I recently saw a shirt that said "Unfinished" on it. It struck a chord with me. I made a social media post showing and stated that we all need this, in particular, our young people. Toddlers, adolescents, teens and young adults. Why did it hit such a nerve with me? I have witnessed over and over parents, and frankly mostly moms, harshly criticizing other kids. ESPECIALLY if that child or young adult in some way hurt their child. And the criticism isn't done in a constructive manner. It's venomous gossip and extremely hurtful. And I'm not gonna lie, I have vented poorly on more than one occasion. I have had to stop and ask myself two questions...why? ...and what can I do to change this?
I'm no expert. But I have had the privilege of raising children for 20 years and I have worked either in schools or ministry with middle school students for most of those 20 years. And most of all...I'm a mama bear. Urban Dictionary defined mama bear pretty well:
a mom who can be cuddly and lovable but also has a ferocious side when it's necessary to protect her cubs. can be biological mom, or the head of a group.
Yes! We can be so cuddly and lovable but boy oh boy, if you mess with our cubs (at any age I might add), our ferocious sides can come out. I think that the "why" has a lot to do with this. We feel our children's hurt so deeply that we have to fight hard not to unleash the beast within that can quickly become ferocious. It's instinctive.
And while mama bear is within us, so is that little girl that wants to be so accepted that we project it onto our children. And in doing this, we will bad mouth others to somehow attempt to make the other mamas see why our child was so deeply wronged and that the other child clearly has a lot of problems. And some of us, make a point of telling as many people as we can, becoming the women we swore we would never be.
I am not innocent in this. I have been so angry before I have spewed hate. And it made me feel ugly inside. I hope it makes you feel the same way. And if it doesn't, I implore you to consider something. And I'm speaking to the mamas of girls mostly here because I see it mostly with them. Please remember that these girls are UNFINISHED! They aren't yet who they will be. It is difficult enough growing up in this world today. There are so many pressures on our young women with technology alone that we did not have. The last thing they need is the adults around them writing them off and choosing to ostracize them instead of coming along side them and coaching them, teaching them, and loving them. I know we can't pour into all of their lives, but what can we do when hurt comes and mama bear gets awakened from her peaceful sleep? I'm working on a few things:
- Pray. Pray first. Always. Ask yourself the cliche question "What would Jesus do"? Seriously. Some of you are like "okay Melissa"....but if we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus...shouldn't we ponder how he would handle this? Ask God for wisdom, patience and courage to do what is right. Sometimes that does mean talking to another mom. Sometimes it means moving on.
- Coach. Coach your own chid first. Walk through things with them. What happened? What part did they play? (yes moms! Your child actually may have not been innocent in it all...it's okay. They are human, and thankfully, unfinished). I always try to make my child see the other sides of things. Some of you may have the chance to coach other children. Take it. I work with middle schoolers and try to do this as often as I can. And, I have been driving a car full of girls who will begin to talk about something happening and I always try to take that opportunity to be a positive influence as well.
- Talk. Constructively, if needed. Sometimes we need to intervene. The older they get the less we should be intervening. It's important to teach our children how to advocate for themselves and navigate relationships. The younger they are the more often we may need to talk to another parent. But I promise you, this will not go well if you dive into it ready to attack that parents child instead of looking for resolution. Nothing brings out mama bear faster than another mama bear on the attack. As our children get older they should be the one trying to talk through things, not us. The skill needs to be learned if they are going to navigate life and relationships as adults.
- Distance. Sometimes we need to have our children distance themselves from other children. We have done it on several occasions and it has been done to my children. Not in a malicious way. But some relationships are not healthy. And this does not need to be permanent. Sometimes that child may be making really poor choices. We should not put our children in those situations nor should we expect them to remain in them. They don't have to hang out with everyone. Sometimes friendships change, for many reasons. Distance is okay and healthy. Listen...as I person that struggles with abandonment issues, this is a tough one for me. But it's okay. It's good. It's a part of life.
I am so grateful that I continue to grow and learn. I don't want to ever stop. As a young person I was very insecure, made some mistakes...many I regret. I still do. Daily. Some big. Some small. I'm grateful for grace, the will to continue to be better and a God who hasn't given up on me. Next time we feel the urge to be harsh with our words regarding our young people, let's try to extend them the same grace we would want. They are, after all, unfinished.