The Mama Vault – #7 MISBEHAVING MAMAS
Exactly what wouldn’t a mom do on behalf of her child?
There is not a single, solitary thing we wouldn’t do to defend our babies.
Oh sure. We mamas are mostly a fun-loving bunch. We’re mostly happy to listen to reason when it comes to the subject of our children. We are!
Case in point.
Your kid is misbehaving in pre-algebra class. The teacher calls to inform you. She assures you he is not being disrespectful, but he feels the need to comment on everything. She emphasizes everything. You thank her for the call, telling her you’ll call back the next week for a follow-up. You then invite the offending boy to sit with you and discuss the call. You tell him if there is no improvement in his behavior, you will join him for class every single day—you’ll sit in the back of course.
And because you’ve made sure over the years your child has seen a hint of crazy in you, he actually believes you’ll do the thing you say you’ll do. Then, just for the heck of it, you might throw in the phrase “snatch you bald” because it’s fun to say and it shows you mean business.
We can operate within the boundaries of reason. We can sometimes appreciate the cooperative aspects of parenting.
But you and I both know there is line.
There are times when we take an excursion outside the boundaries and we get lost there. We sort of lose our sense of balance and common sense and sanity. Don’t even pretend like you haven’t visited this place.
Outside the boundaries—in the backcountry where mama bears live—we are obsessed with fixing things for our kids. We are on high alert and ready to defend everything about them—their intelligence, their athleticism, and their hurt feelings. We’re even ready to defend their bad behavior sometimes. It’s as if we’ve consumed four Red Bulls and we are ready to rumble.
When my first child didn’t get in the gifted and talented program at school, I was shocked because he had genius written all over him. Not unlike some of your children, I’m sure. I requested a parent-teacher conference for an explanation. At the meeting, I reminded the thirty-year veteran educator that my darling started reading at the age of three and by four he could do simple addition. I lost the appeal. The explanation given to me gently pulled me back into the boundary where reason lives. Like it or not.
As I’m writing shared stories, hear me when I tell you I’m singing from the same hymn sheet. Maybe I’m singing verses one and three, and you’re taking verses two and four, but girlfriend it’s still the same sheet.
When your kid doesn’t get invited to the birthday party of the year, I mean what are you going to do with that? Well inside the boundary of reason, you might explain to your child how more kids didn’t get invited than did. Then maybe you plan a night of fun just for him. Good form, Mom. However if you’ve wandered outside the boundary you might give the mom of the birthday girl a little bit of cold shoulder and begin planning a party to top all other parties for your own kid. And the invitation list might be short one certain kid.
Mother. This falls under the category of behaving badly and you know it. I know it. However we can’t stop ourselves because the voice reminding us to play nice is drowned out by the voice cheering us on to avenge the alleged wrong done to our babies. I know, I know. It’s because we don’t want to see our kids on the outside of the circle. Which, by the way, also means we’re on the outside of the circle. Ouch. We don’t like it one bit.
And because there’s no business like show business, let’s talk elementary talent shows for a sec. Who doesn’t want to see their kid’s name in lights? Everyone starts somewhere, right? With only the tiniest bit of encouragement, all the sudden you are your kid’s Momager. You have a vision of your Sweet Pea on the America’s Got Talent stage.
Get out of my way, people, because my kid’s on the way to the top.
Until your kid doesn’t make the cut for the BIG show.
I’ll tell you right now I will not get in your way, Mother Dear. I’ll give you a wide berth because you deserve it and because, honestly, you’re scaring me just a tad. You need some time to wander in the wilderness until you find your way back into the boundary. Rest assured, you will make it back in bounds again. And while you’re in the wild, take comfort in this. Once I directed a show (because my kid had a starring role), and we experienced technical difficulty at one point. I did a quick walk to the front to address the issue, and as I passed by one dad sitting on the aisle I heard him say Uh-oh. She’s mad now. I scared him. A mother on a mission can be scary. Hey mister, my kid’s career is at stake here!
Oh Girl, you know we have to go there. It’s when we mamas can morph into an entirely different species.
