I Need A Magic Mommy Wand

by Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck/J. Kenner on February 6, 2012

After Isabella's palate surgery at age 3

I’m annoyed at some neighborhood boys, and at myself for not knowing how to handle the moment in the moment (it’s really too late now and, to be honest, I wasn’t around “in the moment” but heard about it later). But I fear that this won’t be the last time…


It sucks being Mom and not being able to make everything better with a wave of my Magic Mommy Wand.

So what happened?

Well, as some of you probably know, my daughter Isabella was born with a cleft lip and palate. We adopted her at age three, and while they fixed her lip in China, they did nothing with her palate. We had it repaired when she was three and a half. (I blogged about the surgery here, if you’re curious as to the process; there’s also a picture of what her palate looked like both before and after the surgery.) As you may or may not know, you can’t really speak without a palate, and those baby noises that babies make are part of the process of learning to talk. If you don’t have the ability to do that as a baby, you’re going to have a battle later in life.

Isabella is an amazing kid. She’s smart. She’s funny. She has more personality than should be allowed. And she has the My Parents Are Weird eye roll down pat. But she’s still struggling with her speech, although she’s come so, so, so far. She’s eight now, and it’s only been in the last year or so that my mother can understand what she’s saying. I understand probably 97% now. In other words, the kid’s worked hard. She’s not 100% there yet, though, and, in fact, she can’t be, as there’s still a gap in her gum line that we’re fixing this summer with a bone graft surgery, in which we’ll take bone from her hip and put it in her gum line. (And by “we” I mean a doctor.) Even after that, she may never be perfect in her articulation. There’s baggage that comes with such a long wait to repair a palate.

It is what it is, and I think she’s perfect.

She, however, is at an age where she’s self-conscious of everything–and as you might expect, her speech is the biggest. And the other day some neighborhood boys didn’t make it any better.

In their defense, these boys are generally good kids. We’re blessed with a fabulous neighborhood filled with really nice people. But even nice people can say hurtful things.

My girls and a friend were playing in the yard and started talking/shouting/teasing/being teased by the older boys (who are, I believe, in junior high now). I’m inside, not really paying attention, but then in bursts the kids, and Isabella’s in tears. After I get her calmed down, I get the story. They’ve started a “war” with the boys, and somewhere in the playing, the boys get annoyed with the younger girls and at some point (I think when the boys were leaving, and I don’t think it was meant for the girls’ ears, but still) one of the boys says, “And the little one can’t even talk.”

Cue the big crocodile tears.

I hug her and hold her and tell her how proud I am of how hard she works at speech (3X/week) and how far she’s come and remind her how well she’s doing and point out that her friends can understand her, and that wasn’t always the case. And, yeah, it gets better. But still. I don’t want her to have to face those moments at all. But I know she will. And I won’t always get to be Mama Bear.

I want my magic wand.

Have y’all faced a Mama or Papa Bear moment? What did you do? I didn’t say anything to the boys, particularly since I didn’t witness the event. What would you have done?

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim Griffin February 7, 2012 at 10:28 am

Since they were leaving, I would’ve handled it the same way that you did, Julie.

Me? I can go one of two ways. (if I’m present) I either go straight mama bear on their butts. {However, I tend to go a little overboard, so I’ve tried to dial it down a bit.} OR I get completely taken aback that someone could act that way and just try to get my kids out of the situation.

This usually ends with me kicking myself and replaying the scene over and over in my head, as I say the very perfect thing that resolves the situation and has the offenders apologizing and running away!

I agree ~ we definitely need a magic wand and if you find one, please send one my way :)


Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck/J. Kenner Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck February 7, 2012 at 11:47 am

I will be happy to share when I find one. personally, I think they should be handed out in hospitals at birth or upon signing of adoption paperwork!


diana leneker February 6, 2012 at 10:28 pm

I’m a mama bear….with 4 adult kids…who still all know how to terrorize each other….I roar when I need to!


Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck/J. Kenner Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck February 7, 2012 at 11:47 am



Brenda Hyde February 6, 2012 at 10:21 pm

{{{HUGS}}} for you, and Isabella. I would have handled it much like you did. There will be other kids that say things– some not thinking, others just to be mean–I think building her up, teaching her that she is special– is the best thing to do. I think she is beautiful, and with her family to reassure her of that over and over, I’m sure she’ll feel loved and pretty:)

Quite a few years ago my nephew was struggling with his speech– he’s one year older than my daughter. We lived 2 hours from them, but when they were together she was the only one who understood him completely. She’d get impatient with the adults and repeat what he said, giving everyone a look like they were stupid for not getting it. They are still close, and he speaks clearly now, but you can tell he adores her, probably because of those times she was there for him when everyone else was having trouble understanding him:)

My daughter is in 6th grade this year, and it’s been hard. She’s smart, loves to read, is very much an individual that doesn’t fit in with a certain group. Sigh. She’s been tripped, laughed at and lost a friend this year who decided to hang out with the “cool” girls. We’ve talked, and talked and talked some more. I offered to go up to the school when she was tripped but she said the girls were just stupid and it was okay. She promised to tell me if they did anything else. I encouraged her to get to know other girls that liked to read and she’s made a few new friends since then. I know she’ll be okay, but it’s hard to see our kids get hurt.


Ti Colluney February 6, 2012 at 3:06 pm

BTW…may I just add what a brave lil soul you have there! Kudos to you Julie! You sound like a great mom!

