Yesterday was Mother’s Day here in the United States. It is an interesting holiday, that most consider to be a marketing ploy, although a previous book I’ve discussed taught me differently. I sheepishly admit that I don’t care too much about Mother’s Day. It is a fine holiday, but always feels a little overdone to me. I do love my mother and mother-in-law, and I never turn down a lovely gift or two or flowers or chocolates or any combination thereof. And I am honored that I am a mother with two children of my own. But perhaps it is because I am in what is considered the throes of toddlerhood that I feel being a mother just isn’t always marvelous. It is hard stuff. Pantloads of patience are required. Motherhood asks for lots of creativity, multitasking, functioning on very little sleep, and did I mention patience?
Well this year, I found myself pondering Mother’s Day a bit differently. My oldest daughter currently holds a deep love for the Little Bear series. As any self-respecting bibliophile would do, I introduced her to the books first. She loved them. And then I happened to remember an animated series based on the books that ran years ago. I looked it up and presto, an obsession was born. We don’t do much watching of anything around here, Mary Poppins being the typical sick-day fare, but a short “Little Bear” here and there have been much delighted in by my daughter and me as well. The books are phenomenal, and the animated series does pretty well at representing them well, although I have some beefs with the completely made up episodes and especially the added characters with more annoying characteristics. But I digress.
All this to say, I have become very familiar with the Little Bear family and I now have a very deep fondness and admiration for Mother Bear. So here, for my day after Mother’s Day post, I am resurrecting the “How To” posts to admire and learn from Little Bear’s fabulous and dearly loved Mother Bear. With the help of the first of the books, Little Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik, pictures by Maurice Sendak, 1957, here are my five ways to be an excellent mother:
1. Have a tremendous amount of patience.
This seems like a no-brainer, and granted she is a storybook character, but Mother Bear is just flooded with patience! No matter how many times Little Bear interrupts, or makes messes, or changes his mind, or suddenly comes up with a crazy change from reality for a short period of time – Mother Bear exudes love and kindness. As any tired mother of a toddler knows, this is a feat. And worth much emulation.
2. Delight in surprising your child.
Some days, things just don’t go smoothly. Time is not on your side. Expectations are way too high for your achievement. And you may have ten other things you are juggling. Despite all this, take a lesson from Mother Bear, who doesn’t see it necessary to explain the facts of a busy life to her single-minded little one, but instead showers him with treats and affirmation. The hard blows of life will come soon enough. Pour on that love, especially if it involves chocolate cake.
3. Be willing to go along with their ‘bits.’
You are in the middle of dinner prep, sewing, reading, or any other number of things, and your little one comes barreling in with half-sentences, demands, and excited plans for another hair-brained idea. Pause a moment to think about Mother Bear, take a deep breath, and then go along with it. It is enormously more fun and will probably pass much more quickly if you just enjoy it with them. Besides, who knows how long you’ll be invited to join in on the adventures.
4. Be ready with that soft landing spot of reality.
As important as those aforementioned ‘bits’ are for imagination and creativity; every little cub needs to know their Mother Bear is there, still belongs to them, and knows it with confidence. When the world doesn’t work out quite as planned or it all just gets so tiring, those snuggles are the best balm.
5. Know when to be realistic, thoughtful, and consistent.
When Little Bear has had a full day of adventures, wish-making, and partying, Mother Bear is gently no-nonsense, with a little side of indulgence, and a firm voice of boundaries. She isn’t afraid to tell Little Bear that the adventure-going is over. She reminds him of the many delights of the day, but also that it is time for him to fulfill his last big job and go to sleep. Oh, that I could ever be so tactful in my parenting.
There are my parenting lessons that I have been pondering every time I come across Mother Bear in a book or on a screen. There is nothing quite like a storybook character to entertain you and challenge you all at once. And even in those moments when I know I have failed, I’m thankful for books like these that my daughter takes upon herself to quote to me, “You are my Mother Bear and I am your Little Bear.” They are sweet and lovely reminders to love and be loved.
Here’s to all the lovely Mother Bears out there faithfully hanging out with a bunch of quirky animals.