When Cubs Cry

Note before reading: this is not about baseball, that is a different issue for a different day (probably never). This is about children and what happens when they hurt.

I have on more than one occasion in my parenting life been described as acting like a mother bear when someone has come between my young and me. Not physically mind you, I am not possessive in that way, and rarely in the sense that there is a potential for bodily danger for the young (though that has happened a couple of times); no, most of the time when my ears prick up and I feel a growl building in my chest is when the emotional health of my young is threatened and truthfully that is the hardest danger to protect them from. Perhaps it is impossible.

I do know that at some point we have to let them grow, let them go, and let them have their own experience of the world. That’s okay with me; I don’t want to hold on forever. But even as you see them wander off into the woods on their own your heart screams out when they are in pain, and even after you have let them go as a good parent does you rage inside when someone hurts them. At least from where I sit today I don’t think that ever goes away. They grow up but you don’t grow out of being their parent, you just have to adjust what that means.

I am not of the mind that we have to protect our children from all pain. I do understand that we learn from our mistakes and we grow from our experiences. I have seen parents who try that, who stand next to the slide for longer than they should, who walk their child to the classroom door for too many years, or who demand equity in invites and scheduled play and make the rules for every game. I can empathize with the feeling that if we are just there all the time we can pave a smooth road, but I do understand that is neither appropriate or my job. I am more the style that lets them walk ahead of me, sometimes I hide myself from view, but I am there in the background ready to step in if the danger is too great, if the road is too bumpy for young legs. I think I have a tendency to jump in early, I am protective even if I understand what they need to grow. Sometimes my husband will say to me, “calm down mama bear, let’s see what they can do,” and then I take a swipe at his head (not literally). I know I can’t protect them from everything, that I should not protect them from everything, but it doesn’t stop the wanting.

When they were little and would fall, because they have to learn that they can get back up too, I would be there to console them, to bandage them and to urge them on. That has never changed. I can be strong and clean the bloody knee, or pull the splinter out. I can be supportive and remind them that if you want something you keep working for it, that sometimes you miss but you keep taking the shot. I can do all those things, I have always been there to do that, walking close behind just in case they need me. And then they grow up and you can’t pick them up anymore because they are bigger than you, and they don’t like it when you walk too close behind, in fact they don’t like that you are even on the same road they are. They want to move into their own part of the woods and they want you to visit only when they tell you to. So you let them, because that is the way of life and is as it should be. But you watch and you listen with your heart, and someday, because it is inevitable your cub will be hurt and you will need to let them protect themself and your heart will break with the pain of their sadness. There is nothing else that you can do but love them.

Today I am learning how to watch from a distance, how to call out and let them know that if they need me I will come, but that I believe in them and I know that they can handle whatever the road in front of them brings. I know they can; they are strong and smart and kind and wonderful. And I still hate it when my cubs cry (also I kind of hate the person that made them cry – I can’t help it!).

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