The Perfect Christmas

Ahhh…the perfect Christmas.

Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, my friends.

What some consider “perfect” is completely different than what I consider perfect. Perfect family gatherings like we see in Hallmark movies? I’ll pass…they rarely measure up to the “perfection” they are meant to be. I’d rather gather with my family, friends, and neighbors over games and laughter, in comfortable clothing, with fifteen different conversations going on at the same time. I’m sure most of America disagrees with me, but apparently, I’m not like most of America.

My husband thinks I’m crazy every year at the holidays, but he goes along with me. I’m not into the “perfect” Christmas. I’m into the fun Christmas. Fun stuff to do. I’m not the person who has perfect bows hung on perfect chandeliers, perfect garland on the banister, mistletoe hung in the perfect spot, or fresh poinsettias perfectly placed all over my home. I’m not the person who prepares the perfect meal. I just don’t have the time or energy for that.

Today, we were watching football and talking, and my husband asked me why I like to do the fun/funny Christmas.

I had to think about that for a moment. And then, I answered, “I don’t do the perfect Christmas, because generally speaking, I don’t do perfect well. My strength is fun, not perfection. I do fun really well.” He looked at me, and then he laughed and said, “Well, you’re right about that!”

That tends to ring true with almost everything in my life. I don’t want to be the perfect mother…way too much pressure in that. I want to be a fun mom. That doesn’t mean I’m a pushover who lets my child run wild and unsupervised. That doesn’t mean I’m not checking up on her regularly. Our daughter is generally well-supervised, and we have a great relationship. We talk…and we talk…and we talk. But I remember fifteen, and I know fun is a lot more…well, fun. Do I strive for perfection as a mother? No. Perfection? That’s just not my strength.

Our vacations are fun. Are they perfect? Well, if they’re fun, they’re perfect for us! Do we visit every perfect museum tourists are supposed to visit when they go somewhere? Nah…we might visit one or two, but my teenager just isn’t impressed by museums. She’s impressed by fun places. She is her mother’s daughter. It doesn’t make us shallow. It’s just a different approach. I try to make sure we get a little culture on vacation, but we always want to have fun. Visit the hometown of John Mellencamp and try to find Jack and Diane’s Tastee Freeze when we’re passing through Indiana? Yep. Plan our dinners in LA and New York based on where we are likely to see a celebrity or two? Sure! Have lunch at places with gigantic mojitos and milkshakes? You bet! Struggle through a rock scramble and finish it by climbing straight up 60 feet and pulling myself out of a rocky crevice? Done that! Jump into a bioluminescent bay at night, not having any idea what the water around me looks like? Yes, I did. Climb a waterfall, including wading through murky chest-deep water? Check! Drive halfway across the country in 10 days with a friend and four kids? Yes…and we slept in a wigwam along the way! Volunteer to eat fire with the entertainment on stage? Pick me, please!

And so, I guess that’s why I go the fun route on Christmas. Maybe my love of the fun Christmas started when I was a little girl and my grandparents had aluminum Christmas trees with color wheels! I absolutely loved them…I was fascinated by them! Sure, I could be all serious now, but that’s just not who I am. I simply don’t take myself or life too seriously. My parents taught me many years ago that life is short. I remember Mother and Daddy telling me, “Life is not a dress rehearsal. Enjoy it.” And that’s exactly what I try to do…enjoy life.

If I’m leading a meeting of volunteers, there will be prizes at the end. Passing through a city with a great rollercoaster at a great amusement park? I’m in! Silly photo op somewhere? Get your camera!

So, if you want to drive past the perfect Christmas house, don’t drive past ours. If you want to see the perfect Christmas tree, chances are you won’t like ours. If you want to eat the perfect holiday meal, our house is not where you want to be.

But if you want to take photos with a leg lamp from A Christmas Story, come on over! If you want to see a 10.5′ inflatable Christmas elephant, visit us! If you want to dine on hamburgers, hot dogs, Cuban sandwiches, beer bread, spicy fiesta dip, buttermilk pie, and other fun food during the holidays, we’ll be happy to set a place for you. If you want to drink champagne with breakfast, drink up, baby! If you want to see our “perfect” artificial poinsettias, then we’d love to have you over. If you want to play card games on Christmas Eve or “Who’s Most Likely To…” on Christmas Day, you’re welcome at our house. Just bring a positive attitude and be ready to laugh.

