It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Baby Buoy

My son is now eighteen. He towers over me, his voice is deep, he needs to shave (least a couple of times a week). He has a job, he has a girlfriend. In short, he looks like a man. At eighteen, he thinks of himself as an adult, of course, and the laws of the land support him in that delusion. At 18, he has a ways to go just yet, really. But he’s on his way!

However, there was a time…

Cast your minds back with me. Back, back, back… Back to, oh, 1991 or ’92. Adam was just a baby. (So were some of you, I know. Which is why you come to me for Words of Wisdom.)

The four of us – me, the kids’ dad, Haley and Adam – we on holiday. We were in North Carolina, as it happens, on the beach. Frolicking in the waves.

It was early October. There were a smattering of people on the beach, most of them locals, in sweaters and jeans, looking askance at the lunatics in the water. We in the water dismissed them. “Pfft. Wusses. The water’s fine, once you get used to it!” (Which is what ALL Canadians say about water. We can’t help ourselves.) And then – hey! Didn’t another family – and then another – join us in the waves. HA. Think we’re nuts? We’re just trend-setters.

Course, when we got chatting, it turned out, that out there, frolicking in the “we’re used to it now” water? We were all Canadians.

Haley, who was about kindergarten age, was splashing around a few feet away. Her dad was in a chair, reading, further up the beach. I sat in the shallows, with baby Adam on my lap, laughing as the waves lapped over our toes. Then our ankles. Then our knees. Okay, so the tide was coming in, but slowly.

And wee Adam was having Such Fun!! He’d smack the waves as they broke over his pudgy knees, squealing in delight when the drops sprayed his face. Fun, fun, fun.

And then, our of nowhere, a HUGE wave rolled in and RIGHT OVER us. Right over.

It knocked me over backward, and lifted me up off the sand. All it would have taken, of course, was for me to have put down an arm, rolled over, and stood up. It wasn’t really that huge. The water wouldn’t have been much over my knees. Haley only giggled and ran, racing the wave to the sand – and won.

But I couldn’t DO that. I had my BABY on my lap. MY BABY!! The unthinking, irrational Mama Bear instinct kicked in, instantaneously. There was NO WAY ON EARTH I was going to – could possibly manage to – LET GO OF MY BABY.

No. I grabbed him by the waist and thrust him UP, out of the water, so he could breathe. Could I breathe? No, I could not. But that was NOT THE POINT.

MY BABY! was the point.

It must have looked weird from the beach: a baby, protruding from the waves, his fat little tummy facing the sky, held up by two rigid arms. And nothing else but ocean.

Then the wave receded, my butt hit the ground again, and I could sit up. And – gasp! – breathe. The whole thing lasted probably 5 seconds. Adam thought it was the greatest game yet.

I love my Inner Mama Bear.

Have you met yours yet? Do tell!

August 24, 2007 - Posted by | holidays, my kids, parenting


  1. I’ve done that. I was walking down the stairs to put Ally to bed. She had fallen asleep with me and I was on my way to return her to her crib for nap. I was walking so as to not jostle her awake, and guess I wasn’t paying much attention to the steps. I slid off the front of one and fell down 3 or 4 steps. I twisted my ankle, and couldn’t walk for 2 days after that, but Ally wasn’t hurt, barely woke up and, after I limped down the hallway and rocked her a bit, went right back to sleep. Then I crawled back upstairs and cried. Ouch. then I called my husband to come home from work to help take care of us.

    Comment by ktjrdn | August 24, 2007 | Reply

  2. I once put myself between an about-to-attack dog and Christopher. Luckily, the owner came outside just before the dog lunged at me, but I was prepared to twist it’s neck if it came to that.

    Comment by candace | August 24, 2007 | Reply

  3. Luckily, I haven’t had one of those situations yet where I’ve had to put my body on the line for hers. The inner mother thing that surprised me most involved vomit. I always figured I’d be a sympathetic puker, but one day in her high chair, she started to spew and without thinking, I reached out a hand and caught it. Then reached out the other hand to catch more as I emptied the first onto her tray. And continued, hand over hand, until she was done. And sat back, shocked. I have no doubt though, that I would put myself in harm’s way for her. No doubt at all.

