Friday, February 10, 2012

Lunch Boxes and Lunatic Mothers

In 1697 when William Congreve said, there was no "fury like a woman scorned", I believe he was not acquainted with many mothers. There is something that happens to women when we first hold our children. Whether it's after exhausting hours in a delivery room, agonizing waiting during a cross country adoption trip or watching the spaceship beam down your little jelly bean, the first time a mother holds her child a switch flips. You may have a been a meek and non-aggressive person before, but just let something or someone threaten the bubble of happiness we create for our child. A mother on a rampage can make the latest fight scene from a werewolf vampire movie seam like fluffy scampering lambs by comparison.

We discipline our children, teach them right from wrong, and according to them ruin their lives. So why is it when someone else inflicts something unpleasant upon our offspring we become the proverbial mother bear protecting her cubs?

Last week my son came home from school and said half of his lunch had been missing. He said since we had forgotten to pack all his food he had been hungry in the afternoon. I felt terrible! My poor child, sitting in school hungry and there was nothing he could do about it. Then the thought came to me, I was sure I had put everything in his lunchbox. Because we pack as much of the lunches as we can at the beginning of the week I was able to count what was left. Sure enough the correct number was there. He had been sent to school with all of his lunch, somewhere between our house and the lunch room half of his food disappeared. Are you sure you didn't eat it at snack time? Or take it out and misplace it? He's easily distracted, not even necessarily, by shiny objects. After a few suggestions we sent him off to school the next day with some extra food in his lunch box and a snack hidden in his back pack just in case. The result was the same, half of his lunch was gone by the time he reached the cafeteria. Some little punk was stealing his food!

Deep breath. Did you tell your teacher? "Yes, she said she couldn't do anything about it." Luckily I remembered I was having the discussion with an eight-year-old, so I didn't take this explanation at face value. "Maybe she couldn't do anything right that second, is that what she meant?" After some serious thought, he decided that was probably it. I sent a serious yet understanding email to the teacher to find out what was going on. It turns out they'd had a problem with "disappearing" lunches, snacks and school supplies all year. To protect the lunches she'd started having the students place their lunch boxes on a table at the back of the room where everyone could see them. This was the best solution she could come up with until she could figure out who the culprit was.

Oh, how school has changed! Bring back the good old days and empower those teachers. Keep those kids in from recess and grill them until someone confesses, stare them down, have the principal take them out in the hallway one by one until they crack. I wanted blood.

However, with my son I had a very calm conversation about the situation. We discussed how sad it was that  someone in his class must be so hungry they felt they had to steal, but that it was still very wrong and left him hungry too. Together we decided on the best plan to keep his lunch safe. As crazy angry as I get about these things, I still think it's important for my child to never actually see me act like a lunatic. Not that I'm perfect and it never it happens, I just try. That's unfortunately part of the parenting job too. We have to protect and teach. Sometimes though I think I'm the one doing all the learning.

About a year a go my son was getting really mopey and sullen around the house. After a lot of prodding I discovered he was being picked on at school because he was small. Being called "shrimp" and worst of all he was given the weakest super hero powers during recess games. I had known this day was coming, but come on wind power? It was too much, I was snarling. My husband stepped in to give advice, because he too had always been the smallest in his class. Ahh, this would be a manly speech on standing up for yourself and giving it right back to them. But, no his father sat him down and explained that not everyone is raised like he is knowing what's right. They may not have knowledge about Christ and how other people should be treated and that's not their fault. "If they're really your friends you should tell them that's not how you play."

Really? We're going all wise and mature with this? It was extremely good parenting and I'm very proud of my husband for it, but it was not what the lunatic mama bear was looking for.

Oh, how the tables can turn though. Apparently lunacy can infect papa bears as well. A few weeks after our twin girls started kindergarten one of them came home very upset. Another girl in class had called her a name. It started with "L" and was the opposite of winner. Makayla was stricken. Before my blood could even get a good boil going her father jumped in. "Well, you tell her she's a baby and needs to go back to pre-school!" Where was his wisdom on Christ-like behavior now?

We did go on to discuss more appropriate options with her, but it just goes to show how with an all consuming love comes a certain level of insanity. I've broken into hysterical sobs in the middle of a NICU to hold my baby, driven through three states to take my brother to rehab and chased down a doctor in an emergency room to get my husband pain medicine. Chased, assaulted it's a fine line really.

It's part of the survival mechanism to protect the ones we love. We just need to remember to internalize some of the crazy long enough to evaluate all of the facts, especially when the story is coming from third graders, and use these moments as teaching opportunities. Even when we'd rather make vampires and werewolves cower in their little grassy meadows.

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