the chicken or the bear? In my case, the chicken. Only the chicken, but I'm learning to be a bear, slowly but surely.
I have spent a large majority of my life as a mother hen. You know the type, the friend you have who is always worried about you and hovers around you with advice. The one who always has chapstick, tissues and band-aids in her purse, not to mention fingernail clippers and an emergency $20 in case you call in crisis. Maybe yours is your sister or your aunt or your mother. In any case, you can call at 2 a.m. with a broken-down car or a broken heart or a medical question because your hoo-hoo has been itching for a week and you're starting to get worried, and she will always have some sensible advice for you and call you every day for the next week to check in and make sure you're recovering.
I mother-hen my children, my little sister, most of my friends, my friends' and neighbors' children and even my own mother. My head is filled with anniversary and birthday dates, details of the current difficulties including, but not limited to, breakups, job losses, health problems, school schedules and times of need. I will always wait to be asked before bestowing my advice on you, but rest assured that I will have thought through your particular situation in my sleep for several nights prior to you actually wanting my opinion. This frantic need to fix and mend and soothe is done purely out of love and concern and perhaps a little bit of my own discomfort at seeing people in distress. Speeding the healing is a fantastic way for me to not have to witness your pain anymore.
Mother-henning takes a lot of energy and is really an endless process of pecking, pecking, pecking at the surface, finding small grains and bugs not large enough to fill an entire chick's tummy. That hen is also constantly trying to keep track of her brood, all of which are heading off in different directions seeking their own adventures in the world. I'm tired of it. Don't get me wrong, I still love you all as much, but I've decided that the mother bear is the one doing it the way I want to from now on.
The mother bear is a solid, stable creature who moves slowly and conserves her energy. Her center of gravity is in her core and she only really roars when she absolutely has to. Her focus is on watching her young venture farther and farther away, gaining some independence, but trusting that she will be able to protect them if she needs to. Being a mother bear feels calm and peaceful, confident and warm. The mother hen is frantic and jerky, trying to keep several balls in the air at the same time and screeching, "The sky is falling!"
I reserve the right to remain concerned about your lives and hear about your trials and triumps, even at 2 a.m. I have decided, however, to do my best to be the mother bear instead. I will protect my young to the death and roar only when I need to. The rest of you are capable of taking care of yourselves and will receive encouragement and love from me. You will get what comes from my core, my mother bear, my essence, my values. You will get my love and understanding, respect and patience, and perhaps some advice if you really really want it. I will try not to mother-hen you anymore, worrying and pecking, fixing and patching, expending the energy that we both need to focus on what is real and solid. I can't promise to quit cold turkey (I know, nice pun), but I'm still a work in progress, for Lord's sake!