Perfection is not my strength, but fun is!

 

 

 

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School’s Out For the Holidays

Finally. School is out for the holidays. As a mother, I might look forward to it as much as I did when I was a kid.

Yesterday, I went to school to pick up my daughter, who is a freshman in high school. We had been told all students would be released at noon at her K-12 school. The break didn’t exactly get started on the right foot. I arrived early, so I was near the front of the carpool line, waiting for dismissal. I had texted my daughter, telling her to hurry when school got out, because I was near the front of the line. I was looking forward to getting out of there quickly, so I could meet some friends for lunch. I was listening to Dean Martin’s Christmas album in my car. I was happily waiting. And then…

At noon, the security officer came over to my car near the front of the line and told me the high school students wouldn’t get out till 12:20, because their testing was taking longer than planned, and he asked me to “park over in the lot or go back around.” You know that record scratch sound? That’s what belongs here.

Well, I got out of line (without grumbling) and drove toward the lot. I didn’t get too aggravated till I realized there were no spots in the parking lot, and I couldn’t possibly go back around to get in line, because the officer who was supposed to be directing traffic outside the school wasn’t there yet. Traffic was backed up as far as the eye could see, and there was no way I was getting in the middle of that. No, really…there was no way I would have been able to navigate my way back into the line. Cars were bumper to bumper. I took a deep breath. I had made the effort to get there on time…there was no way I was sitting there waiting for someone in that cluster to have mercy on me and let me in.

I took matters into my own hands, and drove around to the other side of the building, where I’m not supposed to go for carpool, and after fighting a little traffic, I parked in one of the student lots…totally against the rules. Just call me a rule breaker…a maverick… a rogue parent.

While I was “going rogue,” my daughter, who had clearly been released at noon, texted me…at 12:05… “Where are you? I thought you were at the front of the line?” Fortunately, I parked in the student lot soon after her text, and I called her, telling her to walk back across campus in the pouring rain to the other side, where I was parked in the student lot. I think she knew not to give me any grief, because she could tell by the tone of my voice that I was not happy.

My daughter and her friend eventually made it to the car…soaking wet…but they seemed happy. I guess the fact that they were getting out for the holiday break totally made up for the fact that they had to double-back in the rain to get to my car.

I still don’t know why the security officer thought the high school students were being released late. There was some sort of miscommunication…not his fault. I feel sure someone somewhere gave him incorrect information, and for about ten minutes, I was really ticked off, because it was going to mess up my lunch plans. And then I realized something…

Getting upset about a little misinformation and a traffic cluster…well, those are first world problems. I also realized I had a cell phone, so I could call my friends and tell them I would likely be late. My daughter and her friend were happy to have school behind them for a couple of weeks, and even though it was raining cats and dogs, today was a good day.

It was a good day, because we all woke up. We have plenty to eat. We have a house that’s warm and dry, and we have cars that are in good working order, so we can get around pretty easily. We have a nice break ahead of us, and we will celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, with our wonderful friends and family.

Sure, life is full of aggravations. Life is full of real problems. But getting re-routed for no reason is not one of those real problems. It was a little hiccup, and I found a way around it…and I still made it to lunch on time!

Now…let’s get this holiday break started!

 

 

 

 

Can’t You Control Your Child?!?

We’ve all been there. You’re in a store, shopping with a toddler. She isn’t behaving correctly, and you need to be firm. People are looking. You know you look like a sucker. You know they think you can’t control your child. And they’re right. You can’t control your child. And you know why? Your child is another human being who isn’t supposed to be controlled by you. Your child is supposed to learn to control herself. It’s a tough lesson for parent and child.

I was in a big box store at the beach with my daughter when she was about 2 1/2. I don’t even remember why we were there. I don’t remember if we were trying to buy groceries or what. I know she was in the seat in the grocery cart, and I was not happy with her behavior. Honestly, it has been thirteen years, so I don’t even remember what she was doing. Was she yelling? Was she throwing things? Was she crying? I just don’t remember.

I do remember my reaction.

After countless efforts to get her to behave correctly…talking with her, reasoning with her, bribing her…she was still not complying. I stopped the cart, picked her up, and carried her out of the store.

