A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Mama Bears Unite!

You know that feeling you get as a parent when you suspect for a millisecond that your child has been wronged? That “Mama (or Papa) Bear” reflex that rears up in us and makes us feel like we could and would do ANYTHING to protect our kids?

Yeah. That. It’s a frightening and powerful rush, isn’t it? I feel it so often, I’m starting to think I might be a Mama Bear junkie. Granted, I’m a bit of an over-reactor in general . . .

“Kelsey said WHAT to you? Hand Mama the phone please.”

In fact, my husband, aka The Gatekeeper, frequently has to remind me to let the kids solve most of their own social dilemmas. I can’t help it. My hackles just stand on end when I start to sense my babies are hurting.

But sometimes our children can’t solve their own problems, particularly when they’re up against a big institution like a school. When that happens, it is our job to protect them, and pity the fool who gets in our way (said in my best Mr. T impersonation. You’re welcome.)

Once, when Mini-Me was in Kindergarten, she was in a classroom setting that was not a good fit for her particular needs and learning style. More often than not, she came home from school looking like this:

[photo removed at the request of Mini-Me]

You know Mini-Me. She takes after her Mama. (Bless her heart.) Well, she had a couple of behavioral incidents early in the year, and the next thing we knew, she was being treated like she was a “problem child.”

It was heartbreaking. We could actually see her self-esteem plummet during that time. I don’t really talk much about it, but back then I was *this close* to pulling Mini-Me out of public Kindergarten and homeschooling her after a series of very upsetting interactions we had with the teachers and administrators of her school. (And I think we can all agree that I would be a miserable failure as a homeschooling mother given my inability to stick to a routine or come up with appropriate crafts.)

That was around the time I quit blogging. I just couldn’t find a way to balance my burgeoning career (then hobby) and give Mini-Me the time and attention she needed at home.

That’s not the only reason I gave up blogging, but it was a major factor. Sometimes I wonder how much further along I could be in my career right now if I had stayed with blogging and not taken that year off.

But like I said, I was in that Mama Bear mode and I would have done anything to protect my girl. I have no regrets. That was in the winter and spring of 2009. We did everything in our power to support our daughter and make sure she got the education she deserved.

Our efforts paid off in the end. It was no surprise to us, but it turned out she was not a “problem child” at all, but rather a gifted and kinesthetic learner who was just bored silly and needed to be with a teacher who would see her as an asset instead of a liability.

Imagine that.

This is probably why I got all teary-eyed when I watched the preview for the upcoming film Won’t Back Down, by Fox Pictures, scheduled for release September 28th. In it, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis play two determined mothers who will stop at nothing to transform their children’s failing inner city school. Facing a powerful and entrenched bureaucracy, they risk everything to make a difference in the education and future of their children.

Honest to Pete, gives me goosebumps just thinking of it. I’ve been a big fan of Maggie Gyllenhaal for a long time. Ever see Secretary or Sherrybaby? Jayzus. This woman can act, y’all. I can’t wait to see the hurtin’ she puts on this role as a crusading mother.

Now add Viola Davis, Rosie Perez, and Holly Hunter? (All of whom are either Oscar nominees or winners.) Holy Hell. This is gonna be good.

Okay, enough jibber jabber. Visit the Won’t Back Down Facebook page and “like” it for more updates on the film. You can even organize a girls night out and purchase group tickets there while you’re at it.

Also, Fox and BlogHer are teaming up to give you the chance to win one of two $40 Fandango gift cards. All you need to do is answer these questions in the comments below: How can you be an agent for change in your community? What gives you courage?

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c) Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
d) For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
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This sweepstakes runs from 9/5/12-9/30/12.
Be sure to visit the Won’t Back Down brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggersí posts and find more chances to win!


  1. Lisa Thomson

    Your mini-me is such a cutie!! She looks very happy and i hope this school year is wonderful for her. I’m looking forward to checking out this movie you mention. Great cast!

  2. Jane

    You know I love the movies. And Maggie Gyllenhaal is a favorite- that movie Secretary was great. This movie loo ks really good- I’m going to see it for sure.
    Your kids are extra lucky they have a Mama Bear!

