When is it right to let your inner mama bear roar and how do you do it without offending the world?
This is the question I had to ask myself on Saturday. You see, we’d scheduled a birthday party for my 5 (almost 6) year old at the local skating rink.
We’d been to a party there just a few weeks before and my son LOVED it. He was just learning to skate, but I’ve never seen him so focused about anything before. It was actually pretty hilarious. He had one speed: “As fast as I can possibly churn my legs while pushing this PVC pipe thingy.” He was a man on a mission and was drenched in sweat within minutes.
Well, apparently, between the party we attended and our scheduled party, the skating rink got a new massive video screen.
Now, as far as I’m concerned, the music at skating rinks is already a bit sketchy. So let’s just throw in a giant video screen with real people acting out all the stuff they’re singing about.
Perfect atmosphere for a 5 year old boy’s party.
Just few minutes after we got started, I noticed the video featured a woman who had apparently forgotten her clothing at home because she was standing there in her bra “talking” VERY CLOSELY with a man who wasn’t really paying attention to what she was saying because of her aforementioned lack of clothing. And then she started dancing…
Now let me preface this with the fact that we are a pretty picky family. Our basic perspective is that if we wouldn’t want our daughters (at any age) to be the actress on a screen and do what she’s doing, we can’t, with integrity, watch someone else’s daughters do those things.
On top of that, none of my kids had ever seen videos like the ones that were playing and, honestly, the idea that it was taking away a bit of their sweet innocence made me a little testy.
So, I was not okay with this video. Like really not ok. As in, grab some earplugs and hold on tight because mama’s about to roar…
But here was my dilemma. I want to always behave in a way that honors Jesus. No matter how offended I am or how right (I think) I am, I want my actions, words and attitude to bring glory to God and honor to His name.
Some of the other moms of our guests also had noticed the screen and were wondering what we could do. Based on the videos we’d seen so far, it was to the point that either they were going to have to change the content or we were going to have to have a last minute party at my not-clean-enough-for-a-party house.
Clearly, I only had one option.
My Strange Love of Conflict
Before kids, I worked at a radio station in Houston called KSBJ. (Amazing place filled with godly people who had a huge impact on my life.) I was the Ticketing Manager for all of the concerts we did. It was pretty much the best job in the entire world. I got paid to go to my favorite concerts.
Well, as you can imagine, every week there were issues at the concerts. Customers who bought high priced seats that ended up being obstructed by the artists’ sound system, artist guests who weren’t on the will call list, customers who lost their tickets etc.
It was one of my favorite things to have an irate customer ask for me and then to help transition them from furious to overjoyed. I loved the challenge of staying calm, finding a solution and representing KSBJ and the artist well. Of course, it helped that I always had a supply of front row tickets and backstage passes handy.
I learned while working at KSBJ that I LOVE conflict. Well, not personal conflict or conflict with my kids, but I love the challenge of staying calm and resolving a situation. So weird, I know.
But I think the experience taught me a few things that I hope will help me and all you other mama bears out there when you encounter a challenging situation like the skating rink one:
8 Steps to Handling Conflict
I’m going to be really honest here and say that I didn’t do this before I talked to the employees on Saturday. I wish I had. But if you are better at thinking before acting than I am, I definitely recommend praying for a kind heart and wise words before any sort of confrontation.
1. Smile and be respectful
I am not the Queen of the World and ultimately I have no rights besides that ones that I earn through kindness and respectfulness. No one will really take us seriously if we are out of control. Yes, they might try to pacify us to get us to calm down, but they won’t really be on our side if we’re yelling at them.
So, even if we feel strongly about something, it’s important that we are calm and kind in the way we communicate.
2. Use names
When I went to talk to the manager, I made sure to ask his name. Smile and use his name often – just like if you were chatting with a new friend. It’s easier to be calm and kind when talking to a friend.
3. Say something nice
If you have something nice to say, say it first. No one likes to meet someone and then be slammed. I told them how we loved the party we’d come to at the rink a few weeks ago and how excited we were about the party today. Don’t flatter, but if you have something nice you can honestly say, say it.