She screamed. Loudly. She thrashed wildly. People were staring. I didn’t care. I needed to get out of there with her. By the way she was acting, some folks probably wondered if I was taking someone else’s child. But mothers knew. They knew she was mine, not only because she looked just like me, but they’ve been there too. They’ve had to make a decision on how to handle a situation in front of other people, and they knew people were staring then too.

She screamed and cried and yelled all the way to the car. I even saw someone I knew as I was buckling her into her car seat. I got her buckled in and quickly closed the door…so I didn’t have to listen to the incessant wailing. I spoke briefly with the friend I hadn’t seen in seven or eight years, explaining my child was having a meltdown. This particular friend doesn’t have children, so she probably thought we both needed to be locked up.

I got into the car, and my daughter was no longer screaming. She was just sad. I didn’t even speak till we got back to the condo. When we stopped in the driveway, she was calm. She was exhausted, I’m sure, from losing control. I unbuckled her from her carseat and sat in the back seat with her, holding her in my arms and explaining that I love her, but I didn’t like the way she behaved in the store. I told her I was sad too. We cuddled for a while before going inside…and cuddled some more when we got there.

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As much as I hated that scene at the store, I loved the later result. Any time we were in a store, and she started to misbehave, all I had to do was say, “Remember that store?” She would look at me with those big brown eyes, and I could see that she remembered. She knew how to behave correctly, and she would prove it to me immediately.

Did I feel terrible about the incident? You bet…at the time. I felt like a terrible mother. Later though, I realized we both learned from it. I still hated that she had been so upset, but I was glad she remembered it, and I was really glad I never had to do it again. Yep…I never had to drag her out of a store kicking and screaming again. She remembered the lesson.

Sometimes, we have to do things we don’t enjoy in order to get to a better place. That day, my daughter and I both learned that lesson. It was a painful way to learn, but we learned.

 

 

 

 

 

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Nuclear War and Other Childhood Fears

Yesterday, while driving my 14-yr-old daughter to a friend’s house, she asked what I worried about when I was a child. We all worried about different things, and I had multiple fears, but at the top of my list, once I was aware it could happen, was nuclear war.

In the 1960s and 1970s, nuclear war was a looming possibility.

I was born in 1967, but I remember Daddy talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. My parents were living in Florida at the time. They were in the panhandle, so at least they were in Northwest Florida, but they were on high alert. After all, Cuba is just 90 miles south of the southern tip of Florida, and the Soviets had placed missiles there, aiming them at Florida. Concern was warranted.

Back then, people were buying and building bomb/fallout shelters. If you’ve seen the movie, Grease 2, you probably remember the silly scene with the song, Let’s Do It For Our Country…some teenagers are messing around in a bomb shelter. (Here’s the scene.Grease 2 wasn’t reality, but bomb shelters were.

My parents had been married less than two years when the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. They, with some friends, devised a plan they would execute in the event of a nuclear attack. They didn’t have bomb shelters, but there were some caves on a friend’s property. If the alarm sounded, they would all drive there immediately. Daddy used to talk about how they drove around with canned goods and other essential items in the trunks of their cars for months, in case something happened.

Of course, the Cuban Missile Crisis simmered down, but the threat of nuclear war loomed for years.

I wasn’t aware of the threat of nuclear war until about 1976…fourth grade. I’m not sure how it came up in class. My guess is we were talking about that year’s Summer Olympics Montreal and the perfect 10s earned by Romanian gymnast, Nadia Comaneci. The world became fascinated with the young gymnast from an Eastern Bloc Communist country.

I remember our fourth grade teacher talking about Communism, saying children in Romania were tested when they were young to see what gifts they had. Some might be gymnastically talented; some might be built for dancing, rowing, or anything else…or maybe have special science, math, or writing abilities. We were told their professions were picked early for them, and if they were gymnasts or gifted dancers, they were taken from their parents to live at a training facility, because that was what the government demanded.

Whether all that was factual, I don’t know. But in fourth grade, that was what I believed. We talked about Communist countries, the Soviet Union, and somehow, we talked about nuclear war. I don’t remember much about the discussion, but I remember the teacher saying, “It’s nothing to worry about. If they drop a nuclear bomb on us, things will happen so fast that you won’t even know it.” What?!?!?! Yes, that thought was terrifying to a nine-yr-old girl. I remember actually thinking, “Why did my parents have me if they knew this was a possibility?” I remember exactly where I was sitting in the classroom when I had that thought. Big thinking for a nine-yr-old.

