Momma Bear

The Bear watches cub
Image by Ranger Gord via Flickr

“Stop! Stop! Stop pushing my kid!” I yelled, as I sprang from the picnic table and ran to my diapered Levi playing on the concrete splash pad at a park for a friend’s birthday. The mother of the similar-aged boy (to my 3 year old) came over with an infant on her hip. She defended herself that she was watching him. She encouraged the boy to use his words. I actually don’t remember what I said after that. I explained the situation, where she again said she was watching. What was clear to me now: my sensitive 3 year old is upset because he was pushed and the mother of the pushing kid was upset that I yelled at her child.

I am not sorry I yelled at her child. I’m not shaking anymore. I’m not about to cry. I don’t have the emotional aftershocks of a stressful situation. This was almost 4 hours ago now. Levi was fine afterwards, the other kid is fine too. The mother, I’m not sure. I’d feel a little sad if she is angry with me, but alas that’s her choice. I am not sorry for yelling because my primary duty is to take care of my son.

Growing up is hard. We’re not done until we die. It amazes me all these lessons we learn and relearn, especially, as parents. Sharing, for example. We teach our kids to share. The pushing kid was playing with a fire-hose-sprayer-thing and Levi touched it when the pushy kid responded by not sharing and pushing Levi. So, both kids need further lessons on sharing. She kept saying that she saw what was going on, but the conversation didn’t progress further than that. There was no discussion on sharing, for either of them. Just a look and a word to see if the Levi was okay. What is really interesting is that she didn’t want to use her words with me while teaching her son how to use his.

So, the kids need a lesson in sharing. But, what have we learned as adults? In our house, we have three phones, two computers, and two cars. Why? Because ultimately, we can’t share. My husband likes to look at his certain websites, and I like to look at mine. Instead of talking about some schedule to share the same desk space, I use the laptop while he’s on the desktop, and I fantasize about the day when I can have my own office space instead of this shared office/laundry room.

So, as adults we never really learned to share like our parents told us. And, now we find it difficult to teach our children. Gone are the days, too, where spanking was okay. Lord, how many times did my mother yank my arm when I was disobedient? My grandfather spanked us, my cousins, his children, when we misbehaved. I’ve heard that psychologists even recognize that spanking is okay for toddlers because sometimes the kid needs to be snapped out of the rut they are in.

Levi doesn’t listen well. He’s 3. I don’t expect many 3 year olds to listen well. So, if they don’t listen well, what are we really teaching them when we say, often, “Use your words.” Something about this bugs me. Levi has the hardest time expressing, in words, when something is wrong. Again, he doesn’t listen well, he’s 3. The pushy kid didn’t say anything about wanting to be the only one on the fire hose contraption. A few weeks ago, while Levi was playing with a different boy, he was playing with this boy’s toys when the child did say, “Don’t play with my toy.” When Levi didn’t listen, the other boy reacted by slapping Levi. The other mother responded, immediately, focusing on the use of words again. To me, this is a sort of culture shock when we only focus on words.

If I had done that when I was a child, my mother would have swatted my ass so fast I wouldn’t have known what was coming. And, you know what? I would have learned that was wrong. Yes, you heard right. I would have stopped thinking about my toys being used and concentrated on my burning butt. I would have refocused my anger towards my mother for spanking me. I would have stopped. As an adult, I don’t think the potential violent act of spanking is the same as the violence of slapping. It is a tool used to get children who don’t listen to stop. It’s a tool to use when talking doesn’t work.

What does this talking do when people don’t listen? My vote is nothing. How Levi reacts when I use words and encourage him to use words is that he hasn’t learned anything. It’s clear to me he hasn’t learned a lesson when there is no remorse, no apology, and only avoidance. I’m not saying we should stop encouraging kids to use words, but they need something else too. They need something teach them to listen.

One thing that came to me today with the park incident was how much my pacifist dreams have changed. I hate war. I hate that we go to war. I hate that we feel, as a society, that it’s necessary to bomb someone to get them to change their mind. It’s not a glorified spanking because people die. But, I’m not a pacifist either. When momma bear comes out, I want to throw something, scream, yell, something. Maybe even slap someone across the face.

I don’t resort to violence, though. I have self control. I have learned self control. So, I keep the violence in and use my words. I use my words to process. Yes, you heard that right too. I was a child who was spanked who learned how to use my words.

The bottom line is that parenting is hard and everyone has different ideas of what a good parent looks like. We all want our kids to grow up and learn to share and be better at it than we are, because we recognize with our two computers and multiple phones and cars that we have a lot to learn. Evolution again, eh? For our kids to evolve better than us and share better and be better and be kinder than we are.

I was very thankful that the pushing-kid-incident happened during the birthday party because I was able to process in safe company. No, I didn’t get the cry out, but that’s okay. It was supplanted with laughter and silly conversation. I hope the other mother is okay. I hope she has understanding to why I yelled. I know she had a little momma bear come out too. (Hell, I would, someone yelling at my kid?) Maybe we can both suppress our momma bears in a more constructive manner when this happens again. Maybe we can improve evolution further and learn the lessons we’re trying to teach our kids: teach them to share and use their words by sharing and using ours.

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