Here is a portrait of me last week. Big, fat, snarling, vicious, angry Mama Bear (who incidentally needs a dental cleaning.) Mama Bear with three cubs…no matter that two of them hunt and fish in other areas of the country. I know that in this condition I am unattractive, and a teeny bit intimidating and certainly unreasonable. Because if someone messes with one of my “cubs”, the hair stands on the back of my neck and my teeth and fingernails grow into fangs and claws.
However, it has caused me to do some soul-searching. I’ve looked back on some memories of my less-than-attractive “Mama Bear” moments. I’ll never forget a meeting with a teacher back in 1997, who told me that my highly intelligent, analytical, logical and reasonable Jordan was not qualified for the “Gifted and Talented” program. Apparently what they were looking for was an imaginative, free-spirited, creatively inclined child, not one with excellent behavior and grades. Silly me! I managed to maintain control of myself, but I had to keep my mouth closed lest the fangs become visible – and for the next 10 years I had a bad attitude about that teacher (who was, honestly, a very capable instructor.) (And by the way, he made it into the GT program…and excelled.) (I’m sorry, but Mama Bear has a long memory.)
I also remember an incident where Jacob was required to complete a project creatively recreating DNA. We…I mean HE…spent hours on the project, painstakingly using guitar picks and strings to make his DNA model. He turned it in on time, but lo and behold – his grade was barely passing! The claws made their appearance and we immediately telephoned the teacher for a conference. “How can my genius child, who labored intensively over this masterpiece model of DNA, only receive a 70? It MUST be your failure to recognize his geniousness!” (Okay, that isn’t what we said, but it was certainly what I was thinking.) Hmmm. Come to find out, his teacher explained that yes ma’am, it was quite creative, but he failed to make it a double helix. Oh. Claws retracted.
And then there was the couple who thought it was funny to call my child “Chunky Monkey” whenever they saw him. To them, I think it was a term of endearment. I’m not sure how anyone could consider it a term of endearment for any child over the age of 2 years, but apparently they did. Was it wrong for me to want to pull out a fully loaded Super Soaker 3000 Watergun and aim it right between their eyes? Maybe. And it might have been hard to manipulate with my claws.
I know every mother has memories of her own “Mama Bear” moments. It seems like our society makes it worse, when in Little League games there are no winners or losers, everyone gets a trophy and we all want our kids to go home happy and satisfied. We may not have as many opportunities to teach our kids how to lose, or how to respond to failure, or the implications of being told “No”.
I had to step back last week and think about why we become so angry in our Mama Bear moments. Why do we lash out, want our kids to “get even,” or hold long-standing, painful grudges? I think most of it is due to HURT. When our children hurt, we hurt tremendously, and we want to lash out at whatever or whoever is causing the hurt. But I think that isn’t the only reason we turn vicious. I think sometimes our pride is hurt, when someone fails to see how precious and perfect our babies are. Sometimes we have difficulty accepting that our child is wrong about something, or that they “forgot” to tell us – as Paul Harvey said – “the rest of the story.”
I would imagine that the vast majority of things that anger us are earth-bound. Things that have no heavenly significance. Paul said to “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God…put to death therefore what is earthly in you,” and he goes on to list such character flaws (sins) as covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk (Colossians 3:1-8).
But he didn’t leave it there. He went on to say that we should “put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…forgiving each other…and above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful,” (Colossians 3:12-15).
Here is the bottom line: pain isn’t always a bad thing for our children. Pain often leads to growth. When handled properly, it leads to great strength of character. Why not teach them to suffer a wrong (1 Cor. 6:7)? Why not help them to see that true greatness isn’t found in being first, but in serving (Matt. 20:26)? If we guide them correctly (and don’t slash the offender with our claws) pain and struggle help them to develop meekness and unselfishness and fairness – what this world needs a whole lot more of.
(Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition. Focus.)
Here’s something else to think about: Jesus was insulted, lied to, lied about, hated, physically abused, mocked, tortured and murdered, all by evil men who professed to love the Father. The Father was witness to all of it. Yet His arm was outstretched to those very same people, and Jesus said “Father, forgive them…” (Luke 23:34). I am ashamed of my silly fits of anger when I think of His humility and sacrifice!
What is the most important thing in life? Is it being valedictorian? Having the nicest car or the most money? Winning Olympic gold? Being the fastest kid in 4th grade? I hope not! All of those things are nice, but they are temporary and they aren’t necessary. The only crown I truly want my sons to win is the crown of life that is given to them by their Heavenly Father. May I always keep this in the forefront of my mind!
I’m sending Mama Bear back where she belongs! Anyone need a nice bear rug?