When I told this to my 14-yr-old daughter on that car ride yesterday, she was wide-eyed. Then, I told her it wasn’t a concern for her generation, because the Soviet Union has fallen, and we made peace with Russia…even though things seem a little precarious sometimes, I think Russia doesn’t want nuclear war any more than we want it.

But she corrected me. “Doesn’t North Korea have nuclear bombs?” I told her they do, but they can’t reach the US mainland. She asked, “But what’s to stop them from using them when they can reach the mainland?” With my limited knowledge of international politics, the only thing I came up with was, “Well, they haven’t used them on South Korea, and they can definitely reach there.” She asked me if the U.S. has the capability to intercept nuclear missiles. I told her I’d heard we do, but I didn’t tell her it’s 50 percent (or less) accurate. I then told her I think the North Koreans are too smart to start an all-out nuclear war with us. I hope I’m right.

When we were discussing fears, it seemed there were a lot of parallels between kids’ worries in 1976 and 2018. I worried about my parents’ health, which is normal, I guess, since that’s who took care of me. She said that had crossed her mind before too. But now there is an added fear that I never considered as a child: school shootings. There were school shootings in 1976…in fact, seven people were killed when a man opened fire at California State University at Fullerton that year, but because we didn’t have a 24-hr news cycle, we didn’t hear about them constantly, so they were never a fear for us. Now, not only do we have a 24-hr news cycle feeding our brains bad news, but children prepare for active shooters. That’s something we never had to do. Living in Alabama, we had tornado and fire drills, but never lockdown drills.

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The Sandy Hook shootings occurred when my daughter was in third grade, and I remember her asking me if it would happen at her school. I didn’t want to lie, but I didn’t want to scare her either. I explained that we never know what could happen, but that it wasn’t likely. That year, she had a male teacher, so I added, “Besides, you’ve seen your teacher’s muscles. Do you really think he’d let someone get into your classroom?” She relaxed. At age 9, all she needed was reassurance, and that did the trick.

So it seems everything old is new again, plus some. Kids still have the same worries. There’s the threat of nuclear war. Kids still worry about their parents’ health. Plus, the worries of school shootings. My daughter, thankfully, has somehow managed to stop being the worrier she used to be. She told me during our chat that she learned a long time ago that she shouldn’t worry about things over which she has no control. I’m proud of that. I didn’t learn to control those worries till I was in college.

So to help keep those worries to a minimum, I’ll keep the 24-hr news cycle out of our home.

 

 

 

Back to Reality

Ahhhh…vacation. If only we could feel as relaxed in daily life as we do on vacation.

We returned last night from what is likely the last big vacation of the summer for us. I love vacation. I love vacations of all kinds…active, outdoors (but not camping), water, city, lazy, big, small…just vacations in general. I love visiting new places and familiar places.

This most recent trip was to a familiar place, Los Angeles, but we had people with us who had never been, so everything old was new again. We had a great time…three moms with three teenagers. One mom was my awesome sister-in-law, whom I adore, and the other was my college friend, Angela…also adored. As we all started to depart the hotel yesterday, I could feel “reality” hanging over our heads like a fog.

I always get a little sad when I know the final big trip of summer is over. This year, because of high school sports, the final big trip of summer had to be a little earlier. (Note that I keep saying our final big trip, because I keep hoping for a couple of small adventures.) Our daughter is starting 9th grade and trying out for high school teams this year. Those tryouts start in early August, so no more vacations…back to reality.

Reality means it’s time to start getting prepared for the next school year. I get queasy just thinking about it. I don’t know if my daughter is nervous at all, but I am. It happens every year, but this year, more so, because she is going to high school. I’ve never had a child in high school, so this is a new experience for us. Deep down, though, I know she will settle in just fine, and eventually, I will settle down.

