anyway, and even how to maintain boundaries around one’s body.
Although I could swear Olivia wasn’t paying attention to the instructor, I got to witness her practice what she learned a little bit later at a party we were at. She was sitting down when an adult friend of ours, who she doesn’t really know so he’s a stranger to her, started talking to her, without saying a word, she got up and came back to stand near me. He looked up at us like, “What did I say?” and I explained to him that she had just learned how to come back to check in with her parents when a stranger talks to her. It was amazing.
I try not to live in fear and helicopter hover over my children at all times. I have girls that are fiercely independent and don’t like me hovering anyway. But that independence is one of the reasons I started looking into things like Kidpower and swimming lessons in the first place. I wanted to decrease my fear about having to go “mama bear’ and ultimately help them stay safe.
I’m may not be ready to send my kids out into the world without my supervision, nor are they anywhere close to being age appropriate for that, but I’m hoping that by being smart and reasonable and helping them to do the same will help keep my hackles down, claws retracted, and just enjoying my kids being little.