Not a Mama Bear

Evan used to be terrified of those small fork lifts that emptied trash cans into dumpsters at the city park. Thoroughly engaged in play with his friends, at the sight of a fork life he’d come crying and wait safely in my arms until the machine went far away. If I were a Mama bear, I may have advised the driver to be aware of small children at play, or timed our visits to the park to avoid the fork lifts, but I’m not a Mama Bear.

As a five year old he was both fascinated by and scared of big dogs. He overcame his fear by going up to strangers and saying “Sir, sir, sir . . . and when the pet owner finally acknowledged him, he’d ask, “May I pet your dog?” If I were a Mama Bear, I might have insisted the person acknowledge my son sooner, instead of passively waiting to see what would happen. But, I’m not a Mama Bear.

When he was eight or nine, while celebrating a holiday in Guatemala with fireworks, one exploded just before he threw it. His fear was much worse than the burn. He ran to me in the house, fist clenched, crying loudly, sheer terror on his face. I can still hear his inconsolable howls echoing in the stairwell. He wasn’t badly injured, but it took several minutes before he ‘d open his hand so I could see the damage. When he was finally calm enough to look at the charred skin, he laughed and ran outside to light more fireworks. If I were a Mama Bear, I definitely would have interfered with the lighting of fireworks in spite of impassioned arguments from his dad. But I’m not a Mama Bear.

I’m not sure exactly when Evan stopped running to me to calm his fears. I wasn’t there for many of them. Some he tearfully or angrily told me about years later. Others, I am certain, he never shared.

It’s easy to blame myself, my “everything will be all right” attitude for not protecting him better. Maybe . . . I think, maybe if I were different he wouldn’t have been such a risk taker, maybe he wouldn’t have joined the army and suffered PTSD, maybe he would have graduated from college, got a job and lived a safe life.

If I were a Mama Bear, maybe he would still be alive.

When I write them out, I see how ridiculous such thoughts are. The truth is, Evan would have been miserable playing it safe. Maybe even more miserable than I can imagine. More truth, my love for him is real and it will live forever.

Mighty waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.

Song of Solomon 8:7

Neither Evan’s river accident nor the waves of grief that followed can diminish our love. I guess it’s okay that I’m not a Mama Bear.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Jill Tesnow says:

    Well written, Lani!
    In western MT where my first three were born, I was a Mama Bear while they were little, but then let them have more rein. My sister-in-law was a Mama Bear and was horrified we’d let the kids run off wherever they wanted in the country—to fish in a pond, swim in Flathead Lake, ride horses, climb trees, use BB guns, hammers, axes, etc! I had to perform a few rescues and bandage booboos, but we just let them be kids.
    I probably Mama Beared Caleb the most because he was the youngest. I remember when he was two and in the garden with me having to haul him back over a fence several times to keep him out of an occupied cow pasture that had the double danger of an irrigation ditch. He was DETERMINED to head out there while my back was turned! I finally cut a small pliable branch off a tree and switched his little legs a couple times and that was the end of that.
    The Mama Bear mode didn’t kick in much for years as they grew until he told me he’d joined the Army. He was 18 and it was a done deal. I had Army veterans in my family including both my parents, my brother, three uncles and a cousin, as well as my husband (well, he was Air Force!).
    Nevertheless, I was terrified. I knew how war experiences could change you forever and how I wanted to protect him from that!
    But our children will do as they will when they come of age. They do what they think is right, they do what they have to, they do what they love; and we can only love them and advise or help them when they ask.
    Because of his choices, he made deep and solid friendships like he had with that band of brothers in Evan, Garrett and Robert. They helped each other through things before and after their war experiences, and there aren’t many friendships that forge that deeply. Evan’s accident and passing hit him hard, and I want to thank you for letting him and the others into your your home and hearts and in helping however they could. I think it helped a bit with closure for them, but I know losing him added another wound to the many they all still carry.
    I appreciate your writings so much. You and your husband and family are often in my prayers for comfort. As Evan’s mother, I know the wound you carry will be with you forever, but I know God in his mercy and loving kindness can give you balm and peace and even joy as you remember your beloved son.
    In His Love, Jill


    1. lanibogart says:

      Dear Jill, Thank you for sharing this! Your Caleb is a wonderful young man with a tender heart that has been wounded deeply, but he’s heroically choosing life over despair every day. Garrett, Rob, and Caleb will always be welcome in our home and hearts- that goes for the whole family. I know that you understand in a way few women could what Army life did to my son. I hope we can meet someday. In the meantime, thank you with all my heart for your prayers. God hears and answers them. We pray for Caleb and Evan’s other friends every day.


  2. Jan says:

    You were the best mama, I’m sure of it. You gave Evan the freedom to make decisions and solve his problems and he grew up to be a wonderful person. Like his mama.


  3. lanibogart says:

    Thank you, Jan.


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