The most immediate thing on the horizon is the “assigned summer reading.” That is reality at our house right now, and that is the part I do not like. It’s not really my reality; it’s my daughter’s reality, but I will have to listen to her complain about it. I’m not the mom who helps with homework or nags about assignments. Most of the time, I don’t even know what the assignments are…and that’s how I’d like to keep it. I’ve talked with my friend, Maureen Paschal, about assigned summer reading on Been There Moms. You can see the video here. I simply do not like assigned summer reading. I feel like it is encroaching on my family time, and it’s like a cloud hanging over summer for us. I love to read, and I hope my daughter will eventually love it too, but even as a reader, “assigned” reading was tough for me as a student. At some point in the next couple weeks, she will take a couple days to sit down and read that book. She will complain about it, but she will get it done.

Personally, I think, if the school is going to require summer reading, I think they should also require outdoor exercise. There are some students who love reading all summer, and there are some who enjoy being outdoors all summer. Sure, there are some who fall between the two, but my daughter loves moving around and being outdoors. Sitting still? Nah. There’s no fun in that. But I really believe that if the school is going to have assigned summer reading, they should also have required outdoor exercise hours. If we are trying to enrich the whole student, let’s build their minds and their bodies.

Another reality is getting prepared for my daughter’s freshman year, meaning I need to make sure she has everything she is going to need. Right now, though, we are one month out from the first day of school, so seeing school supplies in the stores just makes me nauseous. I will get everything in advance with time to spare, but I don’t look forward to it.

And then there’s this reality: a month of back to back trips means things in my closet (and my home) are in disarray. I came home from the beach in June, and I’ve had several back-to-back trips since. I won’t get into listing all the places we visited, but it has been a lot of packing, unpacking, and packing again. And in some cases, I didn’t even unpack and repack…there wasn’t time. I just packed other stuff in a different suitcase. I need to take the time to straighten out all that, and it is one of my least favorite things to do. It means pulling out everything from closets around my house and purging. I’ve found some good “purging” advice in an article from the Huffington Post here. I dread it. But I will do it…maybe while my daughter is doing her assigned reading!

Today, though, I choose to ignore those realities. I want to enjoy the last fun, lazy days of summer…hanging out in the pool, spending time with family, harvesting tomatoes, spending time outdoors, and possibly, taking a little road trip or two. I’m on my way out to the pool now…

 

My Favorite Mother’s Day Gifts

Mother’s Day is May 13…just around the corner.

This year, I will celebrate Mother’s Day as a mother, but I will not be celebrating it as a daughter. I lost my mother in December. If she were here, she would say, “Don’t get me a gift. I should give my children a gift, because y’all make me so happy to be a mother.”

Of course, we sent her something every year, if we weren’t with her. One year, I didn’t see her or talk to her till late in the day. She wasn’t happy with me, and rightfully so. But I did arrive that evening, gift in hand. I’d had a bad day that day, but I didn’t want to burden her with my problems on Mother’s Day, so I just took the heat. I learned my wicked “stinkeye” from her, you know.

This year, we will make a toast to my mother at brunch, and I will tell my daughter some stories about her. That’s how we celebrate Mother’s Day…brunch.

I won’t be sending my mother a gift this year, but maybe I’ll receive a gift (or two) from my family. If you need to get a gift for someone who doesn’t drop hints, here are some of my ideas (hint, hint):

SKYLIGHT FRAME According to their website, the Skylight Frame is a digital touch screen 10″ photo frame that displays your digital photos and can be updated remotely via email. It promises “clarity, color, and brilliance.” Part of the setup process is connecting it to Wi-Fi. From what I understand, each frame has its own email address, so you can update the photos anytime from anywhere. Sounds like the perfect way to display new photos in your own home or at Grandma’s. Priced at $159, I think it is a great gift (hint, hint). You can get more information and purchase the Skylight Framehere.

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FRESH FLOWERS I know it sounds cliché, but I love fresh flowers in my house. I think most women do. I love walking into my house and seeing fresh flowers, even if I was the one who picked them, ordered them, or purchased them. They don’t have to be the most expensive flowers, you know. If you have some lovely flowers in your yard (we have some beautiful roses), make up your own bouquet and present them to Mom.  There are lots of awesome places to get beautiful flowers. My personal favorite in Charlotte is The Blossom Shop, simply because they have never failed me. Everything they’ve ever done is beautiful. You can see their website here. You can also pick up fresh flowers at most grocery stores and make up your own arrangement.

