I am not a Mama Bear. I’m not really sure what kind of Mama I am, but it is crystal clear that I’m not the ‘take a swipe at you with my paw because you’ve wronged my cub’ kind. I used to think I was, but after a few situations went down, it became quite apparent to me that I don’t even have a good grizzly growl.
The first time I noticed this was at the playground a few years ago. I was there with my homeschooling group. All the moms were gathered at the picnic tables, chatting about life. The kids were off swinging, running, and sliding. All was well until a parent we didn’t know trotted up and pointed at my daughter and her friend, saying, “I need to speak with the mothers of those two girls.” The other mom and I stood up as she accused them of swearing at her son, calling him names, and worse. I don’t think she even noticed our deer-in-the-headlights reaction. If you knew these two girls you’d know these accusations were completely ridiculous. But, noticing the tears in our daughters’ eyes, we didn’t tell her that. We didn’t put her in her place or tell her about the actions of her son that the kids had been complaining about all afternoon. Instead we simply said, “We’ll take care of it,” and turned to our daughters.
I didn’t think anything of our reaction, especially since we both naturally and kindly pushed the offensive woman off and focused our energy on consoling our upset girls and reassuring them that we believed them, not her. After they calmed down, though, and we sat back at the table with the rest of our mom-friends, it became obvious to me that several others would have reacted very differently. Most of them would have responded more intensely. I don’t think anyone was looking for a fight, although there’s one mom who would have gotten scrappy if the situation called for it. However, where we stepped back and closed ranks around our wounded, many of the other moms would have stepped forward as a show of strength.
I don’t think there’s anything right or wrong about either of these responses to stress, but I found it interesting and it got me thinking about my fight or flight reactions.
I’m a flighter. But I cheer on fighters. When I hear stories of moms telling off a school system that is broken, I feel my adrenaline spike. When these Mama Bears are scolding other adults who feel the need to parent children that aren’t theirs, especially when they can do so with a smile on their face, I give mental high fives. I’ve been known to post these anecdotes on social media, saying things like, “Preach it!” and “Yes. This.” But as excited as I get by their strong actions, that’s not me.
I’ve known for decades that I’m not personally an in-your-face kind of gal, but I guess I thought where my kids were concerned I’d be a bit more assertive in defending them when they need it. But I don’t. It doesn’t come naturally or fit me. Instead, I do what I can to quickly neutralize or ignore the threat and give all my energy and attention to my baby. It’s only after I assure myself that my children are in one piece and are going to survive the initial hurt of whatever’s happened that I form snarky one-liners that I wish I’d said in the heat of the moment. But, really, even those are just fantasy. I wouldn’t be comfortable saying something mean even to someone who probably deserves being put in their place.
In the months following the playground throw down (that I didn’t pick up), my kids found themselves on the receiving end of some more hurtful comments. When I was with them I responded in the exact same way as that first time. In my head, when I replay the interactions – I’m all Mama Bear. But in the moment, when it counts, I’m something else. I shut the person down, politely and efficiently. Keep them at an arm’s length. And wrap my baby in my arms to shut the world out.
So, what kind of Mama does that make me? I’m honestly not that knowledgeable about the animal kingdom, but it seems most of them either protect their young fiercely or ignore them completely. I’m neither of those. So, maybe I’m something more mythical. I like the idea of having wings – they seem easy to embrace my children with. I think I’ll call myself a Pegasus Parent.
I protect my kids’ dreams. I encourage their independence. I put myself between my children and any threat we perceive. I prefer to escape negativity. I like to nuzzle.
Occasionally I wonder if maybe I need to work on being more RAWR and less neigh. But, with much consideration and conversation with wise sages, I’ve learned that this is my thing and it’s a good thing. I am true to myself and my family. I’m not a Mama Bear even on a bad day (but maybe in my dreams), but I can and will embrace being a proud Pegasus Parent. Every day.