When you keep over-reacting…{aka “Mama Bear runs wild”}

May 7, 2013

**The winner of the “Whits End Mealtime Devotional” giveaway is…JOY MALONE!! Congratulations!**

This week I probably should be posting about Mother’s day or something. But I feel like I need to come clean about a struggle I’ve been having…it’s related to motherhood…

More than once I’ve found myself enraged by some sort of injustice relating directly or indirectly to my children (like one of those crazed sitcom moms…Claire Dunphy, perhaps?)

During a 1st grade birthday party I straight out “teacher yelled” at a boy, finger pointing and all. He had thrown his classmate on the ground and then walked away…I didn’t like it. But of course then I spent the next 30 minutes in conversations with the other moms who heard my “outburst”, convincing myself I did the right thing.

Going on and on about how “boys should be boys” is not a good reason to allow boys to be mean. How boys can be taught to be kind and treat each other special AND still run around, have fun and wrestle. How mean-spirited aggression is different from young boy energy.

But I left that party with a pit in my stomach. 

Why did I care so much? Why couldn’t I just bounce Knox on my hip, chat away with the other moms and ignore the “Lord of the Flies” moments between boys?

Then it happened again…after Price’s soccer game…my Mama Bear made another appearance.

The situation didn’t start off to be that big a deal. Instead of the usual trophies handed out to every boy at the post-game pizza party, his coaches hung dollar store medals on their heads right on the soccer field.

If Price had been a first born child this wouldn’t have been a problem.  But he has an older brother who has 3 different soccer trophies, each one given to him during a party.

The clincher for me was what happened next. They proceeded to pass out additional award ribbons. With each one they announced the category: “For best practice attendance…”, “For best dribbling…”, “For best attitude…”

All of this would have been fine…except for one thing. They gave ribbons to every single team member except for two boys. Price anxiously awaited hearing his name, standing as close to the coach as he could. His eyes following the ribbon to its recipient, occasionally shooting a nervous glance my way. While his teammates names were announced, he continued to wait.

As quickly as this informal ceremony began it was over. And they were out of ribbons. Price just stood there. One mom pointed out his lack of “recognition”…to which a coach hastily grabbed a medal identical to the one Price already wore around his neck. Placing it over his head he said, “For best double soccer medals…” Um what?

As they gathered for one last team pic, I make the side-comment (somewhat loudly): “Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to give away ribbons if not every boy could have one”. 

Price walked over to me a gently holding a medal in each hand. I saw the unsure look on his face, the wheels turning in his head, trying to make sense of what just happened. No trophy? No specific, special ribbon for him?

He began to develop his theory and process his feelings.

“I guess mom I’m a little disappointed. But maybe I got two medals because I am the best at soccer. And I did all those things double good.”

And to reinforce his positivism, I took a proud picture.

While my blood slowly simmered down, I answered,

“I bet that’s right Price. You had the best attitude, made lots of goals, helped your teammates. And you know what I also loved? When someone got hurt you stopped to make sure they were okay. You noticed. That definitely deserves two medals.”

Price taught me how important it is to interpret life with a positive attitude.

I truly can’t control the actions of others. I can’t control other children or other mothers. I can’t help a coach make better choices.

But I can decide for myself how I will interpret the situation.

Most importantly I can make sure I’m spending time each day in God’s word so I can hear His Spirit say, “Woah Heather. Settle down Mama bear.”

My “love litmus” test, a barometer of sorts, stems from: how well I react to life’s curve balls…how well I love in unlovely situations…how easily offended I am.

If love is patient, kind…does not dishonor others, not easily angered, then my “love level” is low when I’m impatient, unkind, dishonoring and easily angered. Right?

Yes I can speak out about injustice, but not with a passion that turns off the listener. Or not in a way that makes me appear reactionary instead of rational.

 “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” … (Good Samaritan story)

 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10: 25-28; 36-37)

Do you over-react in situations? Do you notice a pattern of reacting more when you’re out-of-sync with God? 

 “Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ…Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this…Among people there is strife. ‘He is our peace.‘ says Paul of Jesus Christ (Eph 2:14)…Christ became the Mediator and made peace with God and among men.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer



  1. Krisitn

    As I was reading the beginning of your post the “Mamma bear” came out in me for your little guy. That would have totally caused me to be reactionary too. Wow!!! I’m so glad The Lord gives us hearts that can create better rational choices though. I am so reactionary at times, especially withy children (spilt milk…. Etc). This post comes with perfect timing. Exactly one month before summer begins 🙂 thank you.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      May we all lean into Him, the only source of true peace and patience. Thanks for sharing your own struggle Kristin (and for the solidarity over my Mama Bear reaction…). Oh and summer time, yes we will need to be filling up our God love tank so we can pour out generously. Amen.