  3. wy

    What a beautiful post.

  4. sally

    I went through something like this last year with my now 15 year old. He punched a boy in the locker rooms, next thing we got the school telling us he needs anger mangerment bla bla. This was the first time ever. We asked if they had found out why it happened. It turns out the little sod had been taking the p out of me being dis-abled and my sons gran being dead. He put up for months but kicked. Needless to say we had words to explain that hitting wasn’t the way but I couldn’t believe how quickly they were willing to label him a problem child. Mumma bear is not having it,no way,no how

  5. Emily

    I’m going to have a go at answering those questions. It’s pretty long. I doubt these are even the answers they want to hear, but they’re what I need to say.

    I have suffered enough in my life at the hands of people who are fond of using the word “community”, both as reason AND excuse, that I don’t trust that term anymore. Rather than work within “my community”, which usually turns out to be people whose priorities and ways of living just don’t work for me, I like to make myself the breath of fresh air that so many asphyxiating people in a community need. I respect that most people need communities, and I don’t antagonize them. I don’t force my thoughts or ideas on others. I do come into every event, every gathering, every walk to the mailbox, dressed in vibrant colors and a smile, with my weird opinions, singing whatever catches my fancy and telling random people that I love their purse, I adore their shoes, I appreciate their insight, I value their judgment. I provide a reminder that “the community” is NOT all-powerful, all-encompassing, or anything else The Great And Powerful Oz puts on the community newsletter. When the rules just don’t suit and won’t change, knowing that there is a way out is important. I am the little pixie hovering over in the corner, with the hand-painted sign pointing the way to The Great Egress. Not everything works for everyone. Sooner or later, “most people” will not include you, and it might be a point on which you just can’t give. Knowing that someone is there on the outskirts, ready to hug you and tell you that you don’t have to belong anywhere to be loved, is a service that I gladly provide.

    My courage comes from a simple enough place: When faced with a choice, I decide what matters – what REALLY matters – to me, and I focus on that. I have learned over the years that, if I can’t build my actions on a positive idea, if instead it is founded on a list of things that are “wrong” with the other option, I will spend too much energy on being angry instead of on what’s important, and I will probably end up hurting people who don’t deserve to be hurt. So I focus on my goal and the steps I need to take to get there, confident that the results will be worth it, no matter the pain or effort it will take to get there. I don’t know if it really counts as courage, but it sure passes for it.

    And for what it’s worth, Leslie, I *do* home school my children, and those fake turds you and your girl demonstrated have been a huge hit.

  6. Allysgrandma

    OMGawd the same thing happened to my youngest. I had the teacher tell me we obviously had a family problem and that is why she wasn’t learning to read. Um no you assholes, you switched from phonics to “whole language” and my kids’s grade were the guinea pigs. Of course the State of California changed back when it appeared it was more than just my kid having reading problems!

    It was hard leaving granddaughter, looking like a peeping tom through the classroom window… watching her on the playgraound through the bars before they unlock them to let the parents/grandparents in to pick up…at her preschool (which is actually attached to a full-blown Catholic grade school with a nicer theatre than our local college!). Just think after you get your kids all raised and fixed, you will have another generation that you will get to be Grandmamma bear to! Oh yes it never ends…or hasn’t yet anyway.

  7. sandra

    if you see something you’d like changed, start with your county council

  8. Arnebya

    I think Secretary was the first movie of Maggie’s I saw. My husband and I had been married a year I think. To this day, if I put a piece of mail in my mouth, it’s on. Ahem.

    It’s hard to keep Mama Bear Mode from happening. It’s instinctive. I am there now with my 7th grader. She’s not getting a fair shake at her middle school. There are changes galore, some of which have unwanted effects on the kids who don’t deserve to feel like they’re in military school. We have a meeting this evening. My husband has asked me to refrain from entering the room and saying, “So looka here, bitches.” I’ll try my best.

