Grandma Bear

My hands clenched the wheel in exactly the 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock positions as I drove my three year old granddaughter home from preschool. I had carefully strapped into her car seat, and worried a little that I might not have buckled her in safely. We were about ten minutes from her house when she suddenly said,

“Grandma, there’s a spider in the car!”

“Where?” I asked. I put my blinker on for the benefit of no one on this empty Seattle hill climb, and pulled to the side of the street. Taking a deep breath helped me not to follow my instinct, which was to fling open the car door and make a quick escape.

“It went across the windshield.”

“Was it a little spider or a big spider?”

“It was medium.”

This didn’t help my anxiety. I searched around the car, but saw no eight-legged creatures. Shaking, I pulled back onto the road. I willed the next few minutes to go by very quickly.

“Grandma,” I heard, waiting for her to tell me it was crawling up my seat.

“What, Sweet Pea?”

“Spiders are very good jumpers aren’t they?”

“Yes, they certainly are.”

I never did find that spider.

The urge for self-preservation is understandable—we all have it. It’s innate. Protecting your children, for most parents, overwhelms that urge. As a young mother I’d find myself feeling like a mother bear. The little girl who bit my daughter’s cheek doesn’t know that if I hadn’t made a sacred vow never to hit a child, she could have been smacked hard enough to send her flying across the room. For the same reason, the little boy who pushed my daughter on the jungle gym was saved from being tossed on his head by my instinct to protect all children. Over the years, my reactions have morphed into internal rage at anyone who makes one of my daughters unhappy. On the surface, I probably come across as sympathetic to my children’s issues, when I’d prefer to be plotting revenge against their aggressor.

I was surprised to discover that my urge to protect the young extended down to the next generation. I’m now a Grandma Bear. I still vow to practice self-restraint. If a child attacks my grandchild, I’ll get my grandchild to safety and perhaps have a talk with the aggressor’s caretaker. In situations of danger, real or perceived, I’ll make sure my grandchild is protected before I take care of my own safety. But I’ve made no sacred vows against harming little nasty things. Like the yellow jacket that hovered outside my granddaughter’s bedroom yesterday—squish!

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