When Mama Bear Comes Out to Play.

Last week I yelled at a grown man.

Two in fact.

When it happened, I remember thinking a litany of things.  Everything from, “Oh no he didn’t,” (insert neck roll) to “You can’t play with my Yo-Yo! Don’t try to play me out, don’t try to play me out!” went through my mind when I was on the sidelines at my son’s football practice giving the two people who deserved it a piece of my mind.  And don’t ask me why 90s hip hop lyrics are a part of my inner monologue.  They get me hype, like cupcakes and the smell of permanent markers.

When I got home and told DudeDad about my buckness, he laughed and said, “I bet your mom pulled out a cigarette and smoked it in bed when she heard this story.”

It was then that I realized two things: I am so turning into my mother, and probably I am totally okay with that.


My mother has a nickname in our house.  We call her The Lifeguard.

It’s a name she earned the summer before #1 celebrated his first birthday.

We were living in an apartment complex in Laurel, Maryland.  In jest we call it the hood.  In reality, it’s just an area in the DC Metro suburbs populated largely by hard working families.  Some of them were awesome.  Some of them made me want to sweep their legs when I passed them on the sidewalk.

The kids in my complex had a lot of unsupervised time which they filled by doing regular punk kid stuff like littering and using the F-word really loudly when adults were within earshot.  They weren’t criminals, just naughty enough to be annoying when you had to step over them crowding about in your stairwell.  We called them Bebe’s kids in the privacy of our own home and glared at them openly in public.  They ignored us entirely.  Every thing was as it should be.

One blistering hot summer afternoon in 2002, we decided to venture to the neighborhood pool.  My excitement at getting my 7 month old into his trunks for the first time led to this momentary lapse in judgment.  Anyone who has ever lived in an apartment complex bursting with kids knows that the pool is the last place you want to be on a hot, no-school day in the middle of the summer.

But, me, I shoved #1’s chunky thighs into a swim diaper and slathered his brownness with sunscreen like any good first time mother would.  We packed up our bag and, with Mimi in tow to capture #1’s first swimming adventure, we headed out into the shark infested waters to the pool.

When we arrived we noted two things: there were more people in the pool than there was water and the kids were rowdy.  Like, is-heat-stroke-warping-your-brain? kind of rowdy.  Not ones to spook easily, we pressed on.

As we rounded the edge of the water in search of an open chaise to plop our things on, a series of events began to transpire in front of us.  Some relatively small, but lightening fast kid darted quickly past us while screaming something unintelligible.  Hot on his tail was another, much larger child who proceeded to stiff arm the aforementioned smaller child causing him to careen into the pool, only just barely avoiding me with my wide eyed babe in arms and a brutal head wound from the wall of the pool.

So many things were wrong about this situation: a ton of children, all mostly unsupervised but for some lifeguards who barely spoke English and cared even less, they were running on the pool deck, they were pushing, and shoving, and generally behaving inappropriately for people hanging about a large body of water surrounded by concrete.  And, no one was saying anything!

It was all too much for Mimi so she took matters into her own hands.

Every human at the pool that day left with the fear of God in their eyes and a brand new set of pool rules to abide by.

Not a single person spoke during her tirade.  Some children probably cried.  A few ran away.  When she finished, smoke billowing from her nostrils, I considered starting a slow clap, movie style, to commemorate the moment.

However, at 23 years old I really just wanted to crawl into the deep end and drown myself in my shame.

Because my mom was THAT mom.

At the time, I had no idea that being THAT mom was actually part of what made her amazing.  I only cared what my neighbors would think of me.  And, if any of the kids would leave flaming bags of poo on my step.

Never mind that she was also the only mom who had the sense to react quickly enough to push me back so I wasn’t also knocked into the pool with my 6 month old.  Never mind that she was the only adult responsible enough, engaged enough, or caring enough to be concerned about the small child who’d come thiiiiiis close to being severely wounded by bashing his skull on the concrete pool wall.  Never mind that something needed to be done, and that she was brave enough to do it.

None of those things mattered to me then, but now they’re all that matter.

