Friday, November 4, 2011

Momma Bear Syndrome

When Camdyn was a toddler I found myself in Momma Bear mode a lot more often than I do these days.  It was easy, back then, to swoop her up and save her from danger, and to solve her problems for her.  I was that mother that would glance a judgemental eye at the woman who let her rambunctious 9 year old (who was violating the height restriction on the play place at the mall) bump into her and knock her over.  I'd get all "This isn't safe, we are leaving.  I'm Momma Bear and I'm protecting you!"   
But then time happens, and kids grow, and circumstances change, and suddenly I'm that woman with a rambunctious 5 year old who accidentally knocks over a toddler at the play place at the mall.  And much the same, the circumstances when I have to go in to Momma Bear mode have also changed. 

I don't protect her physically so much anymore.  Instead, I fight the urge to protect her emotionally, I fight the urge to save her self-esteem, the urge to protect her from a broken heart, or disappointment.  In some situations Momma Bear is warranted, but in most it does her a disservice. 

A few weeks back, Camdyn was taking her first semi-private riding lesson at the ranch.  There were two older girls in her lesson, twins, 8 years old.  In typical Cam fashion she began chatting them up.  The child makes fast friends everywhere she goes.  They went to the camp room and picked out helmets together and then returned to the area where I was sitting.  I asked Cam which horse she wanted to ride and she said, "I want to ride Molly.  I love Molly."  One of the older girls said, "I don't like Molly.  Molly is too easy.  I need a more difficult horse." 

I bit my tongue.  My urge was to say, "Well, Camdyn is only 5 years old.  She is a lot younger than you.  She needs an easy horse and she loves Molly."  But, I didn't.  I wanted to see how Camdyn would respond to the older girl's comment.   Cam didn't say a thing about it.  She just kept on talking about horses, and saddles, and the girls walked to the barn like the best of friends.  She wasn't the slightest bit offended or put down, although I kind of was.

It got me thinking, how often do parents project adult feelings on children?  As adults we forget the amount of innocence in children's conversations.  That little girl was simply trying to state that she likes a horse who provides a challenge.  She wasn't actually putting Camdyn down, she just lacked the maturity and eloquence to say it any other way.  I was the one who interpreted it negatively.  My mind whipped in to Momma Bear mode, and I almost made an bigger ordeal about the comment than necessary. 

As much as I want to protect Camdyn's self-esteem, her innocence, her feelings all the livelong time, I have learned that I can't and I shouldn't.  Remember the incident at Chick Fil A a few Junes ago?  I beat myself up over not saying squat to the kids who were blatantly being mean.  Yeah, part of it is that I have an aversion to conflict, but the other part of it is that I also know that I can not walk beside Camdyn her entire life, defend her every move, fight her every battle, and be her defender all the time.  I need to let her figure out how to handle life herself.  She needs to learn how to stand up for herself, how to properly respond to someone who says not-so-nice things, when to stand her ground, and when to compromise.  Coming from a woman who struggles with exactly that (not due to parenting, but just due to my genetic make-up) I consider the ability to resolve ones issues and stand up for one's self a gift. 

And the next time Cam is on the offending end of the situation, the next time she utters words that are misconstrued as being mean, when she simply didn't explain herself well, I'm not going to jump in to defend her, to declare her innocence, or rectify the wrongs.  I'm going to let her work it out, because conflict resolution is an important life skill....and because I'm going to save Momma Bear mode for when it really counts. 


TV's Take said...

It's amazing how true this post is for me today. KLV has a close friend that bosses her around, pushes her a little etc etc and I just want to sit this other little girl down for 10 minutes and give her a piece of my mind but alas - it's not my place (even though I'm still irked). what i've found myself doing is saying, "KLV, if someone pushes you or bosses you around, you can tell them it's not nice and it hurts your feelings" I realize this is even going too far. :-(

LeeAnn said...

I love this post! I definitely think we project adult feelings on to our children way too much. Good for you for not saying anything to those girls...Camdyn wasn't offended by what she said, and if you had said something, you may have been the one causing the hurt. Camdyn is such a lucky girl to have a Momma Bear like you!

Nessa said...

Oh Carol - I needed to here this lesson today. Hear it and learn it. After a music class where Eva was ripping instruments from other kids, running laps instead of sitting... the excuses and apologies were flowing. I