    Comment by kittenpie | August 24, 2007 | Reply

  4. With a 23-year-old, I think my “mama bear” is probably in hibernation. He’s a head taller than me and living on his own, 3000 miles across the country, and at this point there are some things I would NOT do for him. (Those “helicopter parents” you’ve read about, intervening with college professors and work supervisors? NOT me.) But if ever really needed, I’m pretty sure she’d wake up very quickly.

    Kittenpie’s comment made me think of my stepson, who has GERD (pediatric acid-reflux disease). Age and medication have made it much less of a problem for him, but when he was younger, I’ve heard stories about how both his parents became very proficient, unflappable barf-catchers.

    Comment by Florinda | August 24, 2007 | Reply

  5. We had new carpet fitted and a new sofa and when a little girl I looked after looked at me and then went green, I pulled out the front of my t-shirt and ran to her so she could puke in it!

    Coming out of the supermarket one day I noticed a toddler in a pushchair putting cheesy biscuits in her mouth one after the other and started silently choking, mother couldnt see from the top of the pushchair, I ran over, scooped his mouth clear at which point he threw up on his lap! Mum was fine about it and very grateful considering it looked like I was attacking her child!

    I once caught a pushchair handle as it flew across the bus as the driver took a corner too sharply, funny thing was I wasnt even looking in that direction, I must have seen it in my outer vision and reached out without even thinking!

    Comment by jenny uk | August 24, 2007 | Reply

  6. Thought of another one, I was carrying either Dumpling or the little boy I look after up the steps when I began to fall, in the split second it takes to fall I made the decision to turn so that I would fall on my back and the baby would land on my front, hurt like hell for a week but baby was fine!

    Comment by jenny uk | August 24, 2007 | Reply

  7. Not in the bodily danger kind of way yet (thank goodness – knock on wood), but I have been irrationally incensed over (possibly perceived) insults. Like when a waiter spent an entire meal exclaiming about how cute my friends baby was, and said NOTHING about the Boy except “oh, he must be a handful”. Boy, was I mad.

    Comment by nomotherearth | August 24, 2007 | Reply

  8. I had a (somewhat) similar situation a few weeks ago. BB (also Adam, love the name, don’t you?) and I were at the water park and went down the big slide together. We’d watched some people at the end of the slide first, and they didn’t really seem to be going under. But when we went down together, we shot right down to the bottom of the landing pool – about 3.5 feet deep. I did the exact same thing you did when I realized we were at the bottom – I put my hands around my waist and hoisted him as high as I could. Now, he wasn’t going to get swept into the ocean, and the water was barely up to his chin (plus there was a lifeguard a few feet away) but I think the instinct was the same.

    Of course, I met my Inner Bear Mama years ago (BB is 6.5) but this is just the most recent story.

    Comment by BookMama | August 24, 2007 | Reply

  9. I noticed your link on another blog and liked the name of it, so I popped by. As a mom I can so, so , so relate to your story!!!

    Comment by Frazzled Mom | August 25, 2007 | Reply

  10. Kind of.

    I really desperately hate spiders. My father is frightened of them too. I suspect that as a small child, the thought that this man who could do ANYTHING was afraid of the little critters must mean they are really stinking horrible. I dunno, anyway, I hate them. Lots.

    So, there I am, alone in the house with my newborn baby boy, feeling horribly insecure and wondering who thought it was a good idea to leave me in charge and what was I going to do next. I was 25 and a single mom, he was probably about 8 or 9 days old. I had his crib in the bedroom and would take him into the bed to breastfeed and then, theoretically, put him back in his crib. Except that half the time, I fell asleep and woke up with a fright later, convinced that I could have crushed this poor precious being in my sleep and that I must be unfit and how COULD I just fall asleep when I was supposed to be caretaking?!

    Anyway, the mama bear incident was stupidly trivial … I was dozing whilst he suckled when I suddenly saw a movement out of the corner of my eye. Turned my head and there, on my pillow, was a spider. Walking brazenly towards me. I screamed and jumped up and ran out of the room … and then (as the panic receded) thought, oh my god, the BABY!

    The baby was safe in my arms, of course. As I replayed those frantic 3 seconds, I was very clear that I had pulled the baby gently off my breast and held him tight and moved him with me. The whole instinctive behaviour made me feel SO relieved. Like maybe I might make it through after all.

    The baby is 13 now and a pretty cool kid, so I guess I did ok 🙂

    Comment by sylvia | September 2, 2007 | Reply

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