It was the eve of Mother’s Day. I found myself alone in a rarely quiet moment in the morning. I have three large windows that stretch from floor to ceiling in my dining room and I had turned myself in the chair so that I could sit right next to the window looking out at my garden/patio area just off the back of the house. My girls had been tracking the progress of the baby birds that had just hatched in the small tree right next to the window. We had a clear view of the birds and nest, and had been monitoring the process for a few weeks. I noticed that both the mother and father bird had been in and out of the nest quite a bit that morning. I also noticed (which was not unusual) the squirrels, bunnies, and bees that regularly played in this area of my yard. I call it their “playground.”
I took note of the mommy and daddy birds coming back and forth, each taking turns visiting the nest. Their behavior made me curious, so I focused and started to interpret the behavior. First, let me say, I am not a bird watcher. I know nothing about birds and could not even tell you what kind of bird I was watching. They are all the same to me, birds. I wish I could say that I knew more about them, but I don’t. I started to create a narrative of the behavior:
Daddy has left the nest to look for worms because these babies seem to be eternally hungry. He comes back empty handed. Momma takes matters in her own hands. Almost as if they communicate, she motions, “stay here, I’ll get the worms.” I imagine her thinking to herself as she flies around, “Look at me, Mom of the Year! I can do everything! I’ve got this!” She seems courageous, she seems confident; she knows she is equipped to provide the food her babies’ needs. I was starting to relate it to Mother’s Day, of course, thinking, “moms are BRAVE, they are STRONG, they are EQUIPPED, and they, like this bird, are BEAUTIFUL.” I was feeling good about being a mom and I thought – I am going to write my blog post about this beautiful bird. I was set for the weekend. Later that day, I received some early handmade gifts from my children. The day got even better. One wrote that I was “pretty,” another that I “worked hard at home and at TVC,” again, I thought of the bird. Thinking maybe even my children could see that I too was STRONG, COURAGEOUS, and EQUIPPED.
Moments that Steal the Joy
The day went on and I was outside working in that “playground” area where the bunnies, squirrels, and birds love to be. Then, something happened. After it happened, I found myself angry. My view of the playground was tainted. It stole the positive feeling I was having and dramatically changed my thoughts for the rest of the day. I wanted it to go away, but it wouldn’t. It began to haunt me. It ruined the playground, it even ruined the image of COURAGE and STRENGTH and feeling EQUIPPED. It literally stripped those feelings away completely within an instant. Can’t I just have one day – a day with no worries, no fears, no negative feelings, no negative thoughts? Can’t I just feel that I’ve got this “mom thing” down, like the bird? She has this “mom thing” down. But, no. There it was, sending chills up my spine and paralyzing me with fear….a MONSTER had slithered into the playground. A 4 foot snake – my ultimate fear (in the animal category). Why today? Why me? Why right here? There are three acres, for goodness sake!
Making Sense of It All
I struggled to make sense of the event. It didn’t fit into the narrative I had written for the birds. It didn’t fit into my Mother’s Day celebration. I didn’t want to have to include it in my blog or even have to make sense of it, for that matter. But, it was a reality. It ruined the image of the COURAGEOUS mom. Because, the truth is that when I discovered it – I didn’t have the COURAGE to deal with it. I called for help and went through the next few steps in complete fear. I struggled for the next 24-hours with the fear. So, I decided I would try to make sense of how I managed when the MONSTER came into the animal playground.
- I managed to stay calm. My first thought was to make sure my children were not in harm’s way; however, inside I was running away faster than a tiger.
- I reached out. I motioned my husband through the window pointing at the snake and indicating that it was BIG.
- My husband asked me to keep a distance, but watch it until he could get something to defend himself with (I’ll refrain from those details).
- I stayed calm and remained with my eyes on the MONSTER until my husband said I could move away. I ran straight to where the kids where (which was a long distance in the yard) and told them to stay where they were until I told them otherwise.
- The neighbor came out…. And, here is what happened next. I started to become calmer on the inside. I, showing no sign outwardly of the fear I felt inside, started explaining to her what was going on. She shared how she was scared of snakes too. I recounted how I saw it, what I did, how I felt. She was listening; I was feeling more and more at ease.
- Now, the MONSTER was removed from the playground and no longer a threat.
What is True?
So, if I was so COURAGEOUS, STRONG, and EQUIPPED, why didn’t I just take matters into my own hands and remove the threat? What if my husband hadn’t been there? What if the MONSTER had been a direct threat my children? Then, I recalled an important exchange with my neighbor in step #5. When she was sharing her fear, she told me that once a snake came in between her and her child and posed a real threat. Even with her fear as strong as mine, she was able to intervene when there was no time and no choice. Ok, so I am feeling less weak, and maybe my image of the mommy bird is still true.….
So, as I made sense of the steps, somethings screamed loud and clear:
#1 MOMS ARE STRONG, COURAGEOUS, EQUIPPED, and BEAUTIFUL.
#2 Moms will face MONSTERS (insert any difficult situation you fear or feel overwhelmed by).
#3 Moms DO NOT have to do it all alone. Others in your circle of support can play a very important role such as protection, advice, support, shared feelings, etc.
#4 I can choose. The fear could continue to run me away from the places I once enjoyed, or it could motivate a change (for me, this means that the playground was relocated away from the house ).
#5 Sharing an experience with someone who deeply understands has an extraordinary way of relieving fear and anxiety!
#6 Being scared of difficult situation is part of the human experience and doesn’t make this mom (or any mom, for that matter) any less STRONG, COURAGEOUS, and EQUIPPED. Failing to act in a way that moves toward eliminating the MONSTER would threaten my confidence in my abilities. But, whether it is taking down the MONSTER myself, or reaching out for help…the outcome is the same, the snake is gone and we are all safe on the playground!
Rikki Harris is the Chief Executive Officer for Tennessee Voices for Children. Rikki holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Counseling and a Master’s in Christian Education. In her previous role at TVC, Rikki served as the organization’s Director of Development and Marketing since 2011. Prior to her employment at TVC, she had six years of experience in management as the Director of Children’s Mental Health Services in Fort Worth, Texas. There she served as community leader, advocate, and network partner with other child serving agencies. Rikki also worked as a consultant for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice entities in Texas where she wrote curriculum’s for staff training and wrote grant applications for funding. She has experience in supervising grant funded programs as well as research. Upon her move to Nashville, Rikki taught Child and Adolescent Development in the Department of Psychology at Welch College while serving her previous employer and other Texas agencies as a consultant on children’s mental healthcare. Her background in the field provides a solid foundation to lead TVC in today’s fast-changing healthcare environment. When not working, Rikki enjoys spending time with her family and friends.