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Mama Bear

Many women hold their tongues when it comes to standing up for themselves.

It may feel too scary to say what you really think.

Confronting an injustice can cause our primal survival instincts to come online, sending the brain into flight or freeze mode and we become a deer in the headlights..

I do the opposite.

My brain goes immediately to the fight instinct when I feel attacked…especially when it comes to my kids.

I have heard from many of you that even if the fight instinct isn’t your “go to” survival skill,, when it comes to your babies, Mama Bear is out for blood!

I am a self admitted Mama Bear to the 9th power.

My inner Mama Bear  has remained in extremely civilized hibernation for the past few years.

Until recently.

And of all places…it happened in synagogue.

Here is what went down in between the bagels, herring and lox cream cheese at Shul:

After the Bnai Mitzvah service of dear friends, my 14 year old daughter, Avery, was spotted with tears streaming down her face during the luncheon celebration.

This was highly unusual.  In fact, it was a first.

She had been verbally attacked, called a liar and told she should have trouble sleeping at night.

Not a completely abnormal exchange between teen girls.  However, the insulter was not a teenage peer.

She was a grown adult woman.  A grandmother. Avery’s prior 4th grade teacher!

My daughter was really scared.  She was shaking and had never been in an exchange like this with anyone before let alone an adult.

It is an involved story that happened long ago. As the teacher sees it, my daughter’s account of an incident while she was in the teacher’s class resulted in the loss of the teacher’s job.  She has had great difficulty procuring a teaching position since.

The records indicate the teacher’s admission of the offense towards Avery as well as several other fireable offenses in her file.

I can imagine that many of you are in awe that a teacher, a grandmother would confront a child in such an aggressive manner AND in a house of worship nonetheless.

As you might deduce, I, Mama Bear, was not happy.

First, I hugged Avery, looked into her eyes and breathed with her to lower her stress level as well as my own.

Next, I told her that coming forth those years ago was nothing less than heroic… this behavior was evidence that Avery had helped save many children from being subjected to the teacher’s unethical treatment of students in her care.

My daughter was pretty shaken up and I felt I needed to do something.  I wanted her to feel safe and to avoid dealing with this on a therapist’s couch 20 years from now.

And as I mentioned before, my survival instinct when under threat is almost always fight…especially when it involves my kids.

I marched over to the table where this teacher/grandmother was seated amongst her peers; other grandmothers. I proceeded to tell her off.

I called her a bully and a few other choice names.  I told her that she was never to speak to Avery again.

The teacher argued.  She told me that she had the right to speak to my child without my permission.

She called Avery a liar. She had a crazed look in her eyes.

You may be thinking I had every right to read her the riot act.

A big part of me thinks like that.

However, now that I’ve had a chance to digest the situation, something feels off.

Essentially, I called this woman a bully and publicly shamed her within the grandma circle while they were enjoying their bagels.

Yes, I defended my daughter…BUT I attacked someone’s grandmother in the process.

Isn’t this a bit hypocritical of me? Wasn’t this a bullying move on my part?

You may be saying that I was merely defending my child not bullying this grown woman, but remember, the altercation was long over.

How can this be a part of the peaceful solution?  Did this verbal battle benefit my kid?  Did I model behavior that I would hope she will emulate one day?

I am not sure the best way to have handled this situation, but publicly shaming a grandmother amongst her peers, neither feels peaceful nor like a solution to me.

When the teacher cornered Avery and made these accusations, according to Avery’s friend who witnessed the entire exchange, Avery respectfully said, “That is not how I remember it.”

When the teacher physically blocked Avery from leaving, Avery assertively shoved past her and got away.

My point being, Avery handled the verbal attack with dignity and strength before I was in any way involved.  Did my daughter need my Mama drama to become a part of this equation?

Would it have served her better to  have received loving words of support that she handled the situation beautifully followed by a giant Mama Bear hug?

Aren’t these messy situations character building and important learning opportunities – at least, that’s what I’m always preaching.  And when it was game time, my daughter displayed her character.

I displayed that I am a work in progress.  I say this with total acceptance of myself.  I am human and doing the best I can with the information I have at the time.

This time, my Mama Bear fight instinct took over and became a runaway train.

I will do better next time – I am working on that.  My kids and these raw experiences continue to teach me and help me to keep working and growing.  I love them for that.

My daughter did not really benefit from the altercation between me and the teacher.  In fact, it may have added to her suffering by intensifying the drama.

Yes, all my kids know I will go to the ends of the earth to protect them.  My Mama Bear-ness is nothing new obviously.  She didn’t need my public display to prove it.

As moms, we want to protect our kiddos in an attempt to make it hurt less when life throws a curve ball their way.

It hurts when our kids hurt.  It hurts like hell.  We wanna make it stop.

Frequently, we don’t know another way to try and make it hurt less.  So we superficially shift the focus from the initial suffering to the war seeking justice.

In many ways, this is what I did.

The pain underneath caused by the shock of the teacher’s attack will not heal with this remedy of war.

It is only when we use the pain and focus our energy on love, support and ownership of our roles that we truly heal and lessen the hurt by building our kid’s resilience and confidence for next time.

Mamas have an opportunity to support our daughters as they navigate the tough teen years.

Mamas can be part of the solution rather than inadvertently adding to the problem.

And when we find ourselves in survival mode as the fight instinct takes over – creating an even bigger mess, we can discuss it with our girls and admit our humanness.

I promise THAT will be a powerful and bonding conversation with your daughter.

This Mama Bear is beginning to learn that love looks like an honest conversation with my daughter where we can figure things out together.

That angry grandmother is living her own internal war.  She doesn’t need me to add to it.

No need for a Mama Bear bloodbath.

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