June 16, 2011

Mama Bear

I realized not long after my daughter was born nearly 11 years ago now that I am a bit of a "mama bear".  Meaning, I'm protective.  But not in the "helicopter mom" way.  I'm not hovering around my children afraid they're going to kill themselves if I don't physically watch them at every second.  No, I'm more protective in the "don't mess with my kid" kind of way.

I'm not scared to death of one of my children hurting themselves.  I've always found ways to leave them safely unattended while I take a shower.  I let them go outside to play by themselves at a younger age than other moms might.  When we moved into our house a year ago we established that they were allowed to run amok all over the neighborhood, as long as they stayed on our side of the main road.  AJ was only 4 1/2 (Cami was 9, though).

When I was a kid I had so much more freedom than they do.  I had a bike and I rode it all over the place (without a helmet).  I was a latchkey kid when I was only 7.  I rode the city bus with my cousin to the local mall when I was 9.  I babysat for an aunt of mine when I was only 10.  And nothing bad ever happened to me.  I know bad things do happen to kids, but I don't think it's nearly as often as we tend to think.

I'd have CPS called on me so fast  if I let my kids do any of those things.  In fact, I have had CPS called on me just for letting little 2 1/2 year old AJ go outside and stand in the summer rain.  I would never call the authorities on a parent unless I was really damn sure there was some abuse or neglect going on!  Why don't people consider how they'd feel if someone questioned their parenting abilities before they go and do crap like that?

Yet I realize times have changed and there are things we just don't do anymore.  In general, I try to find an acceptable mixture of rules that allow for some freedoms for my kids that won't offend the social mores of their generation.  Like I said, they're both allowed to run around our half of the neighborhood.  I also only just started to make them wear helmets when they ride bikes or scooters.  That's a tough one to admit because I know I have one friend who will ground her kids for a week if they don't wear their helmets.  We gave Cami her own house key when she was in 3rd grade, in case we were ever running late doing something while she was at school, which has happened about a handful of times.  Now that she's almost 11 we're even willing to let her stay home alone if we have something to do that she really doesn't want to tag along for.  But only for a short time.  And we're not yet comfortable with her being left in charge of her little brother.

So I feel like I'm a pretty level-headed mom when it comes to safety vs. freedom.  But when it comes to somebody doing my kid wrong, or another adult thinking they can discipline my child....let's just say there's a little more emotion involved there.

Let me try to clarify.  It's OK for other people who care for and about my kids to help me discipline them.  Their grandparents, my good friends, and their teachers if necessary (although so far I am blessed to have 2 well-behaved students).  What gets under my skin and makes me want to slap a person, is when they think they can scold my child without even thinking about it.

The first time I noticed this instinct in myself Cami was somewhere around a year old.  We went out to lunch with 2 of our best friends to a burger place.  Cami was really only munching on french fries and at one point she took one from one of our friends.  Well he turned to her and yelled at her, "No!"  Now I love this man, but I wanted to yell right back at him not to yell at my baby!  Another time, with Cami again, we didn't hardly talk to my in-laws for a few years because while visiting them something was said about spanking Cami if she was naughty and we weren't around.  She was still really little and we hadn't decided where we stood on the spanking issue, and regardless, no one else can spank our kids but us!

Then there was this really awkward incident involving AJ.  I took him to my good friend's daughter's birthday party.  All the kids were being crazy upstairs while us moms chatted and snacked downstairs.  We heard something that sounded like a fight, probably between AJ and another boy, so me and the mom of the other boy started upstairs to investigate.  The other mom got up there first.  As I'm nearing the top of the stairs I see and hear her grab my son by the arm, yank him down onto a bed and yell at him for whatever she thought he was doing to her son, and that he needed to show her some respect.  My son started crying hysterically.  The other mom saw me, said something to her son and just shimmied past me on the steps muttering something about how she's sorry but her kids had better damn well listen to her so she couldn't help it.

AJ threw himself at me wailing and I sat down with him on the steps, pretty dumbfounded at what just happened.  I knew that AJ and this other boy fought a lot, they were both instigators, so I didn't understand why she got so angry at AJ and not her own son.  She and I used to talk all the time about how much our boys fought and how kind of funny it was.  I know the other factor for her was she felt AJ wasn't listening to her, but still, I didn't feel she had the right to take matters into her own hands and scare the hell outta my kid like that.

As I sat there with AJ, neither comforting nor scolding, just being there, letting him know I cared, I got pretty angry about the whole thing.  The other mom should NOT have grabbed my son like that, nor yelled in his face.  She should have told me he wasn't listening to her and let me deal with it.  We were friends, but not good enough friends that she should have felt like she had carte blanche with my kid.  I wouldn't have done that to any of her children.  I wouldn't feel it was my place.

After AJ calmed down, and me too I guess, I gave him a little talking-to, reminded him to be nice to his friends and he's supposed to be respectful to other mommies.  But when I went back downstairs I really didn't feel any better.  The other mom looked at me and asked if I wanted to talk about it, but I was too angry and didn't want to say something I'd regret so I said no.  Besides, this was a birthday party so really not the time or place.

