Mama Bear

Written by: Andrea Angileri
There was a black bear loose in our city not too long ago. Extremely rare for our area, the bear was discovered by a retired science teacher. A teacher who, I recall, wrote a quirky message to me in my middle school yearbook, something to the tune of not relying on my good looks to get me through life, but to apply myself, but that is neither here nor there. The retired teacher noted that the bear had been likely pushed due to lack of resources and was probably looking for a mate. It was probably a male, not wanting to ask for directions, but pushed beyond its comfort zone and looking for a connection….hmm…if that don’t sound like a mama bear.
They are at the park, at the pool, at the school, on the web…oh yes…the Mama Bear is alive and well because the Mama Bear lives deep within all of us who call ourselves “Mother”. Some ‘Mama Bear’s start out strong, defending their child the moment they enter this world because there is a special need…in their child…or in their inner selves…others are evolved through eventual circumstances. I saw a Mama Bear being born the other day…at a baby shower. She was opening up random onesies and holding up cute bibs, and I couldn’t help but think, “There she is…the birth of the Mama Bear…welcome to one helluva club”. I used to cringe at Mama Bears…until I saw that I met mine.
My son was 11 when my first encounter came with my own inner Mama Bear. Sure, there had been times that I would get the post baby sensitivities, the insecure moments, but up until then, I most probably thought of myself as more of a Berenstain Bear ‘Mama Bear’. But then it happened…something that would make me throw off my bonnet and toss of my apron in a ‘HAIL NO’ kinda way. Let me set the stage….
I’m at a pool party with my oldest….by myself. This is a rarity. That means that I left behind an 8 year old, 5 year old, and a 3 year old. Obviously, I found the most comfortable hammocky looking chair and I just vegged. Then my moment of peace got completely f#cked up upbruptly stopped. My son had thrown a plastic toy across the pool and it smacked this older lady right in the back. He was in shock and apologized. The lady…who was probably also in shock..turned and yelled, “DON’T THROW TOYS IN THE POOL!”. My son gives a “I didn’t mean to hit you” and she repeats with the same loud tone and with a finger, “I DON’T CARE. DON’T THROW TOYS IN THE POOL!” There was a long awkward silence and I am not even exaggerating. I sat in my hammocky chair. I visualized myself leaping up and making a dramatic scene defending my son. I sat in my hammocky chair…
Another mom came over a few minutes later, “Hey,” she says, “are you having fun?”
“I’d have a lot more fun if that lady hadn’t just yelled at my son” (I slightly feel the guy next to me turn. He had an odd look on him. It was probably her husband. Who knows)
The mom agreed and moved on and I could feel my cheeks flush. Something in me was unhinging. It was ‘Mama Bear’.
“You have to go over there and say something, “ Mama Bear insisted.
I checked in on my son who had moved on, and it had probably been a good 10 minutes after the incident when I marched my little butt over to the other edge of the pool where the older lady was talking with a younger woman. And this is what transpired.
Me: “You can talk to your grandchildren however you want, but I don’t appreciate you yelling at my son like that”
Older Lady: Not remembering what she said verbatim here, but something about it taking her by surprise and it hurt, and it was over and done with now.
Me: “I know I would have been pissed if I would have got hit too, but you made a scene.” And then something about how I was just trying to relax somewhere in the dialogue.
I walked away and just went on with the party. Later on the younger lady came over to talk to the group, turns out she was the daughter of the older woman. My son and I leave at a later unrelated time In the car I told my son that I was upset about the incident and I addressed the lady. I felt like he needed to know that I defended him….but in all actuality, I don’t know if my son felt the need for my defense. It’s like that sometimes with ‘Mama Bears’. We fight and claw and sometimes our kids don’t even ask us or want us to do it. What irked me is that this lady didn’t know my kid. If you are his teacher or his relative then at least you KNOW the kid. Don’t yell at my kid like you know him! A ‘Mama Bear’ was born that day. It was bittersweet. I was proud for standing up…but sad that it brought out the ugly in me. In hindsight, I realize that the older lady was probably being a little ‘Mama Bear’ herself. I mean, she was in the pool with her grandchildren. She took the plastic hit, but something in her snapped when she was in protective mode. Que Sera.
Seriously though, what is it with waterparks and ‘Mama Bears’? There was a different incident with my youngest son which he went down the slide and bumped into a little girl and the mom went a little too nuts for my liking. My kid didn’t want to go back into that area for the rest of the day. I threw on compassion and asked if the little girl was o.k. later in dry turf. They were just a family. She was just a mom getting into my kid’s face. Whatever.
Sometimes in this Mama Bear life you need to just realize that we are all Mama Bears, we just belong to different dens. We are conditioned to defend our own children, at any cost. We might turn to realize that our cubs are just playing in the background….oblivious to the dangers we are defending them from. Our cubs are like that lone loose Northern Illinois black bear everyone is freaking out about. Crossing counties, finding his way, maybe he’s having a blast alone. Our children might take a detour, but they they will be independent..if we let them be. Related: Nobody is fretting about the black bear anymore, he’s old news.
It’s exhausting being a Mama Bear. I’m going to put on my Berenstain bear bonnet and apron, make some damn muffins, and let Papa take a turn.