I have a friend who has always referred to Hubby and me as her "Cubs." She says she is like the Mama Tiger and when someone messes with us, they mess with her.
"The claws come out," she says.
Now, if you knew this person, you would never even think she had claws, much less be willing to use them on anyone. She is the kindest, most generous and decent human being to walk this earth. In fact, many refer to her as an angel...and Hubby and I often joke that we will be riding her coattails into heaven, because if anyone is gonna get in, it's gonna be her.
When she used to talk about these claws, when she'd get really riled up because someone was threatening Hubby's or my happiness, I'd almost laugh. I mean, I loved the loyalty. I was honored that The Most Amazing Human Being On The Planet cared that much for us. And admittedly, I felt a teeny bit safer that this powerhouse of a woman was willing to go to war in defense of either one of us. But "claws"? "My cubs"? I'd laugh. A little bit.
Fast forward to now. I'm a Mommy. And as those of us who are mothers know, there are things in life you just can not fully understand until you become a mother. That metaphor of the tigress and her cubs...oh, how I get it now. There's a violence that can erupt within me when someone endangers my family...or, just makes one of them a little bit sad.
Lately, I have really noticed this instinctive anger kick in. Like this morning, for example...
I was driving to work, both of my little ones safely in the back seat. Ben and I were discussing our Character Breakfast plans for our upcoming trip to Disney. Aidan Kai was playing with his now-empty container of Cheerios (Have you ever noticed how those O's shrivel up and turn into dehydrated lower-case versions of themselves after being tossed all over and therefore left in your car for a few days?!?), and attempting to participate in the conversation with his gurgles and babbles. Out of nowhere, the red car in the next lane decides to change lanes...into mine....and proceeds to do so....right into me.
He barely missed.
I saw him and swerved into the other lane, avoiding what, at 70 miles per hour, would have been a pretty bad accident. After thanking every God out there that there had not been any cars in the lane I had swerved into (this was rush hour Miami morning traffic on the expressway: Someone was looking out for us) recovering from the fright, and answering all of Ben's indignant questions ("Hey, Mama, why'd you turn so fast like that? I almost dropped my milk!"), I looked over at the driver of the red car. He was driving happily along in his (MY) lane, chewing gum. No cell phone. No texting. No eating while driving. There was absolutely no excuse for him completely overlooking the fact that there was a car RIGHT THERE. And no apologetic shrug or hand wave, either. He never even realized he had nearly crashed into us.
I wanted to yell. I wanted to pull him over and bang on his window and scream in his face: "You idiot! You gum-chewing, stupid, clueless idiot! You didn't even see us! You didn't even see us! You didn't even see that there was a car right there that you nearly crashed into that had a backseat filled with two little boys dreaming about Disney World and eating their Cheerios!"
I've had plenty of close encounters with careless drivers. But this was different. It had been close. And we were going fast. And my boys. My boys were there.
And I felt it. The tigress. The claws. The violence.
This friend I had mentioned earlier, my Angel/Tigress Friend, had told me a long time ago, before I had had children, that one of the toughest parts of being a mother is that "your heart is just out there." You want to protect them, to keep them, to guard them. But you can only do so much. And even when they grow up (her daughter is my age now), she said, "Your children continue to be your heart, out there." Helpless. Vulnerable. It doesn't matter how old your children are. The instinct to protect and fight for them is still the same. The pain and helplessness is still the same.
It's a little scary, I think. The moment you realize you can not keep them completely safe...from car accidents, from illnesses, from broken bones and broken hearts.
But there's a certain amount of honor involved in being able to love someone that much.
It is almost sacred.
And so now I truly understand my friend and her tiger claws. I understand how a woman so gentle could get so angry when someone messed with someone she loved. And I realize yet again how blessed I am...not only to be able to have that kind of sacred love for my children, but also to have her in my life, loving and protecting my family almost as much as I do.