I finally get what that whole mama bear thing is all about.  It just ignites, boils up, and flames out of you.  You don’t plan it.  You can’t stop it.  It’s your gut reaction to someone doing harm to your kid.  You don’t think about what you’re saying.  You don’t worry about if people will think you are a lunatic.  Because you kinda are, at least for the moment.  Your survival instincts just flash out so you can get your save on, and sh!t it gets real.

Thanks for being real, Mom, and for giving me the crazy confidence to do so too.  I know your inner lifeguard mama bear is doing the running man right now.


  1. says

    I read this on my phone the other day and meant to actually come respond and describe the laughter that ensued but, life man, life is hard with its remembrance of things. Anyway, yes. Yes to all of this. When the time comes, it will come out of all of us. Just wait until it happens and it’s not even your kid like it did to me on the bus the other day. High schoolers got on, like 27 boys at once, roughhousing. I have zero damns to give whether they are rowdy and obnoxious because headphones but when your friend pushes you so hard (while PLAYING whatever that means to them — it ain’t my definition of fun) that you land on me and you bump the head of the kid next to me into the seat back? Then I have to hold you down where you are and sneer get up, apologize, and sit your ass down somewhere or get off. I was not shot so we’ll consider that a win.

  2. says

    This is why I love your blog and now your mom! Great post and I can totally relate to your momma. I am that kind of one and it drives my husband insane. Ha! someone’s gotta do it though. ;)

  3. says

    I didn’t know it was possible, but now I love Mimi even more. And this story does not surprise me one bit. My momma would have done the exact same thing. And so would I. Sometimes I fear my crazy is running just below the surface and is going to pop out at any minute.

    • MImi says

      Even though it embarrassing as heck to see myself like this on the blog, thanks for you support and from all the ladies. Believe me, it comes out for you cub when you need it no matter what age they are.
      Thanks for the love Ladies

  4. says

    OMG, that is the best story ever. Like I wanted to know what happened next. I am a total Mama Bear I don’t take kindly to people hurting my kids. I would have probably clapped for your mom and you. Great story!

  5. says

    I know which two mama bears I’m never going to piss off!

    I’m sure whatever those guys did was deserving of your mama bear coming out!

  6. says

    My favorite part of this story:

    “Not a single person spoke during her tirade. Some children probably cried. A few ran away. When she finished, smoke billowing from her nostrils, I considered starting a slow clap, movie style, to commemorate the moment.”

    You are SUCH a fantastic story-teller. AND, I feel you on the Mama-bear thing. I call it “breaking out my teacher-voice” but it’s basically the same thing. And, I truly don’t give a flying flip what other people around me think at the time either. :-)

  7. says

    This is awesome! My mom used to tell me in stores to go to the next aisle because she was about to go off on someone and she knew it embarassed me. I wish I was more like her. Thank you for this!

  8. says

    I love this. Every little bit of it. I’m probably the least confrontational person you will ever meet. I’m constantly embarrassed by my much more willing to throw down husband and sister. But (BUT!) if someone dares do something that I find even mildly inappropriate or wrong when it comes to my babies, I become a woman possessed. And you’re so right. It’s a blinding, absolutely unstoppable force that boils up inside you and explodes. And everyone in your path better run for the freakin hills when it does!

  9. says

    See I knew we were similar. I am that momma bear as well. If you don’t want me to correct you or your kids in public act like you got the sense God gave a goose. Period. You will be the hangout for all of your son’s friends because you keep it real. Trust me I am adopted mom to more than I care to count..

  10. says

    I love your stories…love them. I read them and think “I could totally be friends with this woman, for reals!!!In my house, we have a name for Mama Bear, when she rears her ugly head- BOOM-BOOM ….. BoomBoom don’t take smack from no hood rats (or their mamas), yo!!!

  11. says

    Best story ever. Also, when we lived in Baltimore i think the kids in my neighborhood could have used a public pool. Then maybe i wouldn’t have occassionally found my car covered in those orange price stickers from the grocery store mid summer.