I consider myself a pretty relaxed parent. I’m somewhere in the middle of free range and far to the left of helicopter. I’ve always known that my job was to prepare my little birdies to fly from the nest. So while the urge was there to interfere in their lives, I resisted it, to the best of my ability. So I left my kids with babysitters when they were young, and let them babysit their younger siblings (or cousins) as they got older. I evaded the role as entertainment committee and instead encouraged them to play independently and ‘find something to do’ when they were bored. And—most importantly, I think— I left them to their own devices, giving them agency in their decision-making and letting them make mistakes so that they could learn how to function like competent humans in this crazy world of ours.
I called it Parenting like it was 1972, and it worked for us. Interestingly enough, my kids loved what they call their ‘unconventional childhood. The 360 feedback from them has been very positive and they seem to have turned out to be stand-up folk who can manage their work and school deadlines and bank accounts and get themselves around on public transit without mishap.
But I’ll admit there were times when I did step in. Nobody’s perfect! You see, when you poke Mama bear and threaten her baby, she’s gonna get up in your grill. There’s no way raound that!
Mom’s hard at work in her home office. Her sweet but quirky 11 year old son walks in the room and slides to the floor.
I can’t go to school anymore. He whispers with a sigh.
It’s June. He’s the 3rd child. Usually Mom is immune to dramatic pronouncements such as this one. But as she looks up, she sees truth in his face.
Tell me about it, she says warmly as she comes around her desk and sits on the floor next to him.
And he does. He tells her about the boys who tease him from the moment he arrives at the schoolyard until he boards the bus to come home. How they make fun of his clothes and intelligence and even the way he plays sports in gym. How they don’t let him join in at recess and how they hound him like a pack of wolves on the hunt at every opportunity.
He tells her about the boy who punches him every single day when the teacher isn’t looking and who tells him that if he reports it to the principal the boy will do a heck of a lot more than just punching to him.
And he tells her that every day is miserable and that’s why he can’t go to school anymore.
What would you like me to do? You can’t leave school. Are you able to handle this on your own with my guidance?
He sadly shakes his head.
Can I call the school and speak to the vice-principal?
And for the first time in a long time, being an independent boy, he says Yes Please.
And those words raise the shackles on that mama bear. Because you can taunt the bear, but you don’t mess with her cubs.
So what happened, you wonder, when I stepped in front of my child to protect him and (internally) screamed at the top of my lungs at the danger he faced?
Let’s just say that the bullying stopped. Immediately. A quick no nonsense phone call to the Vice-Principal. Some verbal parrying and quick responses to the democratic party line. And finally veiled threats of police involvement and contact with the local newspaper did the trick lickety-split.
Unlike Kate Foster (portrayed by Catherine Reitman) one of the lead characters on the CBC comedy Workin’ Moms, who stepped in front of her baby to wail face-to-face with a bear that had escaped the local zoo, I didn’t have to raise my voice. But it was to the same effect. It was #MomFTW and there was no backing down, no surrender. Nobody was going to prevent my baby from having peace of mind at school—or anywhere, for that matter.
For parents, the instinct to protect our children from harm supersedes any sense of rationality and decorum. When our white hot rage shuts down our brains, we do what nature tells us to do and that’s to make sure our kids are ok. It’s not survival of the fittest, it’s just protection. We will go to all ends to make sure they’re ok, even if it means endangering ourselves. Even if it means looking a 1000 lb. bear in the face (or a school principal and a bunch of nasty kids and their delusional parents, metaphorically speaking) and scaring the living daylights out of it until it cowers and slinks away.
We do what needs to be done and we don’t stop until we’re finished.
It’s these kinds of common experiences that make me love Workin’ Moms. Episode after episode we relate to this group of new mothers as they explore their identities as mother, woman and friend.
Has anything like this ever happened to you? Have you ever had to step in when your baby needs you?
Watch Workin’ Moms on CBC, Tuesdays at 9:30 est.
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Note: I was provided advance viewing of Workin’ Moms episodes to view this post and was compensated for its writing. All opinions are my own.