    At my other daughter’s school, there is simply so much that is needed. Considering an under-performing school, we need parental involvement, we need money, we need support. The good thing though, is the teachers are excellent, the administration is wonderful. Together we can turn it around.

    Can’t wait for the movie.

  9. Kelly Massman

    Start with the appropriate elected official… and I find courage if I don’t have to stand alone.
    kmassman gmail

  10. Gina M

    If something isn’t being done right then speak up about it. Nothing will change if no one says anything.

    gina.m.maddox (at) gmail (dot) com

  11. Gina M


    gina.m.maddox (at) gmail (dot) com

  12. Jan Kelly

    We are our children’s first and most important advocate and we must always remember that. As a special education teacher I always encouraged my parents to follow their hearts and fight for what they felt was the best thing for their child. I know, as a mother of three, I always was and it’s not always easy but it is of utmost importance. Can’t wait to see this movie!

  13. Brandy

    Volunteer, be informed, participate. Get to know my neighbors!

  14. elspeth

    My fav movie of Maggie Gyllenhaal: Stranger Than Fiction. I watch it over and over.

  15. Tabathia B

    I am motivated by making sure my kids grow up in a crime free neighborhood by being a part of the neighborhood watch

    tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

  16. Tabathia B

    tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

  17. Melinda

    I can be kind to those around me, even when I’m not treated well

  18. Debra S

    In order to make a change we need to speak up and go through the proper chain of command as necessary without giving up. I get courage though the support of my family and friends.

  19. Debra S


  20. Sean

    I work in an urban setting so Im always trying to change the way people think about underprivledged populations

    seanm1999 at hotmail dot com

  21. Melinda



  22. Karina Lee

    i find courage in standing up for what’s right

  23. Karina Lee


  24. Rebecca Graham

    I can be an agent for change by doing volunteer work for the various community agencies.

  25. Monica L.

    I can volunteer more and inspire others to do the same! That will promote good for the world. Seeing others take action and stand up for what is right gives me courage to do the same.

  26. Debbie B

    i tweeted here:


  27. Erika

    I get my courage from blogging and the blogging community. We encourage each other. We change each other. We inspire each other.


  28. maria cantu

    By volunteering, and my family gives me the courage to change.




    ENTRY #2! https://twitter.com/kytah00/status/250862010693214209

  31. Betty C

    I can help the community by acting instead of ignoring the negative things that are going on in my neighborhood. My children give me courage.

  32. Judith

    Nothing changes until someone stands up.

  33. Jammie

    My family gives me courage, and I would become more involved with special events, all it takes to help a community is some time. sweepmorey at gmail dot com

  34. Jammie

    tweeted https://twitter.com/mommysdizzy/status/252188294337667072

  35. Sarah L

    I sing with the Raging Grannies and we try to change hearts and minds through humorous songs.
    Thanks for the contest.

  36. Sarah L


  37. Betty C

    Tweet – https://twitter.com/willitara/status/252489691893481472

  38. Eugenie

    Keep informed, stay engaged and pursue the most important issue to my family.

  39. Howell

    I care about my family and community so I try to pursue issues that matter the most to both.

  40. Janice Cooper

    God gives me courage by volunteering and getting others involved with their ideas to help make our community better.

  41. Janice Cooper


  42. nannypanpan

    my son gives me courage, cause i want things better for him…i just started volunterring at his school and joined the pto

  43. Lyn

    I have worked in my kids school in the past (in the cafeteria) and I’m here to tell you — there are good teachers, and there are bad teachers. here’s a favorite quote that I emailed to the principal of the school back then:

    Haim Ginott’s most famous quote:

    I have come to a frightening conclusion.
    I am the decisive element in the classroom.
    It is my personal approach that creates the climate.
    It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
    As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.
    I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.
    I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
    In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis
    will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized.
    Between Teacher and Child

    PS — Mini-Me is gorgeous!!!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Thank you Lyn. That is such a powerful quote. I thought I wanted to be a teacher for a while there a long time ago, but I’m so glad I never followed through with it because I know for a fact I would have stunk at it. This quote makes me appreciate the great teachers even more! Thanks again.

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