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BAKED BY MELISSA MINI CUPCAKES I wrote about these recently, but I’m adding them here again, because they really are some of my current favorite things on earth. My friend, Amy, sent me some for my 50th birthday last May, and I think about them every day. In fact, I placed an order for my “family” (myself) earlier today. They are delightful little bite-size treats and come in lots of flavors. Personally, I love the package called the O.G. (Original Greats). You can’t go wrong with this. To see what they offer and place an order, click here.product-the-og-25-pack_1_

SEND A MEAL This is a website from which you can send a voucher to any recipient…on Mother’s Day, that would be your mom. Mom spends a lot of time keeping the family fed, so give her a break on a day of her choosing. Prices vary, but it’s worth a look. I’ve looked through their website many times, and every time, I find something else that looks fantastic. One friend told me she had ordered from them, and the food was fabulous. They have a vast array of offerings including pasta, pork, chicken, beef, meatloaf, and more! They even have meals for special diets like Diabetic meals and Gluten Free meals. Check out their website here.

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US NATIONAL WHITEWATER CENTER This is a great, fun place lots of people forget we have in Charlotte. For an adventurous mom, a gift of adventure at the Whitewater Center would be a great gift. One year, for my birthday, a friend gave me a Canopy Tour at the Whitewater Center, and it was an incredible time! Guides take participants through a series of ziplines and platforms around the Whitewater Center. There are lots of other activities at the Whitewater Center, as well. Check out their website herehttps://usnwc.org/.

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BY D GRACE OF GOD PRODUCTS While watching CBS Sunday Morning, I saw a story that I had seen before but forgotten. It’s the story of a man who received an unsolicited Facebook message from someone in Liberia. Believing it to be a scam, the recipient proposed that the sender take some photos of the living conditions in his area. After receiving some photos from him, he realized the man in Liberia needed a better camera. He mailed him a camera with which to take photos, thinking he’d never hear from him again. But he did. The story is a touching one, and worth a readhere. The two men are now in business together, selling photos of Liberia and more. You can purchase their productshere. When you give Mom her gift, tell her the story behind it, and she will be thrilled to be a part of it.png_book_1024x1024.png

Whatever you choose to do for your mother, remember…you only have one mother. After mine passed away, a friend said to me, “I cannot imagine losing my mother. I don’t have any other family.” I said, “You have your husband!” She said, “I can get another husband. I can’t get another mother!” Of course, we laughed.

Spend some time with your mother and do something thoughtful for her this Mother’s Day. These were some suggestions, but every mother is different. Do something she will like.

God bless mamas.

XOXO,

Kelly

Mama Bear

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DISCLAIMER: I am not a mental health professional, but I am a mother. This post is written after being given the word “bear” as a prompt…I ran with it.

Everybody knows you don’t mess with a mama bear in the animal kingdom. Generally speaking, you don’t mess with a Mama Bear in the human world, either.

Mama Bears can be mamas, or they might be teachers fighting for their students, coaches fighting for their players, or any adult fighting for a child.

Let me start by saying I am a person who gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. I expect good things from people. I think most people are good. I think most people try. I want good things for other people. I also want good things for my child and other people’s children. Most of the time, I think everyone around me is doing everything they can for everybody.

And then there are the times I feel like I’ve been gut-punched.

If you’re a mama, you’ve experienced it…that feeling you get when you feel the need to protect your child, or even your teen, from something. You feel the need to intercede. It’s an instinct that becomes part of who you are when you become a mother.

It might be you feel the need to keep them from going to a party. Maybe you feel the need to talk to a teacher. Maybe parents need to come together sometimes. MOST of the time, I try to encourage my child to work things out on her own. But Mama Bear is always in there…sometimes she’s hibernating, but she’s there.

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It’s an instinct that’s difficult to ignore. I know, because sometimes, I become Mama Bear.

Generally speaking, I don’t act on the Mama Bear instinct (and sometimes it’s painful to hold it in), unless I see what I perceive to be a real problem. Lots of times, I’ve had to vent to friends. Sometimes I ask for feedback about my instinct, but usually, I just want to vent.

My friends know the difference. They know when I want feedback and when I want to vent. And some of them know when I need feedback, whether I want it or not.

I’m not a big complainer, and I’m a reasonable person. Usually, if I run across a situation that I think needs to be mentioned, I sit on it for a while. I try to shelve it for a few days…a cooling off period, if you will. Often, I realize the “situation” was no big deal.

