Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How to Awaken Mama Bear

Have you ever wondered where parental caution ends and paranoia begins?

We visited the gym as usual today. And as usual, the older two scampered in to their tae kwon do class and I dropped Caroline off in the child care before heading in for a short workout. At least, I tried to drop her off. But our regular child care worker wasn't here, and the door was locked. I inquired at the front desk. The new manager, who bends over backward to be nice to me ever since I complimented him on the recent improvements in the childcare, asked a teenaged staff member who wasn't busy to fill in in child care until our Regular showed up. Problem solved. In went my daughter, and off went I.


The teenaged staff member? Was a guy. And my daughter was the only child in the room.

I tried, y'all. I actually made it into the gym and up onto the elliptical trainer, trying to outtalk my gut, reasoning that the door to childcare always remained open, that anyone walking by could see through the windows, that the chances of any funny business occurring were quite slim, etc. I even, I'm sort of ashamed to admit, used that worn adage, "Lord, she's in Your hands."

Gosh, I just cringed as I wrote that.

Because the Lord had something very clear to say to me about that. "Yes, but YOU are her parent, and I've lent her to YOU. My hands, in this situation, are human hands."

Normally, I'm a well-behaved mama. I mind my manners. I don't make waves. Most of the time.


There is a time to be nice and a time to speak up. And what do we parents have left if we refuse to acknowledge and follow our God-given instincts?

I hopped right back off that elliptical and went back to the childcare, prepared to cancel my workout. But the gym director had just arrived in her office across the hall.

"Are you going to be here for a while?" I asked.

"No, I was just going back out. Do you need something?" She replied.

"Yes. You see, I dropped my daughter off in childcare, but I don't generally leave her alone with guys."

The words were hardly out of my mouth when she was nodding with the greatest of understanding. She took the situation in hand immediately, and within five minutes both she and the manager had come and hunted me down in the gym, assuring me that they had pulled a female staff member from front desk duty to man -- or in this case, wo-man -- the childcare fort.

Parents, can we make a pact? Can we agree that we'll advocate for our kids, even when it feels awkward or when Logic and Statistics jump into the arena against our own hearts? (Not to throw the book at you, but if you haven't read Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane), please put your Big Boy pants on and do so.)

Our kids are unspeakably worth it.

[P.S. Someone emailed me about having trouble leaving comments. Not to grub for comments or anything, but if anyone else is experiencing such difficulty, will you please email me so I can foist the problem upon my longsuffering resident tech support figure out what's going on? Thanks a bunch!


  1. Mama bear instinct is so good! I haven't read that book, but the first review on Amazon impressed me. It's sure not something you like to dwell on all the time, but basic ground rules like what you mentioned here are so reasonable and necessary. I appreciate that this matter is mentioned occasionally as a reminder to trust that instinct, and maybe learn more (like the book recommendation).
    Thanks, Hannah!

  2. Amen. AAAmen. . .that's all.

  3. Good on you...I sometimes wish people esp my family will allow me to follow my Mama bear instincts...awesome..

  4. Popped over from Simple Mom's Links!!! Great post, I am with so with you - I have read the book and I am convinced every mother should read it... Frankly if a situation doesn't feel right it isn't right and no matter how inconvenient it is!!! It is a very empowering book and I recommend it to everyone who asks me about child safety.

  5. From simple Mom's link as well. Thanks for the post we all need to remember that our child's safety is more important than being nice.

    A question to Wilma. What do you mean they won't allow you to follow your instints? NO ONE can take away your right to follow your instincts and any one who pressures you to do differently isn't doing it with your or your childs best interest in mind. My MIL wanted to guilt my DS into giving her a kiss when he didn't want to but I stopped her and told her that not only will my children NEVER have to give affection when they don't want to because they have the right to their own bodies but that I was protecting them from predators by doing so. I was careful to be nice about it but I was prepared to take things further if I had to to protect my children, she certainly didn't mean any harm but I know that protecting my children from predators is more important than hurt feelings.

  6. I think it is important to listen to my instinct even when it is irrational because I view it as practice. There may not have been any real dangers in this situation. But you listened and maybe next time there will be real danger and your instincts will be the key to safety.

