Raising Mary: Sometimes fighting that protective instinct is better than fighting

When Mary was just 14 months
old, I got a taste of my protective,
maternal instincts. It was a
weekday and there was a noise at
the front door. Looking through
a window from upstairs, I could
see someone hunched over at the
waist, jockeying roughly with
the doorknob. The person wore a
hooded sports jacket. I could not
see the face.

My heart hammered. I grabbed
Mary under the armpits. My
instant plan: get child, get phone
from master bedroom, lock door.
Dart into master bathroom. Lock
that door. I put Mary down and
perched on the toilet, muscles
coiled and adrenaline spurting. I
had become a mother bear. I would
have attacked anyone who came
through the door before they
could get to my ‘cub’.

As I spat out to the 911 operator
that someone was trying to
break into my house, I suddenly
remembered my sister was
coming over. She was jamming
her bent key into the lock.
(Embarrassed apologies ensued.)
Hopefully, there won’t be other
moments that primal. But there
are other situations that bring out
the Mama Bear in me.

Number one, when someone
says negative things about my
kid. My response depends on
who’s saying it. I tend to support
the authority fi gure. My Mom was
a teacher, and I remember how
frustrated she would get when
parents overreacted. She once had
a student whose mother refused
to get her child’s hearing checked,
and she was a nurse! It always
seemed the parents of kids with
chronic bad behaviour were the
ones driven into defensive mode.
Maybe they were protecting
themselves, too?

When other parents say
something negative about my
children, I’ve managed to hold
my tongue, lest my defensive
instinct become offensive. I might
have pointed out some things
about their kids which could have
spiralled into something nasty.
Instead, I vented to my husband.
Sure, I think Mary and Adelaide
are great kids, but they’re not
perfect. They’re little humans;
they’re not supposed to be.

Expert Advice – Sara Dimerman says:

Even the most mild mannered mom amongst us is easily provoked
by anything or anyone that presents a threat to her young (and
even older) ones. Perhaps our brains are hard wired to move
our bodies as we jump into action or maybe, as the most evolved
beings among all living species, its just instinct to protect our
offspring. When the urge to fi ght occurs, step back, if only for a
few seconds, to consider how your involvement might help or
hinder your child’s ability to solve his or her own problems.

Tracy Cooper is a stay-at-home mother of Mary, 6, and Adelaide, 3. 

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, February/March 2013.

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