Where’s Papa Bear When Mama Bear Gets Angry?

Last summer, my parents were loading into the van after Vacation Bible School–while about two dozen other families attempted to do the same.

It was parking lot madness.

Children frolicked around, high on summer and sugary snacks, as their worn-out caregivers tried to pluck them from giggling herds to go home.

My mom had shuttled four children from the women’s shelter where she works. And, as she strapped three of them in their seats, Number Four slipped under her arm and bolted. Of course, she yelled his name, and told him to stop, but this particular 4-year-old only laughed and ran faster.

Mom was right on his heels, so she witnessed when he plowed head-long into another little boy (who began to cry).

She cornered Number Four, pointed to the crying boy, and scolded, “You hurt somebody because you didn’t listen to me!” Then she marched him back to the van with that classic, angry-mom, you’re-in-trouble stomp.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get very far before Crying Boy’s mother stopped them with a screechy “Excuse me! Your son just ran into mine!”

My mom turned around, and apologized. “I know–I’m sorry!” she said. “I saw it happen. Actually this is a boy I teach at the women’s shelter. He has a behavior disorder that’s sometimes difficult to manage…”

“That’s no excuse!”  the Angry Woman interrupted. “My son has special needs, too.”

This caught my mom off guard. She could see the woman was beyond the normal level of anger for the situation.

“Well…(*stammering*) No, I didn’t mean to make excuses,” she said. “But I’m trying to explain why he was running away from me in the first place…”

“He hurt my son,” the Angry Woman repeated. “And then he laughed when he started crying!…The least he should do is apologize!”

Still frazzled (but agreeing an apology was in order), my mom decided to see if Number Four would cooperate. She said, “Do you understand that you hurt this boy? Tell him you’re sorry.”

“Sorry,” Number Four muttered.

And then everything was fine! The lady said, “Accidents happen,” and everybody got home at a decent hour…

JUST KIDDING!  

Actually, the woman said she didn’t believe that Number Four was really sorry, and she accused my mom of negligence.  She announced she wanted to report my mom to a supervisor at the homeless shelter.

Seriously.

My mom explained she needed to get the kids back and didn’t have time to argue over a bump on the head….and that’s when Angry Woman said, “I guess I’ll have to call the cops then!”

Seriously.

Those of us nearby tried to gain control of the escalating situation. Somebody pointed out that nothing illegal had happened. I was the one who asked Angry Woman, “Exactly what do you want at this point?”

She replied, “I WANT OTHER PEOPLE TO START TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR CHILDREN IN PUBLIC!”

*cough*

Okaaaaaay, We’ll get right to work on that, Ma’am.  Meanwhile, there was nothing else to be said or done about the parking lot collision between two little boys, so my dad told my mother to go ahead and leave.

Unfortunately, Angry Woman didn’t like losing her audience, and now her husband was involved.  While she dialed 9-1-1, the Husband announced, “We have the right to detain you until the authorities arrive,” and jumped in front of the van as my mom was pulling away.

I really, really wish I were making this up.

But, seriously.

Mom had to slam the brakes to avoid manslaughter. Then, Angry Woman (who was talking to the police dispatcher and holding her no-longer-crying boy), planted herself behind the van.

She was stuck in her vehicle with four children who hadn’t eaten, while two unreasonable parents held her hostage and reported to law enforcement a story of an injury that happens on playgrounds across the country all. the. time.

As you can tell, this is a long tale, and there are many other interesting details which the social commenter side of me would love to pick apart right now. But, for the sake of time, the highlights are these:

-The police took over an hour to arrive.

-My mom (and the four kids), waited in the van, while the Husband stood a few feet in front of the vehicle–arms crossed defiantly–to make sure they didn’t escape.

-Aaaaand, the whole thing eventually was settled by an officer with the patience of a saint who allowed Angry Woman to vent, then kindly told her “sorry your little guy got hurt,” and then sent everybody home.

So what does this story have to do with the culture?

Well, I’m willing to bet that Angry Woman tells her own version of this story occasionally…

…and I’m willing to bet Angry Woman refers to this incident as one of the times “Mama Bear” had to come out.

Mama Bear.  The national excuse for bad behavior from women everywhere.

Can’t you picture the Tweet?  Something like, “Parents don’t take responsibility for their kids! I had to throw down in a parking lot today because somebody hurt my baby… #Fierce #FighterInstinct #MamaBear”

…and all of her friends throw up their thumbs and shout, “You get ’em, girl!”  Boy, those people messed with the wrong cub!!!

Girl power! They chant.

Do you realize our culture usually assumes the woman is right any time she claims to be “protecting” her kids?

I found this article encouraging ladies to just let it out–that rage is healthy! Embrace the “feral ferociousness”…

She says: “One of these days, I’m just going to let my Mama Bear have her wild way and chew up some punks all in the name of good old natural parenting.”

It’s as if the Bible’s warning about quick-tempers and foolishness doesn’t apply to mommies. We seem to believe all of a mother’s anger is justified. We actually like being compared to untamed, conscience-less animals.

One of these days, we warn, I’ll turn off my brain and let fly with the blind instinct–and that’s a good thing??? 

Nonsense.

Sometimes Mama Bears are wrong. And those punks you want to “chew up?” They have Mama Bears somewhere, too.  What happens when one bear meets another bear, and each perceives the other as a threat to their young?