  2. Joy

    I too overreact as Mama bear! Honestly, I see my past hurt feelings and I jump to keep my children from having hurt feelings too. I know my past hurts have made the woman I am today and my children need to learn how to deal with hurtful thinks or they wouldn’t know why they need a Savior but I still struggle with overprotection.

    Also, yay!!! I’m happy I won the book, I need some mealtime happiness:)!!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      I do think there is a little bit of past pain which creeps up when we see kids being mistreated. You are so right…it is my own journey of learning to lean on Him through those hard things which has made me stronger. Great thoughts, Joy! (Congrats again!!!)

  3. Lara

    Looooove. This. Post. Oh girl. Every mama can feel exactly what you felt. It’s so natural. The mama bear rises in seconds at seeming “injustice.” But like you God has been teaching me to trust Him. To trust that He loves my kids more than I do. And that they are going to have to go through disappointments, hurts, betrayals, to learn their dependence on Him. Ugh. Praying we have wisdom to know when to intervene and when to sit quiet allowing Him to do His thing in His time in His faithful way. Much much love to you, friend. Can’t wait to see you in a few months!!!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      “To trust that He loves my kids more than I do.” Yes. And knowing the difference between knowing when to intervene and when to sit quietly…oh yes!
      The thing I continue to struggle with is why do I get all “hot & bothered” when other kids are not being kind…even when it has nothing to do with my children. Feel like I’m constantly upset about something. Realizing that perhaps my “constant offense” is really a lack of love or lack of connection with the giver of unconditional love. I’m such a work in progress. Lord, have mercy. (pst…giddy over seeing you in a couple months!)

  4. Kristin

    Heather, I love this post. I definitely have the “mama bear” rise up in me from time to time but even more than that two of my kids have a very strong sense of justice. I know this is a God-given quality that will be effective for Him one day but teaching them how to react when there seems to be injustice in everyday life among friends can be challenging. I am in the midst of teaching them to have good attitudes and look on life positively. I wonder if you are a justice seeker too? I think we need more of them in this world, especially those who, like you, seek God’s will and His way in it. Love ya! Kristin

  5. Emma

    Heather, this post summed up my day. When I was about to pick up my 3 year old boy from day care another older boy hit my boy in his head with a plastic gun real hard. Not the first time this older boy becomes violent. Me being pregnant and all it’s very hard to act with God’s love instead in accordance with my feelings. My son declared later when we got home, “I’m not William’s friend anymore”. So difficult for me to know how to respond, I chose to respond that he should try to forgive William..

    • Heather MacFadyen

      oh yes. Sadly I’ve been the mom of the boy who does the hitting or throwing toys or biting. neither position is fun. Like you said it’s modeling the right reaction that matters. Encouraging our children to give grace (unmerited favor) and offer forgiveness. Yet, still teach them truth and to hold up a standard of right vs. wrong. This mothering business is not for the faint at heart. 😉

  6. Joyce and Norm

    Mama Bear was present today, but was a little held back….when we were setting up for our MOPS meeting for tomorrow. No one was watching the kids, and they were swinging ping pong paddles at each other, playing with the mic, slamming doors behind the stage…this is in a chapel mind you. I asked the kids in a soft, gentle way to be ‘soft and gentle’. It continued…I know the other moms were just trying to finish setting up as fast as they could, so they could get on with their day, so I just told my girl that is she didn’t want to play rough like they were, she could wait until they played something else to join in. Well, they didn’t stop, and one of the little ones got slapped in the face with a paddle…and then later on her brother chipped his tooth from climbing on the chairs. I’m thinking there has to be a balance to this mama bear thing because perhaps those incidents wouldn’t have happened if I would have just told them what they were doing was not safe, but kids are just kids…?? I don’t know, the limits are hard sometimes…

    • Heather MacFadyen

      oh that’s tricky joyce. I’ve definitely been the one with the kids swinging paddles and climbing on chairs. There’s a side of me that realizes I can’t (and shouldn’t) correct every misbehavior. Then there is the side that has high expectations that my children’s safety is dependent on my vigilance. It is a balance…training their hearts so they make the right decisions and allowing them freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. I think you took care of your daughter and that’s all God has called you to do. Thanks for sharing your story Joyce.

  7. Jennie

    loved this…oh I needed it too!!!


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