Every morning, usually before I’ve even had a sip of coffee, I’m given my role for the day and then I’m promptly notified if and when that role changes.
“Mommy,” says Finny as he carefully descends the stairs into the kitchen, blankie in one hand, teddy in the other, and hair pointing in fifteen different directions, “You be Kitty Softpaws, I be Puss, and Charlie bees Humpty, okay?”
And we’re off. He’s a strict director too. If I start to sound too much like Mommy and not enough like Kitty, he is quick to yell CUT! “No, Mommy, I thought you were Kitty Softpaws?”
And we try again.
“Mommy, you better get Humpty off the couch. He’s jumping around and he might crack.”
When David comes home, we usually switch gears to Jungle Book because David specializes in Baloo the Bear and he calls Finny “Little Britches,” or “Little B,” which always makes him smile.
“Mommy, I be Mowgli, you be Shanti, Daddy bees Baloo and Charlie bees Ranjan.” We don’t play Jungle Book I. We play Jungle Book II. We’re sophisticated like that.
Today, I have already been Puss, Shanti, and now after an episode of Clifford the Big Red Dog before lunch, I am Emily Elizabeth. I had to wipe my face when I left his room at nap time after being licked three times. I promised him a bone for snack.
But I have to say that lately my favorite role is that of Mama Bear from The Berenstain Bears.
I be Mama Bear, Finny bees Brother Bear, Daddy bees Papa Bear, and Charlie bees Honey Bear, and we live in a tree house in Bear Country.
And it’s such a lovely place to be that I find myself seeking out more ways to spend time in Bear Country. We got books from the library and the bookstore, and I’ve just reserved some of the cartoons, and every day at naptime and bedtime, I practically beg Finny to let me read him another Berenstain Bear book.
So, I started to wonder why. Why do I look forward to reading these simple little stories about this stereotypical family of bears?
And now I think I know.
It’s Mama. I love her. She’s my girl. I wish she lived next door and I could run over and borrow a pot of honey and we could talk bear-to-bear about the trouble with chores and too much TV and the scary babysitter, Miss Grizz. We could commiserate over how our little bears aren’t sleeping because of bad dreams and being afraid of the dark. We could sip coffee and share common values. She’s a sista I could count on.
She could also probably use a little time with me too. The turquoise polka-dotted nightgown and nightcap she wears all day, everyday could use a good trip to the Salvation Army, and I could probably pull her away from flower arranging and quilting club to really let loose with a half-price bottle of wine somewhere. But beyond those minor, little…oh, delays in her evolution…, I think she and I actually have a lot in common: we want our children (and our husbands) to behave and help out.
Don’t get me wrong, David is not exactly Papa Bear, who all too often gets lumped in with the kids when they’re not doing what they should. David is a great help to me and our family and he would not be caught dead in those Jordache overalls, nor would he ever use a push reel lawnmower. But, I can relate to the idea that Papa Bear, can never completely understand what it’s like to be Mama, and I must admit that I enjoy the fact that the stories always end with the WHOLE bear family realizing that Mama is, in fact, right…about everything…no exceptions.
I guess these books are outdated, I guess they do a poor job of depicting the “modern family,” and there is no doubt they are overly stereotypical in their definition of what it is to be a Mama, a Papa, a Brother, a Sister, a Baby.
But I find comfort in their simplicity, I like what they are teaching my son, and I can relate to all the little troubles, worries, and concerns that affect their little bear world.
I might still be Emily Elizabeth at bed time, but I hope Finny lets me read The Berenstain Bears Show Some Respect. Looks like someone in the bear family has really ruffled her nightcap in that one and I can't wait to see how she gets all her cubs in line.