I don’t know what comes over us. I really don’t. We can begin to show signs as early as the Little League years, but truly we begin to show our rear ends when our kids hit junior high and are coached by someone other than Dad or Mom—when our kid’s athletic career is no longer in our hands.
We mamas do not like it when coaches yell at our babies. We do not like it one bit when otherworldly referees and umpires make bad calls against our precious angels. We do not like the unfair distribution of playing time. It’s like green eggs and ham. We do not like it one bit.
We behave badly because we are competitive–in our kid’s behalf, of course. Or maybe because we want something for our child more than our child wants it. Oh surely not! But sometimes we behave badly because it is nearly impossible for us to remain inside the boundary of reason when a coach yells these words at our kid on the basketball court.
Come on. You look like a cartoon character running down the court.
Oh no he didn’t just say that. Yep. He did.
I don’t have to tell you what a remark like that stirs up in a mama. Even as you read this, you, my sister-mom, are getting stirred up for another mom for something that happened fifteen years ago. Do you know how long a mama can hold onto a grudge when her baby has been ridiculed?
Forever. That’s exactly how long.
Once a mom sitting in front of me at a basketball game got so wound up and mad, she took a whole handful of dill pickles from her little concession stand hamburger boat and threw them onto the court. Hand-to-heart it happened right before my eyes. She was publicly shamed for the act and banned from attending games for the rest of the season.
She did behave poorly, but I understood the deep well from which she drew those pickles. I understood her heart. She was hurting for her baby who was having a bad night and there wasn’t a darn thing she could do to fix it. She couldn’t stop the other misbehaving parents who said mean things about her boy either. Shame on them. It was too much for her. She was possessed for half a second and without even thinking, the pickles flew.
Turns out, you can’t do that.
When a neighbor—who happened to be the mother of the biggest bully in the neighborhood—called to report the bad behavior of my child. When a loud-mouthed dad shamed an entire team after a hard loss in a playoff game. When, one week before graduation, a kid thought it would be funny to hide a can of beer in my kid’s jeep, knowing he wouldn’t discover it before driving it on campus the next day. When a mom told me my little girl was being Miss Bossy Britches at school. When my Salutatorian son didn’t get a single local scholarship at the awards ceremony. When my sixth grade son was asked to pray at a school board meeting, but only if he would first cut his hair.
Those situations were setups for me to show my misbehaving mama-self. They were. They were fish bait just waiting for me to bite.
Here’s the score on those.
Out of six of the setups, I went out of boundary twice, was reined in just in the nick of time by a dear friend and a wise son two more times, and twice I actually behaved like a rational adult.
In hindsight, I know this. Our kids really don’t want us to intervene. They don’t want us to fix it. Of course sometimes it’s necessary, but for the most part it isn’t. They don’t want us to get mad on their behalf. They already have their own feelings about situations and it doesn’t help for us to pile on our feelings. It can actually make them feel worse. This world is full of awkward, uncomfortable, hurtful and painful things. It’s our job to ready them for it.
Misbehaving mellows over time, I think. Or maybe we just get tired of the drama of it. For me, I’ve learned the best thing we can do on behalf of our kids is to zip it. Hush up. I’ve given my husband permission to duct tape my mouth and stick me in a closet if I even look like I want to misbehave.
I heard Beth Moore say this, though I think she heard someone else say it.
A mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child.
Those are ten of the truest words I’ve ever heard.
Recently one of my adult kids was deeply disappointed and sad about something. Mothering habits die hard, and I felt an instinct well up in me with the same intensity as when he was little. I wanted so badly to do something to fix it, but prayer was the only thing I had in my arsenal. And it was the best thing.
Plus the uttering of a few tender words.
I’m so sorry. I wish there was something I could do to fix it. It will be okay.
I think at the root of our misbehaving there is always love. We act badly out of love, which totally makes sense in some whacko way only a mom can understand. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like my kids’ hearts and my heart are miraculously and weirdly wired together. Kind of like Bluetooth. Remotely connected.
And for that reason, their hearts and mine will forever swell and break in unison.