I have a love/hate relationship with the popular Berenstain Bears series of books. You know the ones. Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Brother and Sister Bear, and the latest addition, Honey Bear.
These books find their way into my home somehow. Sadie, 6, seems to love them. She often checks them out at the library and sometimes asks me to buy her one when we go to Barnes and Noble too. I usually acquiesce, but there are a couple of things that bug me about the books.
For one, I don’t like the representation of Papa Bear as an overgrown child with plenty of bad habits that, along with the children’s, need to be corrected. This stereotype of Dad as clueless, overgrown child (a la Homer Simpson) may ring true in some families, but it’s not something I want to reinforce with read aloud time. (Charles Ingalls is a much better literary Dad to introduce kids to.)
Do you know what it is?
The woman is entirely too patient.
First, she lets her kids get entrenched in some really bad habits (like watching Too Much TV, eating Too Much Junk Food, having a Messy Room, Not Doing Chores, Forgetting Table Manners, Fighting, etc.).
Then, when she can’t take it anymore, she has a Mama Bear fit and lays down the law.
As I was reading one of these pithy little volumes to Sadie the other day, I realized why this irritated me:
Precisely because it hits a little too close to home.
In my defense, at least I don’t make the mistake of a) not consulting my husband before making sweeping parenting decisions and b) treating him like one of the children.
But I do see a disturbing tendency in myself to overlook things and be a little too patient, then get FED UP with the problem and start meting out punishments.
The Trouble Is… (oh there I go again!), overlooking small irritations may be fine when you’re feeling well and life is behaving. But then you get pregnant, or go through a stressful life change, or get sick, or have financial problems, or whatever… and those little irritations are no longer tolerable.
They become un-bear-able. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)
And often by the time you decide it’s bad enough to take action on, the problem is entrenched and takes more work to undo.
How does one overcome this problem? Kelly Nault, an author I interviewed several years ago on my podcast referred to it as the “Pendulum of Parenting”.
So what are your thoughts? Is the occasional, well-timed Mommy Fit ok?
How do you know when something is enough of a “big deal” to deal with it immediately, and when it’s ok to overlook it?
As for me, I’m working on taking notice of behaviors and asking myself the question, “Is this a behavior I can live with if it takes up permanent residence here? Is this a one-off naughty act that can be explained by hunger, fatigue or hormones or is it an ongoing pattern?”
What do you think?