Mama and Papa Bear vs. Parents of Three-Year-Olds

I’ve heard other women talk many times about when their kid has been slighted, or insulted, or teased, or ignored and their reactions to it, but I’ve never really related. Until now.

Out of the blue the other night during dinner, Elvis said, “My friends say I’m not growing.” It’s true that Elvis is the smallest and youngest in his preschool class. He’s always been on the smaller side– he’s just about the cutest little man ever– and it’s likely that he’ll always be on the smaller side. But HOW DARE THEY?! What provokes a group of three-year-old boys to tease another boy?

Back when I was dreaming about making babies all of the time, I couldn’t wait to pick out cute outfits, sing and rock the baby to sleep, make googly faces at it, carry it around, give it a bottle, and keep it baby-sized forever (kind of sounds like my four-year-old daughter’s version of mothering). This part of parenting never occurred to me. Not once did it cross my mind that I’d have to come up with a response to a sad little boy whose just been teased about something that is completely out of his control (aside from not eating his vegetables). It immediately made me think of the things that had been said or done to me as a child, the insults or teasing that shaped my personality. Remembering how that made me feel sent a mad mother bear fury into the pit of my stomach. And he’s just three. We’ve got another few decades’ worth of being almost completely defenseless when it comes to what happens to him at school in his peer groups.

To be affected so quickly and emotionally by the plight of my son at preschool makes me realize how much restraint God the Father had to have on his Son’s behalf. I’m ready to track down the parents of my son’s friends and give them a good talkin’ to about manners and what they say at home and where did your son learn to talk like that, etc., etc., and there’s Jesus, beaten, bullied, taunted by people while hanging on a cross. “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

But in light of Jesus’ example, what do you tell your kid? Go on the defense? Teach him some retorts (“Well, I might be small but I’m smarter than you! And cuter!”)? Tell him to go straight to the teacher? Tell him to punch them in the face (mmm, probably not.)? Ignore it? How do you teach your kid to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute you?

I guess we have to show them how to do that. I guess we need to avoid teasing and making fun of people in our own homes, pray for people who have done us wrong or who don’t understand us, and hope that God will work on our hearts as much as theirs. We can’t control how other kids are going to be raised and how that upbringing will affect us, just like we can’t control other people’s actions. We can control our reactions.

May God give us the strength and courage to not punch our enemies in the noses or hunt down their parents with some mama and papa bear fury.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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