4. Talk like a team (don’t accuse)
Instead of saying, “YOU have terrible videos on YOUR screen, change it.” I told him that I noticed that some of the videos on the screen weren’t quite appropriate for a 5 year old boy’s birthday party. I described what we’d seen then said I asked him, “What we can do to resolve this?”
5. Don’t believe the first person you talk to. Keep asking
I talked to the manager on duty at the rink, a young guy who didn’t seem to have a lot of power. He told me that all the videos were mom approved.
Can we just stop right there? Everyone I spoke to said this. It cracks me up. As if moms are this massive homogenous group think being. Have they never heard moms “discuss” diapering, sleep methods, breastfeeding or discipline? Saying something is “mom approved” is like a saying that a Middle East peace plan is approved by citizens of the Middle East. The opinions there are kind of diverse…
I suggested to the young man that I really appreciated the fact that they used a mom approved service, but that ours was a party for a 5 year old and neither I nor the other moms were really ok with a woman in her underwear dancing on a car.
He told me that there wasn’t really much he could do. I asked him if he could turn the video screen off and just play the music. He told me that they are connected and there was no way to do that. (Pause. Poor guy didn’t realize that he was talking to a weird mom who asks for RAM and HDMI cables for Mother’s Day). I suggested how he might be able to disconnect the two and he said, “I can’t do that because it would involve pulling out a ladder on the rink floor to change the cables and I don’t know how to do that.”
I told him I’d be happy to do it for him. I don’t think he expected that.
He replied with, “I’m sorry, we can’t do that. There isn’t really anything we can do.”
I would say that 99% of the time, there is ALWAYS someone available who has the power to resolve a situation. Ok. That’s a completely random percentage, but you get the idea.
I thanked him for his help (smiling and using his name) and then asked if there might be someone we could call and talk to.
As much as I didn’t want to be “that mom” – I had an even greater motivation NOT to have to move the party to my house (or disappoint my son by leaving the rink), so I was determined to come to a resolution AND make friends.
Thankfully, he picked up the phone and called the owner.
6. It’s about resolving not winning
“Hi Barbara! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me…” Again, I used her name and smiled (granted, she couldn’t see me, but I think you can “hear” a smile…).
I told her the story, including how much we enjoyed the rink and were looking forward to the party.
She was very kind but also stressed that the videos were “mom approved” (I would really like to know who was on this “mom” panel.) I communicated what we had seen and that I’m sure she would agree a woman dancing in a bra around a car is not appropriate for a group of 5 year old boys.
I then asked, “Is there any way we can turn the screen off?”
She said that wasn’t an option. Being techie, I knew it was doable, but this is where things can go well or badly…
Ideally, I just wanted the screen off. Unless, they were going to show Bible verse slideshows, I didn’t think I was going to be a fan of any of the “mom approved” programming.
But it was important for me to remember that I am not the Queen of the World and that my goal was to resolve it so that my kids and their friends could just get on with having a fun birthday party without being slimed.
So I asked her, “Great, well, what do you think we can we do to resolve this?”
She thought for a minute and then said that she thinks they can change it to “Kidz Bop” station that only plays Disney artists.
It wasn’t Psalty and Friends leading kids in the Books of the Bible song, but I knew it was my best option, so I told her I’d love to try that (leaving the door open for further discussion if the content didn’t improve).
Happily, the content was MUCH better and we went on to have a great party.
7. Say Thanks
I made sure to thank her for understanding, taking the time to talk to me and resolving the situation so my son could have a great party.
Then, when I handed the phone back to the young manager, I made sure to thank him again (using his name) for all his help.
Finally, when I paid the bill at the end, I made sure to thank them again for their help.
I’m sure there were a lot of things I could have done better, but I was able to resolve the situation and while I may have been “that mom” – I don’t think I burned any bridges along the way.
Have you ever had a “mama bear” situation you needed to confront or wish you had confronted? Click here to tell me in the comments!