  7. A reader named Dianne generously shared this experience via email and asked me to post it for her so she could remain anonymous:

    Unfortunately I have actual experience with this topic. I left my 3 yr old son alone with a man doing work in my house for mere moments and well, let's just say I am now on the District Attorney's witness list. I had known this man for 4 years and always thought he was socially awkward but never would have called him a pedifile. Going through this has taught me to be much more vigilant about who I leave my children with. I say all this to make this point, always always always err on the side of caution. Not that I have it in for all the socially awkward handymen out there, but you know what they say about if something seems off... And the child advocate assigned to our case told me (never thought I'd ever use that phrase) that as many as 1 in 5 kids will experience inappropriate relations with an adult and most often it's an adult the parents know. So keep those ears perked up mama bears!

  8. Thank you so much! I will be on the lookout for that book -- I've added it to my Amazon wish list (since the library doesn't have it)

  9. Thanks for all the feedback, friends! It's so validating to hear that other share the struggle but are also learning the wisdom of that mothering instinct.

  10. Can I just say though that while I appreciate both the Mama Bear instinct as well as Hannah's comment about her personal experience, some of the best sitters I know are male and we sometimes give them short shrift in their abilities. I have also had personal experience with some very poor FEMALE sitters, whom I had to talk to the parent about later and who ended up giving my money back. SHE had allowed my children outside when I had specified that they were to stay in, she had been on my computer while I was gone on sites that her parents had forbidden her from using and was not outside with the aforementioned children. In contrast, my own 11 year old is excellent with small children, most especially the little girls across the street (currently as a mother's helper, not a full-on sitter yet because of MD state laws requiring he be 13 to sit.)

    The point is, we often tend to think of females as the better caretakers and end up unintentionally snubbing our noses at the ways that boys/men/males contribute to overall social well being. That is something that matters in our society on the whole and that we're increasingly guilty of and in the end our MEN are being marginalized for it and no longer know how to act as proper men.

    On the flip side, I have PERSONALLY known four men who were accused of inappropriate conduct with children who should NOT have been charged or convicted. Their lives were ruined by gross negligence on the part of the courts in TWO DIFFERENT STATES. Just another thought to put out there.

    Is there room for us to use our gut instincts? Absolutely. But with as much caution as anything else.

  11. A national study showed that 40% of perpetrators in a daycare setting were female.

  12. Spalva - thanks for the info. While this stat is concerning, it still means that the majority of perpetrators in these situations are male. Regardless, it's not my intent to get into an argument about statistics, or even males vs females as care providers. My point here was simply that my gut was telling me to be alert and cautious in this situation, and I needed to trust it. The fact that the the statistics point to a somewhat greater danger with male care providers was secondary to the clarity of the feeling inside me, that I needed to heed.

    Tillie - You make some great points. Again, I don't mean to categorically dismiss male babysitters, and I am glad you've found one you trust. Like I said to Spalva, this is less about statistics (there are exceptions to every "rule") and more about learning to trust that inner voice we've been given as parents. You feel at peace with your male baby-sitter, and that's a valuable thing. Thanks for weighing in. :-)

  13. Wonderful post Hannah, I'm so glad you shared this. I think some of us do start to weigh statistics and logically reason against our gut especially if it seems awkward to go with the gut. This reasoning/gut decision has happened to me before and thank the Lord, I went with my gut. It wasn't something as serious as this, but still, I think the Lord gave us instinct for a reason. Yet another thing to be thankful for!

  14. Um, were your instincts about this particular male, or were you talking about ALL males?

    Cuz I am all for following instincts and being protective. I do that all the time.

    But assuming someone is a potential predator based on sex is messed up. How must that teenaged boy feel, finding out he is suspected by you and others just for being who he is? He is in for a long lifetime of suspicion, based on his sex, and that is not only sad but wrong.

  15. I am in the "older" generation that didn't have the benefit (?) of knowledge about the dangers of predators. It just wasn't in our awareness because, even though they were out there, we didn't know about the dangers. Without realizing the potential hazards, I exposed my children to situations that today would never happen. Thank God that they were never harmed, and we often marvel at how certain situations could have been harmful. How many parents had no clue that their children were being molested by their priests? So, we now have more awareness, and that informs our instincts. It's a sad commentary on our society that this kind of caution is necessary, but I am glad that you young mothers are being so careful. Our precious children (my grandchildren) are worth all the caution that God instills in your hearts. God bless you all.

  16. Hannah, this is some of your best work.