Tuesday, June 1, 2010

To Love And Protect

I'm a mother. I have a fundamental instinct to protect my children from pain. In the course of their lives, I've soothed, encouraged, held, hugged and protected my little ones through the bumps and bruises associated with living. My love for them is a protective cloak guarding them from the many perils that threaten to harm them as they walk this journey of life.

There have been moments...holding a crying boy whose feelings have been hurt by another child, watching a sad girl trying to heal after a broken friendship...when I am overcome by a powerful, physical instinct to protect and fight for my child.

My daughter is in 7th grade - the year of G.O. elections. In her school, one girl is nominated from each of the 7th grade classes to run for G.O. President. The class votes, but the teachers make the final decision.

Elections took place last week. My daughter was really excited, having been obsessed with this since 5th grade. She felt that her chances of being chosen were pretty good. She had all the qualities needed and fit all the necessary qualifications.

I agreed, of course. I was sure she'd get plenty of votes, and I knew that her teachers recognized her talents and abilities. But I cautioned her during the week that if she was not chosen, she shouldn't be too disappointed. There are close to 30 girls in her class, several of whom would be good choices.

I waited with baited breath the day the results were to be announced. She came home, downcast.

"Who won?" I asked, my heart in my throat.



"I don't mind that I didn't win," she said. "But this was not done fairly. Miriam got only one vote. The head of G.O. is her aunt, and her sisters and cousins are always chosen."

My mother bear instinct kicked in. This was an outrage. How could they do this? How could they lead these girls to believe that their talents and hard work would earn them a chance at winning? How could they instill hope, when no one ever really had any chance?

I didn't want my daughter to suffer. I didn't want her to feel any pain. I would fix this.

I didn't, of course. I hugged her, I listened to her, I empathized. But then I let it go. I know that life is not easy. If I always pave the way, and continually make things easier for my children, I will create adults who are not able to deal with the real world.

My son is no longer a child. He's had his share of childhood disappointments. He's weathered his adolescence, gotten through his teens, and has grown into a mature and serious adult. Dealing with the real world.

And in the real world, I can't protect him.

I see his pain...I watch him suffer. It tears my heart apart. And there's nothing I can do to take his pain away. That protective cloak I naively believed could shield him from every trauma lies crumpled on the floor at my feet.

Motherhood brings out exceptional strength in me. No task is too small or sacrifice too great. In my mind's eye, I can see myself jumping in front of an oncoming train to save their lives. In my imagination, I can always save the day.

But when my son is suffering more pain than he ever has before, I can't protect him. All I can offer is a hand to hold as he walks the road that lies before him.

It's not enough...


  1. Nice post. Your story about the "bully on the bus" a while back hit a similar chord.

    The situation with your daughter is so typical in schools. My daughter, for example, already knows who will be the valedictorian, as theres a girl who is average at best, but her parents have real "pull".

    When I graduated college at Touro, who was picked as valedictorian out of the HUNDREDS of graduates? Why, the dean's son, of course!

  2. Just wanted to say that I think you did the right thing by not calling your daughter's school. I grew up with a (great!) mother that always tried to protect us and I still have a hard time dealing with disappointments. Life isn't fair and we certainly can't always get what we want or think we deserve and the sooner we realize it, the better.

    I'm sorry your son is in so much pain. Hopefully soon you'll see the good in this outcome.

  3. Wow, that was powerful.

    Parents can only protect their children to an extent. At a certain point, they have to grow up and face the real world.

    Your children are lucky to have a mother like you who loves them unconditionally and really believes in them! They know that they can always come to you for comfort and you will always be there for them-and that's the most important thing.

  4. Yes, you are a mother...and what a mother you are! Your poor daughter :-( It's a shame that she's been exposed to the ugliness and hypocrisy of adults at such a young age. At least she has a mother who hugged her and sympathized with her. At least your son has a mother who is 'holding his hand.' If there would be more like you around, there would be less ugliness and hypocrisy. Hope this all has a happy ending, that we can see...

  5. I tend to go too far into overprotective. It's very hard to control myself so that my kids don't hear the annoyance in my voice, to teach them to deal. I spent too long solving thei problems and have only pulle dback in the past few years.

    So this is so amazing of you, to do this.

    And I hear it's good practice for being a mother-in-law some day.

  6. Bernie...

    You mean you can call your daughter's school and say...make her valedictorian, I'll donate $10,000??
    I don't think my daughter's school would stoop so low. I'm even surprised at this G.O. thing. It's not the way they usually work.

    New I.D....

    Your mother meant well. It's part of our makeup. It's a basic instinct.


    Loving them and being there for them is the easy part! It's backing off that's hard.


    Thank you! You always write such sweet comments.

    Staying Afloat...

    I plan to be a great mother in law! Wish me luck...

  7. Did it ever occur to you that this girl may have won it fair and square? Just because she has pull, doesn't mean she can't win something on her own merit, and she shouldn't have to lose on purpose, because people will feel it's unfair.

    Sorry, I'm playing the devil's advocate here. I just wonder sometimes if love really blinds us from seeing the truth...

  8. That did occur to me. And I tried playing devil's advocate, too. But the fact is, this girl only got one vote.

  9. Oh sorry, I didn't see the line that the girl only got one vote. If that's the case, it is unfair. However, maybe I'm naive, but I still can't imagine that she got the job only because of her pull. There must be more to the story.

    The school told them that the girl only got one vote or that's a guess that the girls came up with?

  10. Sweet.
    Adolescence is a funny stage and is unique to humans.
    Half child/half adult. It's definitely a delicate balancing act and you seem to be doing it well.
    Good Luck

  11. In my mind, what the teachers did is sick.

    I remember a principal of mine who told me that if I did something for her, she'd make me G.O. (this was in HIGH SCHOOL) I told her that those things are voted on, and she told me that she could "change things"
    I told her i wasn't interested.
    plain and simple.

  12. Growing up with parents that were always involved in the schools I went to (my father was a principal and my mother, a teacher) gave me a different perspective on the realities of life. It was much easier for me to understand that a teacher or staff member could be wrong, and that I still had an obligation to respect THEM but not those wrong actions. I was taught to stand up for the truth, no matter what the consequences. My parents would rather leave their jobs than stand back while sheker prevailed. That is not to say that they went around making a huge deal out of things, but when something was not right, they stood up and said so. I find that acknowledging the fact that something is wrong and that sometimes there isn't anything to do about it, can be just as comforting to a kid - knowing that their feelings are valid and true. At least that's what works for me.

  13. DOL...

    It's a tough stage, but it doesn't get any easier when they're teens. Harder, probably.
    Thank you.

    Soul Comfort...

    Good for you. I don't think many kids would be strong enough to withstand that.


    That's the tricky part. Teaching our kids to respect THEM but not their wrong actions.

  14. All you can do is walk with them, and let them learn confidence to be the best they can be, even in an imperfect world.