We never did talk about it though and now I know it festered for her.  I let it go after awhile.  The reason I chose to let it go was because with this particular mom, I knew she'd railroad me with all her reasons for doing what she did, and I wasn't about to let her make me feel bad for my opinion on the matter.  She shouldn't have touched my kid, goddammit!  That's MY child, MY responsibility to discipline as I see fit.  She demanded respect from my son, yet didn't have any for me as his mother.  But like I said, I chose to let it go as far as she and I were concerned, deciding I would simply try not to let that kind of thing happen again.

These were all things that got me upset when my kids were little.  I'm going to have to work pretty hard at not letting all the social things that are impending for my daughter as she goes on to middle and high school get to me too much.  The idea of her peers hurting her like I know they will from time to time breaks my heart!  I have this plan to stay strong when she comes to me with some new angst.....and then cry for her when she's not looking.

The very best quote I've found to describe parenting:

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever
to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
~ Elizabeth Stone

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  1. Parenting is hard! Calling Social Services (or whatever they call it now) should only happen when proof of neglect and abuse is absolute. Discipline?? Yeah, that is a tough one but I never disciplined another child unless safety was an issue and the parent was unavailable and I never ever touched or screamed at the child and I mean ever. A stern tone, yes, a strong voice yes. Removed them by asking them to leave the situation yes but only if I had to for safety reasons otherwise I pretty much let kids go,especially now a days!

  2. I'm like you in a lot of ways. I won't let my almost 4 year old outside during the day by himself, but when his sister (11) is home, they can go outside as long as I know where they are if I need to find them.

    I had this mother yell at my son in a public play area once. This was inside a mall, and it was for ages 1+, up to a certain height. My son is a little tall for his age, but he is very much still 3. He found a couple of other boys to play tag with (his favorite game) and this lady's baby (probably not quite one yet) was toddling around. My son was being as mindful of the other kids as a 3 yr old can be, but the baby was in his path. Rather than push the baby down, he merely put his arm out, trying to squeeze past the baby without hurting him. The baby falls but before he even gets all the way to the floor, she is yelling at my son. The people sitting around me had their jaws open in shock at her yelling at him like that, especially since he hadn't done anything wrong. In fact when he saw the baby falling, he turned to try to help him, but the mother's screeching made him back off. And the baby himself? He didn't even cry. Not a drop!

    I bit my tongue so hard it was bleeding.

  3. Found you on SITS!

    Yeah I remember being out all day and coming home for dinner, now I would worry too much, granted he's only three. We have to teach our kids responsibility and how to make good choices. Now,I think too many parents take that away from their kids and leave them vulnerable.

    I think I would lose it if anyone put their hands on my kid. My parents keep telling me to spank my son everyone once in a while, I refuse. A hit turns to a couple of hits, then a belt, what next?

  4. Your a much better person than I am because I would have flipped out on her! I am the same way as you- being a mama bear...very overprotective over my children- so much so that I don't even like when my husband gets loud with them!!!

  5. Wow! I also live in the PNW. If you didn't let your children out in the summer rain, they'd never go outside!

    I want to thank you for not talking with birthday mom at the party. What a gracious way to recognize it was a child's party. Too bad the momster, didn't. Visiting from SITS.

    1. I thought it was a good idea not talk at the party, for sure!

  6. Some good thoughts here......I do believe it takes a village to raise a child though and I am so grateful for my good mama friends who will also take my child under their wing and when they see her doing something they know I wouldn't approve of they guide her in the right direction too. It feels so supportive and like my daughter has an incredible circle of people looking out for shaping her into the woman I want her to be.

    1. I do have some trusted mom friends as well. I think that mom just wasn't one.

  7. WOW to your patience/grace regarding not mentioning anything at the party! You are right, it wasn't the time/place...but still :) The less calm among us wouldn't have been able to control ourselves...

    And you are right about times being different with regard to freedom/safety. I think it also depends where you live. We live in LA and I don't think I would let my son even go in the front yard by himself! hehe :)

  8. Great post! I'm visiting from the Sits Girls! =)

  9. I hurt when my kids hurt, and I worry about their future hurts--such a hard thing about parenting.

  10. I think of when my daughter gets older other kids hurting her and it breaks my heart!

  11. I headed over from SITS... I think all of the time about how I used to play when I was a kid versus how my kids play now. Wow, how things have changed. Like you said I definitely remember playing outside unattended and riding my bike all over without a helmet - I think you can get ticketed around here for not having a helmet on your kid =P

    1. Some changes are good, some are just frustrating.

  12. {Melinda} Whew! This post pushes a lot of buttons for me! Like you, I don't mind people disciplining my children if I am not there and a situation needs to be dealt with post-haste. But if I am there, I can handle it. You may not always like my methods, but I am not the kind of mom that sits around while her kid creates chaos, pretending like I don't notice.

    As kids get older (mine are 12 and 15), the disapproval can feel more subtle -- it's less overt, but you can still feel judgement sometimes. I try to give mamas a whole heap of grace because I don't know their situation and I don't know their children. Perhaps there are complications and factors that aren't obvious to the bystander. It's dangerous to assume we know how we would handle a given situation because usually we don't have all the facts.

    Whatever your situation, being a mom is a darn tough job -- and we should all be supporting each other! :)

    Visiting from SITS!

  13. Love the quote at the end...it really is true! Hope you are having a wonderful SITS day!

  14. Parenting is tough for sure - but also so much fun! :)