I have one child, a 14-yr-old daughter. What I have learned in her 14 years of life is something my mother always told me: Something might be a big deal to her, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you. 

Remember when your child was a toddler? There were things that bothered him/her that seemed completely trivial to an adult. For my child, one of those things was collared shirts. She hated them. When I put a collared shirt on her and realized how it bothered her, I couldn’t get it off her fast enough…because it became painful listening to her! Whew! What was a big deal to her initially seemed small to me, but after much ado, it became very clear to me that it was a big deal all around!

All these teenage “big deals” should be taken into consideration too.

And sometimes, I have to help her put things into perspective. Easier said than done, but I try. If she continues to act like it’s a big deal, then I try really hard to see things from her point of view.

One thing I do know is that middle school girls are not like everybody else. I remember being 14, and I remember an emotional rollercoaster…daily. I also remember that I didn’t feel like I had the power to take problems to higher-ups, i.e. adults. So I kept my mouth shut.

My own daughter tends to do the same thing, like lots of girls her age. She gets upset about something, but she doesn’t say anything to anyone…except me. I try to teach her that she needs to learn to handle these “situations” on her own, but sometimes, it’s just impossible. Maybe she’s afraid she won’t be heard. Maybe she’s afraid of repercussions.

Let me clarify that I have never complained about a teacher. In fact, I am usually the first one writing a complimentary letter for just about anyone…teachers, flight attendants, customer service personnel, waitstaff, salespeople, hotel employees. Truly, I know people work hard for a living, and I like to help people. My friends actually LAUGH at how much time I spend writing complimentary letters, but I appreciate a job well done. I can’t remember the last time I flew somewhere and didn’t write a complimentary letter for at least one airline employee. Same with hotel employees. I find something good in them. That’s my long way of saying I’m a positive person.

Here is something else I know: sometimes we have to intercede on our children’s behalf, because truly, they feel like they are being disrespectful if they question authority. It’s an interesting thing we teach our children in this country: We start with “respect your elders,” and then we change our tune to “handle it yourself.” That’s a pretty confusing message to lots of preteens and teens…including mine.

We even teach girls not to call each other out! How many times do we talk about how polite they have to be, and how many times have we said, “Be nice.” Ugh. Yes, please be polite and nice, but don’t be a doormat.

They have this fear that they will appear too sensitive. They have a fear of getting in trouble for being “mean” when they defend themselves. My child has actually said to me, when someone has been rude, that it would be “mean” if she defended herself. WHAT?!? But sometimes, people will be rude as long as you let it go on. I’ve spent countless hours trying to teach my daughter to stand up for herself and others.

Growing up is hard. It’s hard for the child/teen, and it’s hard for the parents. It’s hard to see our teens lose confidence because of something an adult does. It’s hard to see our teens feeling sad.

Most kids learn to handle it, including mine. Most of the time when this Mama Bear flares up,  no one ever knows it.

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Usually, my flare-ups are about adults who act without considering the psyche of a 14-yr-old girl. Do people actually have that much difficulty remembering what it felt like to be that age? At 14, they are still part little girl and just taking one baby step into adulthood. They don’t know if they are little girls or big girls. They need guidance, and they need conversation, and they need someone to hear them.

Will a middle school girl speak up if she feels slighted? Maybe. Is it possible she will shut down if she feels slighted? Maybe.

And sometimes they internalize it…thus, the emotional rollercoaster.

Unfortunately, they often are afraid to speak up. That’s when Mama Bear has to step in. This Mama Bear always feels great pain about this. Generally speaking, I give people the benefit of the doubt, but problems arise when someone dealing with teens doesn’t take into consideration that they are still kids at heart. If someone doesn’t understand teens, they shouldn’t be in a position to deal with teens.

Their reality is different than the reality of adults. They can’t drive. They are trapped at school all day. They have to follow more rules. They’re distracted by social stuff. They’re distracted by almost anything. They’ve been told to be “nice” their whole lives, and dang it, most of them are.

I don’t profess to be a mental health professional, but I am a Mama Bear. I choose to be a Mama Bear who TRIES really hard to keep it to herself.

I give a mean “stink-eye,” though.

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Cheers to all the Mama Bears of the world!

Kelly