Take a Break, Mother Bear
From the moment I held Eldest in my arms, I didn’t want to let go. My sister referred to me as a baby hog. When other people held my baby, I watched them like a Rottweiler on guard duty.
It’s been almost 13 years since those early baby days, but my mother bear instinct still roars inside me. I want to protect my beautiful daughter from hurt and pain.
But is that healthy?
True, our job as mothers is to take care of our children, but part of that is teaching them how to become responsible adults.
The other day a friend relayed a disastrous experience with some house guests. My friend and her husband needed to be away for a summer, so they allowed some college-aged friends to stay in their house. The couple’s only request was to have their home maintained in a reasonable manner.
Sadly, when the couple arrived home, their house was beyond filthy. Trash piled on the floors and counter tops. Spilled messes stuck to surfaces. Bathrooms had not been cleaned all summer. Food had been left to spoil. When the couple asked the young ladies to clean up what they had left behind, the students whined and cried that they weren’t being treated fairly. A few had their mothers call and tell the couple they were expecting too much from the poor young girls.
Taking Responsibility Must Be Taught
Those mama bears probably acted out of the desire to save their daughters from pain and shame. Unfortunately, they prevented their children from growing in character, confidence, and becoming more Christ-like. Wouldn’t the young women have been better served if mama bears had insisted the girls own their wrong actions and make restitution, both financially and by cleaning up their mess? The relationship with the couple could have been restored, and the young ladies would have grown a great deal deeper into adulthood after the mess was cleaned up.
None of us can be healthy adults until we learn to own our actions and take responsibility for our mistakes. And whether we like it or not, much of our character growth occurs during times of pain.
I think of this story when my inner mother bear rears up to protect my daughter.
If I continue to rescue her, she won’t learn how to clean up her own messes. She won’t learn how to overcome pain. She also won’t be able to maintain relationships.
So, when she calls to say she forgot her homework, instead of following my instinct to rescue, I have to institute consequences. When she wrongs a friend, I guide her to make restitution instead of excusing her behavior. When she deals with a painful injury, I can’t work through it for her. She must do it herself.
It’s tough to get mama bear to take a break, but it’s important. If we raise children who think someone will always rescue them or make excuses for their behavior, they become self-centered and belligerent. They experience constant broken relationships and think everything is about them. If we hover over our children and try to keep them from getting hurt, both mom and child can end up in a negative cycle of anxiety.
In encouraging our children to own their actions, we teach the meaning of God’s word:
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves.”
When we step aside and allow our children to learn the important “it’s not about me” lesson, what we’re really doing is getting out of the way so they can shine as bright reflections of Christ in dark places.