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Mama Bear Tendencies

August 23, 2012

There is nothing like spending a lot of time with other people’s children to bring out the mama bear tendencies in me.  Whether it is kids I’m related to, kids I know casually from church or the neighborhood, or kids I don’t know at all, the result is the same.  If your kids are mean to my kids I’m going to be all defensive.  It doesn’t stop there though.  In my head, more than once, I have found myself comparing my kids to others, so proud that my kids are so obviously superior to others.

O Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Usually these tendencies (and please tell me I am not the only one who does this occasionally!), lay deeply covered below the surface.  I appear to be humble, think of myself as humble, and marvel at how well-behaved and how much better other people’s kids listen then mine.  Then I really get to know them and the mama bear comes out.  My kids tend to exhibit behaviors that are important to Curtis and I, either because it’s been taught to them or it’s just in the blood–not sure which, it doesn’t really matter.  Thus, I am proud of their independence, their curiosity, their energy.

O Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

After spending ample time with other people’s children this summer, I had to acknowledge this pride, this sin that has bubbled to the surface.  A hidden sin is still a sin, isn’t it?

I struggled with this and thought of a book I read this summer (which may become known as The Summer I Read).  I knew I had read something about this in Barbara Miller-McLemore’s book, In the Midst of Choas:  Caring for Children as a Spiritual Practice.  I quickly skimmed the book, looking at my notes and markings for clues as to where I may have read it.  Sure enough, I found what I was thinking of, sitting, unmarked and uncommented on, mostly because I knew I had a hard time embracing it.  Miller-McLemore was writing of an experience she had in a workshop on children’s spirituality.  The speaker, a new grandmother, stood out to Miller-McLemore, and Miller-McLemore summarized the talk with this:

Seeing this child [her grandchild], a child in her own lineage, awakened her to the childness, the child-hood, the reality that every person is a child of another, a child of God, and worthy of such love, admiration, and care.  If she felt this way about her own child, then all children deserved as much.  This kind of love spoke volumes to her about God’s and her own place in passing God’s love on.  It renewed her commitment to care for other children.

O Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I reflected on why I had not marked it.  When, I read it the first time, the second time, and even the third time, I discovered although I agreed with the sentiment, I struggled with the emotional aspect of it.  Love for me isn’t an emotion, but an action.  Love for my own children I don’t often “feel,”  but instead demonstrate.  I love by actions, not by words, sentimentality, or raw emotions.  This section compels me more to act out of love than to shower the rare rush of emotions on other’s children.

O Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

As I continue to interact with other people’s children, I am challenged to treat each child with the love, gentleness, patience, joy, peace, kindness, self-control, and goodness I strive to exhibit with my own children.  This is no different than the same challenge I have with other adults, however, it is a bit more urgent with children.  If I can’t treat children this way, how will I ever come to treat adults the same?

Camille S. Williams is quoted in In the Midst of Chaos as saying

Slower learner that I am, it took the birth of my first child to see each person as someone else’s child, someone else’s pain and joy.  This radical restructuring of my world left me unable to bear some of the misery we inflect on each other.

I must learn that even when my protective, proud tendencies try to kick in, that all children are beloved children of God, not just mine.  When other children tattle constantly about one of mine, I must see that child as a beloved child of God.  When another children, turns my gentle, energetic child into the “bad guy” because of accidents that tend to follow him, I must see that child as a beloved child of God.  When the big kids tease my little one, I must remember that those big kids are beloved children of God.  When other children aren’t as energetic or curious or bold as mine, I must remember they are beloved children of God.

O Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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