The other week I was leading a monthly women’s series at our church on Lioness Arising. The chapter was about how lionesses protect and look out for the lions and the cubs in their pride. The example was this. A lion and two lionesses had been kept in captivity and were to be released. They were kept in an enclosure near the big open reserve marked for them and it was time for them to be released back into the wild. The gamekeepers didn’t feed the lions for a few days and then put a dead buck out into the open reserve and pulled back the gate to the enclosure.
The idea was that the lions would just go out to eat and then be free. However, they didn’t. They waited and waited. Finally, one lioness went into the reserve to the buck and looked back to her sister lioness, who followed her. They got to the buck and then – lo and behold – didn’t stop and eat. What did they do? They dragged the buck back into the enclosure so the lion could eat his share as well. The idea was that the lionesses, though starving, weren’t just in it for themselves, they were in it for their family. Later, when the gamekeepers had to take the collar off of the alpha lion, the men had to sedate the lioness. They had to sedate her because they could not get near the lion with her awake, aware and alert. She simply would not leave her family vulnerable.
The question I asked myself and the ladies present that evening was this. Who is left vulnerable if we are not alert, awake and aware? Who runs the risk of getting “attacked” if we are sleeping or distracted? It got me thinking… we mothers… we actually save lives all the time.
(1) How often have you stopped your child from running into the road?
If you are like me… too many to count. You, mother, have saved a life. If you are a mother to a few children, you have saved multiple lives. And you’ve saved them multiple times. If a man runs in front of a car to grab a child, he would be considered a hero and – in a small town – probably put in the paper. He’d feel valuable, brave and useful. We mothers don’t feel like that though do we?
No, we probably feel a) I’m going to have a heart attack now, b) I’m going to strangle my child for running out in the road or c) I need a drink. I know for a fact my daughter is alive today because of me. First, because I gave birth to her and second because I have protected her from harm numerous times. Somehow that knowledge makes me feel important. Not self-important, but I-have-a-job-to-do important. It’s not just “oh, feed them breakfast, give them vitamins, teach them how to balance their checkbook.” No, I am actually a daily lifeguard and hero.
Even though nobody in the whole world but me, God, and occasionally my husband and my other kid(s) know it. I don’t need a medal. I don’t need a photo in the paper. Why? Because my job is to save lives. It’s not a one time event. In fact, it’s even more special and important than a one time event.
(2) How often have you stopped physical violence or abuse against your child?
Even if it was about to be inflicted from one of your other children. Violence and abuse in childhood are absolutely huge indicators of adult pain and dysfunction. Imagine if you didn’t keep your dog (or the neighbor’s dog) from biting your baby? How far would your older child have gone if you hadn’t stopped them from kicking, hitting or biting your younger child (or vice versa, age doesn’t necessarily matter when it comes to aggression). Have you taught your children not to talk to strangers or walk away from you in public?
Then you’ve prevented them from becoming easy targets or from walking blindly into situations where they could be hurt. Just today my daughter took two sticks and hit her brother over the head. And she wasn’t smiling. I gave a very stern “no” with the evil eye and put her in isolation (her crib). I held my baby boy and knew in my heart I’d do anything to protect him. It’s my instinct (see Mama Bear Instinct). I feel the same towards my daughter when she cries because my baby boy has pulled her hair out of her head in the split second before I could get there.
It is not a joke. It is serious. We mothers, we actually prevent harm (or further harm) from coming to our children. Imagine if you went a day without watching them… you probably can’t fathom the neglect. Unfortunately, for many children that is a reality.
(3) Our job as a mother is to protect. And we do it naturally.
Without even thinking we do things like going to the doctor if we suspect a problem with our children’s health. We don’t let them jump from high heights because we know that they don’t know what’s at stake. We teach them to stay close to us. We show them how to call 911 and lock and hide away household poisons and knives. These things come so naturally to us that we wouldn’t even consider them heroic.
You know what? In this every day humdrum life of diapers and peanut butter and jelly and Sesame Street, I like to give some positive and dramatic perspective to the little things. I don’t let my daughter play with the bleach tablets from the laundry room that she so jealously eyes each time we are in there. That is protection. My husband hid the mouse trap and poison in a place it’s absolutely impossible for them to get near, but where it should still get that dadgum animal that is vying for adoption in our house. That is protection. My son tries to climb out of his high chair so he can nosedive to pick up the pieces of banana he can’t keep in his hands. I strap him in. That is protection.
These things are protection. They are love. They are behaviors that come naturally to us when we are alert and focused.
WE are rescuers. We RESCUE our children. We often rescue them DAILY. They don’t owe us their lives because of it. In fact, we give our lives (often our sanity, our jobs, and sometimes even our figures) for them because that what mothers do. They give, give, give, save, save, save, love, love, love and then – when it all goes unnoticed and we feel so weary to the bone because of the constant watching, protecting and giving – we tell ourselves that this phase of life is not primarily about the little annoying things like stained clothes and crayon on the walls.
It’s about a time where we have the privilege of saving lives everyday. Little but so very important lives. Lives that have been put by the Almighty God under our care. A time of loving little people who don’t know what’s best for them and who often choose to do the absolute worst things for themselves possible.
And, the freedom comes from knowing that these incredibly important lifesaving manoeuvres we do are so very natural and so very second nature that, unless we thought about it, we’d never even consider them heroic. And, in my opinion, that makes them even more heroic. Face it, mama, you’re a heroine. You’re a lifesaver. You’re a rescuer.
*Accidents happen and though we wish differently, we aren’t superheroes. My heart in this post is not to discount the pain that comes when we have not been able to protect our children as we would have wanted. We will not be perfect, we can only do the best we can.
**update: read first comment for amazing poem on The Female of the Species
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