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Fight or Flight? Hmm, I’ll Take Fight

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I used to go to a chiropractor.  I’m extremely clumsy and in my early 20’s fell down and knocked my hips out of alignment.  I lived with it for so long that it’s permanent, but that’s beside the point.  The misalignment of my hips tends to cause me lower back pain; so I used to go to a chiropractor.

Turns out, the 2nd vertebrate down from my skull is also rotated 45 degrees from where it’s supposed to be.  It doesn’t bother me and really, if it doesn’t hurt, leave it alone.  I have had migraines all my life and the chiropractor thought maybe, just maybe, this vertebrate had something to do with it so he wanted to pop my neck.

It was a long time before I would consent.  I really didn’t want anyone messing with my neck, and my headaches and I have a balanced relationship that I also didn’t want to jack with, but for some reason one day I caved.

Sitting on a chair behind me while I lay prone on a table, with his hands on my head and neck, he got me to relax enough, then…


I don’t remember moving, but move I did.  In less than a heartbeat I had pulled my legs up to my chest, reached backwards and dug all 10 nails into his hands, drawing blood.  I had a death grip on him, my whole body was tensed and ready.  I couldn’t comprehend what was happening but my body screamed danger.

He didn’t move.  He just sat there and in his very calm voice finally said, “Please breathe.”

I didn’t realize I wasn’t breathing.  I let out the breath I was holding, then broke into huge sobs.  Another minute went by before I could let go of his hands and start to relax my body.  Even though he was bleeding, he waited patiently for me let go.  I laid on the table and just sobbed for several minutes.  He sat beside me, his hand on my shoulder and waited.

Finally he broke the silence.  “Well, we won’t be doing that again.”

I started laughing through my sobs.

He added, “Well, if there was every any question about your fight or flight instincts, I think it’s clear you’re hard wired for fight.”

Fight or flight, or apparently now it’s Fight, Flight or Freeze, is very real.  We all experience it.  As individuals we instinctively do what we must to protect our physical selves, and as parents we do what we must to protect our children.

It took me a while to grasp the real depth to which I must protect my child.

He was 3.  I would go to drop him at day care and he would cling so fiercely to me.  I didn’t mind being late to work, but I would try to get away as quickly as I could, but I wanted his separation from me to be happy, not heart wrenching.  Some people felt like he was playing me, but in this new classroom that he was in, the clinging was different.  His need to stay with me was different.  The problem was I was still going through life as a parent trusting too much.

I had already had issues with the “teacher” in the 3-year old room, but one morning I walked in through a door where she couldn’t see me and my heart broke.  She was SCREAMING at the children.  Mind you I’d known these kids for 2 years and these were all happy little children, but in this classroom they were not happy, my son was not happy, and now I knew why.

Trust me when I say I can be quite cruel, but even at my most cruel, I would not have gone to the depths of cruelty this woman was sinking to with these precious little 3-year old children.  My child, on the ground in front of me aching for me to pick him up, was blessfully quiet as I stood there for several minutes and listened to her scream.  I was in so much shock I never thought to pull out my phone and record her.

But, I had to go to work.

When she stopped screaming, in a daze I walked in, placed my son in his chair and left.

When I got to work two of my co-workers, both friends, both moms, stopped me in the hall and said I was as white as a ghost and was I ok?  Shaking, I told them what I had witnessed.  My friend Colleen then said the best thing to me.  She said, “You’re the parent.  Trust your instincts.  Never doubt yourself, ever.  If it isn’t right then it isn’t right, and it’s in your power to fix it.”

And then I got on a plane and flew away for a few days for work.  While away I arranged a new day care based on several recommendations from old and trusted friends, completed all the paperwork, coordinated the shot records with my pediatrician to be faxed to the new day care, flew home and confronted the owner of the day care.

He sided with his teacher since I had no proof.


On my way out the door, a teacher I liked who had been very kind to my child also shared that the mean teacher also jerked the kids around by their arms.

Without another word I picked up my child, walked out and never went back again.

I’ve shared my son’s story of hitting the wall.  Yet again the depth of the neglect in flagging what was really happening with my son was criminal.  Check out these excerpts from the last two grading periods of my son’s Kindergarten report card:

X is becoming a very good reader and writer!  He continues to make steady progress in math.  He has excellent work habits and always does his work carefully.  He is working to develop self-control.  He is a pleasure to have in our classroom!

And again:

X is continuing to work on implementing decoding strategies while he reads.  Please continue to read throughout the summer.  He understands addition concepts and should continue to add and subtract this summer.  I have enjoyed watching him grow and learn in Kindergarten.  Have a great summer!

Bear in mind in just under a year he would slam into the dyslexia wall not knowing all of the sounds of the letters of the alphabet, and not being able to take any two letters and blend them into a sound.  In every single definition of reading that is available, my son could not read at all.  Decoding strategies?  Yeah, that’s laughably inaccurate and a very false representation of reality.

But, lesson learned.  This turned me into an unapologetic fighter.  Regardless of who where what when or how, I’ve got my #MamaBear eyes open and my claws out.

The down side is after this many years, I believe everyone has an ulterior motive and I’m always on the lookout for the next thing that needs me to swoop in and fix it.  I must force myself to show trust, to give chances, to give grace, and the thing is everyone deserves grace, everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt.

That doesn’t mean don’t keep your eyes open and be ready to pounce, but by giving grace, we can see grace returned.

And that lesson just got slapped across my face.

Over the weekend my son’s teacher uploaded a picture to his file (it’s an app where they can share announcements, high fives, whatever).  The picture was of a reading goal setting assignment.  My first emotion after reading the goal and recovering from my desire to throw up, was anger.

The goal was to read 10,000 pages that school year.  The breakdown of the goal was 20 pages a day, 100 pages a week.  Yes, I know the math doesn’t work, but that was what was sent to me.

My friend Chontae wisely said, “ask your son about it;” so I did.

Turns out, my son wrote the goal.  He was told to write A goal and how he was going to achieve the goal and he choose the numbers all on his own.  He didn’t check the math, just wrote a number.  He said he already reads 20 pages a day between ear and eye reading, so he thought it would be an easy goal to reach.

I had to take a step back.

My friends Renee and Julie put it best when they said that we have to be so diligent, our children have been through so much that our rage sits right under the surface.  It takes so little to send us over the edge, ready to fight against the forces that would harm them.

And the fact of the matter is he’s not 3 anymore, or 7.  He’s about to be 11, in his last year of elementary, thinking and saying he’s a big kid, and he is.  All of us, when we were in 5th grade, thought we were so big and we were all ready to hurry up and grow up and get to Jr. High and prove we weren’t babies anymore.

As a big kid doing his lessons, he’s going to create and write things that will draw out my #MamaBear claws, but the I need to stop long enough to gain understanding.  I can’t assume my little kid is being pushed into something that isn’t right, I have to ask him first.  He has a voice now and I need to hear it and respect it.  I need to give all involved grace (at least until I know otherwise).

That’s the lesson.  Unless the situation is truly worthy of it, no more knee jerk reactions for this mom, and I must admit, that’s not an easy lesson.  It stings, but only because I must admit he’s growing up and for no other reason.

So grace it is.  In grace and through grace, having the patience to slow down and understand before reacting, giving the benefit of the doubt, not showing up to fight before anyone else realizes I’m seeking blood.

The evolution of this journey never ends.


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