mamabearI was bonding with another mom from our younger son’s class a while back and I confessed a guilty secret: I sometimes wish a stranger would make a rude remark about our son just so I could have the opportunity to lash out and release some of my pent up rages from all the remarks I’ve let pass.

And she admitted to feeling the same thing.

It’s pure protective Mama Bear ire at anyone threatening our young and obviously not exclusive to the parents of special needs kids. We just get some doozies in the supermarket, or at the doctor’s office, or in any educational setting where non-professionals are put in a teaching position (think co-op preschools).

Every parent seems to get a healthy dose of this urge; the same drive that makes otherwise rational people throw themselves in front of their toddler at the sight of a strange dog in the play park or boil in umbrage if anyone questions that their child is developmentally advanced and so good-looking he’ll grow up to be a supermodel.

I know a mom who leapt out of bed and raced down the hospital hallway, just hours after childbirth, when a nurse took the baby for a status check during the night without flashing the proper identification first. Caught her, too. The nurse was lucky to keep all her limbs.

And while “sticks and stones may break my bones” words can really make me mad.

The special needs moms, by the time their kids are school age and accurately diagnosed, have been told their kid needs reward charts, chores, stronger discipline, a spanking, a time-out, a man around the house and X, Y and Z medication, that he is retarded, rude, reckless and has no right to be there, that we are bad, ignorant, lazy, incompetent parents and that if we did what the stranger (article, book, website, expert, celebrity) advised, our kid would be fixed.

There’s a reason we want to reach across a table in a crowded restaurant and grab that stranger by the scruff of the neck if they give us cause. Come on, make my day.

Sadly, as with any rude remark suffered by a parent, the person saying it is usually not a stranger, but a loved one, neighbour, co-worker, in-law, blood relative, health professional or educator that we can’t really rough up without not only legal repercussions but social ones we can’t live with. And they usually think they’re being helpful.

Meanwhile, we’re shielding our offspring from the verbal arrows and unwarranted labels flying overhead since the behaviour under fire isn’t their fault, and even if it is, goodness knows we’re all trying our best even if sometimes that’s just getting through the day with French fries and public television, instead of the sensory diet, organic food regimen, occupational therapy, pragmatic speech sessions or specialized schools that have been suggested.

Some days you just have to survive, like any parent, without hurting anyone or saying something unforgivable, so you can do a better job tomorrow. As my therapist says (she’s offered to make a rude remark so I can let off some steam next time I feel like I might explode, but she’s far too nice to verbally abuse) that’s what television is for.

But even on the best days, it’s not smart to bait a Mama Bear. They bite.