Somebody should be able to stand in front of Mama, and snap her out of the trance when she goes too far.

Unfortunately, the same feminist culture that encourages “girl power” also has destroyed the safety system which used to keep that power from taking over.  The Papa Bear.

Where are the Papas to balance the situation?…

One of my favorite explanations of the roles of Mama/Papa is in this blog post: Submission to Authority. (Scroll down to “Women are Multifaceted Powerhouses.”)

Robyn describes the power of women like an 18-wheel truck, speeding downhill.  

Yes, Mama Bears, she recognizes your power.  There’s a lot of it!  And this power is a God-given feature; not a defect. We need passion and a fighting spirit to carry out our task.

But, if it goes unchecked, a woman’s power has the potential to run over people like a semi on a wild, collision-course.

Men were designed to be the brake system–yet feminism has snipped those brakes!

Angry Woman’s husband should have realized when she started flying off the handle and told her to get in the car.  Oh, i’m positive he would have heard a lecture all the way home. She would have clawed his ears for days.

But, he chose to enable and escalate her fit instead of putting a foot down. In the name of “support,” he let her maul other people rather than confronting and taming the beast.

That makes him a coward.

Years ago, C.S. Lewis described the Papa Bear’s responsibility to protect the rest of the world this way:

The relations of the family to the outer world — what might be called [the family’s] foreign policy — must depend upon the man, because he usually is much more [fair] to the outsiders. A woman is primarily fighting for her own children and husband against the rest of the world. Naturally…their claims override, for her, all other claims. She is the special trustee of their interests. The function of the husband is to see that this natural preference of hers is not given its head. He has the last word in order to protect other people from the intense family patriotism of the wife…
If you are a married woman, let me ask you this question. Much as you admire your husband, would you not say that his chief failing is his tendency not to stick up for his rights and yours against the neighbours as vigorously as you would like? [Is he] a bit of an Appeaser?” -C.S. Lewis

YES! A thousand times yes, Mr. Lewis.  My husband never gets worked up enough over the things that bother me! In my opinion, he needs to back me up.He should tap into his own animal instinct every once in awhile and protect our family with more enthusiasm!

And…yet…on the other hand…when I think about the story of the Angry Lady in the Parking Lot, I’m so glad there’s somebody by my side who doesn’t lose all rationality when one of the babies gets hurt.

I’m pretty sure Luke never will respond to a scraped knee by jumping in front of a moving van.

The point is, I’m not always right just because I’m angry. Probably especially when I’m angry. And, as Proverbs says, my anger will cause me to make a fool of myself, if nobody steps in.

Sometimes I need a cool head to put the brakes on my speeding power.

—-

I covered a lot in this post, but what do you think?  Should women embrace the Mama Bear fierceness?  Or does it lead to sinfully hot-tempers and needless fights? Do you agree with the semi-truck analogy and Lewis’ quote?

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10 thoughts on “Where’s Papa Bear When Mama Bear Gets Angry?

  1. Candace

    The angry woman seemed more worried about parenting your mom’s charge and your mom than protecting her son. I think they must have missed that important lesson that police should be called in emergencies.

    I personally believe there can be times when being a “mama bear” is helpful to your child, and also time when it is unnecessary!

    Your example is a great example of an unnecessary “mama bear.”

    My cousin’s nine year old autistic son was pushed down and repeatedly punched by a 14 year old girl in a matter of seconds. His mother leaped across the playground (where she was pushing her six year old son on the swing), to defend and protect her son. I believe she was justified in acting the “mama bear” part. Did she try to parent the girl and demand a meaning heartfelt apology? No. She took her children home and reminded them we can’t control other people’s actions, only how we react to them.

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    1. Candace

      Just to clarify, when I said “they must have missed the lesson about calling police in emergencies,” I was referring to the angry woman and her husband.

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      1. mrsmcmommy Post author

        Thanks for reading, Candace!
        I think every woman would do exactly what your sister did… (And I doubt there’s a “Papa Bear” in the world who would try to stop us in that case.) 🙂 The power of Mommy is fabulous, in the appropriate setting.

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  2. bethagrace

    So two parents misbehave and overreact in this scenario… but you only call one to responsibility? How about this scenario: kid gets pushed, parents of both genders keep their heads cool?

    I know we fundamentally disagree on most things gender-related, but you aren’t doing women any favors when you address them as spoiled children instead of adults. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, not a fruit of being a man.

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    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      I’ve called women to their responsibility NOT to portray their tantrums as healthy “Mama Bear” behavior, and not to encourage that behavior in others. Individual women can’t practice self-control if society says there isn’t an anger problem in the first place.

      But my appeal to fathers/husbands to intervene when Mama snaps is biblical. In 1 Timothy 3:4, we read that good men “manage” their families well. Leadership/Headship/Management all imply the same thing: the man takes the ultimate responsibility, making it HIS shame if the family is disorderly.

      Both spouses have responsibilities, but their different minds/bodies and the roles assigned when they took their vows makes those responsibilities different. (I’m amazed by how well C.S. Lewis observed the two natural tendencies, even as a bachelor.) When the mother reacts in defense of her children, the onus is on Papa to manage his family–his ship–and ensure it doesn’t crash into others.

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