Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.Philippians 2:3-4
When Annemarie was laid in my arms as a newborn, I felt the fierce “Mama Bear” instinct rise up in me for the very first time.
I was certain that I would defend this precious child against anyone who tried to attack her.
I’d forgotten what sixth grade can do to a girl.
And I had no clue what sixth grade can do to a mom.
Eleven years later, I rip into Annemarie the moment she shuts the car door behind her.
“Mrs. Smith told me how you’ve been manipulating the other girls on the playground.”
My daughter’s eyes widen and brim with tears. But I am a mom on a mission, unmoved by her emotions.
“She’s seen you interrupt two girls playing together, convince one to come with you, and leave the other all alone,” I continue, my voice trembling with shame.
Annemarie’s shoulders slump, and she looks down.
“Mrs. Smith has watched you steal her daughter’s friends over and over, leaving her nobody to play with.”
Hot tears spill down my cheeks as I shout, “I can’t believe that my own daughter is the ‘Mean Girl’ of sixth grade!”
Annemarie turns away from me.
I stew in silence. She’d better be planning how she’s going to apologize to Mrs. Smith’s daughter. We were just starting to get to know each other, and I know we’d be great friends. She’d better not blow my chance to finally develop a new BFF friendship of my own.
At bedtime, I’m still so upset that I refuse to hug and kiss Annemarie goodnight. I spend a sleepless night wondering Where did I go wrong as a mother?
The next day, I head to school to gather data for spin control with Mrs. Smith. If I act fast enough, perhaps this will be just a blip on the radar and our friendship will keep growing.
But as I talk with Annemarie’s teacher, the principal, and other staff members, I discover that I’ve sided far too quickly with my BFF-to-be.
Turns out, she’s practically been stalking my daughter for weeks, spending her volunteer hours watching Annemarie like a hawk. And she’s been pulling my daughter aside for long lectures without talking to the teacher or me.
My Mama Bear instinct finally kicks in, and I tell Mrs. Smith to leave my daughter alone, to bring her concerns directly to me. Her disdainful response makes it clear that all my hopes for friendship have been nothing but wishful fantasies.
Now guilt-ridden, I apologize to Annemarie for siding against her before even hearing her side of the story. We begin the journey of re-building the trust I’ve broken.
The answer to my late-night question – Where did I go wrong as a mother? – is obvious now.
I went wrong at the point where “looking to my own interests” became a higher priority than mothering my daughter.
I’d been so confident in my Mama Bear instincts that I was blind-sided by my own “selfish ambition.”
With humility newly born from failure, I discover an unexpected parenting truth: the Mean Girl my child most needs a Mama Bear’s protection from is me.
And from this Bad Mom Moment I learn the importance of investigating carefully–rather than blindly believing–another parent’s perspective.
Prayer: Lord, open the eyes of my heart when I am blind to the pain my selfishness is causing my child. Help me follow your leadership as I learn and grow as a parent.
Today’s Challenge: My Interests over Mothering
Has there ever been a time in your mothering journey that you chose your interest over your child’s? Is there a situation right now that you need to apologize to your child for mishandling in order to rebuild the relationship? If so, make that positive step with your child today. Admitting we are wrong will go a long way in building trust with our kids. Sometimes it’s not appropriate to apologize to your child but taking it to your Heavenly Father is always appropriate.
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She and her husband Roger are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, CA. When she’s not dating her husband or hanging out with her puggle Jake, Kathi is speaking at retreats, conferences and women’s events across the US.
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