(I still say go kick some big boy backside!)


Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck/J. Kenner Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck February 7, 2012 at 11:48 am

Awwww. Thanks!

And if I get wind of a repeat performance, yeah, I’m gonna go mama bear on their tushies!


Jacquie D'Alessandro Jacquie D'Alessandro February 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Hugs to both you and Isabella, Julie. You’re a fabulous mom and she’s a fabulous little girl. I know the heartache you feel when someone makes your child feel bad, how your soul aches when they cry. I also know the horrible feeling of being made fun of and bullied–happened to me countless times and it sucks–and instilled in me a virulent dislike of bullies. We want to protect our kids from every hurt in the world and we can’t. You said all the right things to her. xoxox


Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin February 6, 2012 at 11:28 am

It seems Gisele Bundchen has been going all Mama Bear on Patriot-haters, according to today’s news. Protecting her Papa Bear. Aww. :)


Ti Colluney February 6, 2012 at 11:20 am

First off, no matter how nice those kids are…me being me; I would have hunted them down and confronted them with their parents. I would have brought pictures of the surgery to show the struggle and when I was done, I would have made those boys feel an inch high.
My daughter, Victoria, is 13. She is dyslexic. And she is American. Which should be ok and some people think the American accent is super cool. BUT there are always some out there who either do not understand a dyslexic mind or likes to be hurtful and make fun of an accent.
In the states, she went to Kindergarden and 1st grade. The teacher in the 1st grade failed her. Why did she fail her? Because she did not have TIME to deal with one of her 30 students in her class that needed the extra help. I would go in time and time again to speak to her and the Principle. Victoria did her work correctly, just backwards. Her 9′s are 6′s and her b’s are d’s. 4 looks like 9. 5 and s. w and m. It is silly things. But to hear she would have to do another 1st grade year over was my breaking point. We moved to England in October that year. The teachers and head teacher(s) (Head teacher=principle) have been brilliant! They have worked together and helped her. There is no failing here. All children are in the classes are the same age. Just different levels.
Last summer things clicked and Victoria suddenly understood how to read. And she has become a ferocious reader! Her favourite author is Darren Shan. (The Vampire’s Assistant was made into a movie.)
So with the dyslexia almost conquered, now it is the accent haters. But there again the schools have been brilliant with stopping it. BUT I have had to step in a couple of times and very sweetly have my say. The one evil brat was going on that foreigners should not be allowed in. I said yes true. Then I pointed out (in my oh so sweet evilness) somewhere in our ancestor past, they beheaded one of my great grandfather’s. He said who was that. I said one of your King’s, Charles I. Well, that impressed the little snot enough! He smiles and waves at me when he sees me now! I guess I am just not a passive momma!


Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin February 6, 2012 at 11:26 am

So great that she loves reading, too, Ti. Victoria has a great mom.


Julia London Julia London February 6, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Ti, good for you! hahaa!


Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck/J. Kenner Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck February 6, 2012 at 12:10 pm

I’d like to say I can’t believe they failed her b/c they didn’t have time, but from some of the stories I’ve heard, I do believe it…and it sucks! That’s one of the reasons we homeschool. Even if we hadn’t already been homeschooling Catherine, I would HS Isabella simply to get that time and attention–so glad you’ve found that in her current school! (I’m sure I could find a private school here that would work out, but that’s a different issue; we like homeschooling!)

LOL on the Charles I story! Alas, if my ancestors were beheaded, it was probably for running up a gambling debt or something!


Ti Colluney February 6, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I am a snarky sarcastic Miss I tell you! And when it comes to those I love, I do have a bite.

The school she went to for 1st grade was not one I wanted her to go to. (long story we were living at the other end of town.) If I could of, she would have gone to my elementary school. And middle school. And high school! I went to my mom’s high school! She would have been a third gen going there!

I must admit I am not a fan of home schooling. It is definitely the answer for some children. But not all HS’ers are how should I say…given the attention they need. I have seen some HS’ed children who still act very infantile and immature for their age. I think children fair better when interacting with other children. I think for my daughter, it was better for her to be out with other children. Even learning from the painful experiences has given her confidence and compassion. She no longer gets upset and tearful when she is picked on and has learned to just roll her eyes which since she is not being upset, they no longer have ammunition to attack. And one more thing I must say, I am forever being praised from teachers and even other moms at how well behaved my youngin is.

Enough bragging.

I am just so happy she is a reader. I grew up loving books and I am so glad she has now got the book worm bug! And when she is older, (much older for some!!!) I will introduce her to the joys of the Whine Sister’s and their wonderful tomes!


Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin February 6, 2012 at 10:35 am

It’s so hard when you can’t make it better fast, and some of that mean kid stuff stays with you. I definitely had my share of Mama Bear moments, and still feel like having them sometimes. Most times, it involved school and teachers. My son’s middle school spanish teacher gave a ridiculous collage assignment once, and graded him poorly after he knocked himself out on it (and did a great job), and I went all Mama Bear on her, which led to a second meeting with the principal getting involved. As a parent, you can do something when it’s other adults, but going after kids who hurt your kids is a bit trickier.


Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck/J. Kenner Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck February 6, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Did it get worked out with the spanish teacher? Was the principal on your side??


Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin February 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm

It worked out, but the principal was resistant to the idea that it was the teacher at fault. We pretty much all had to agree to disagree and move on. The same teacher adored my daughter and it was a whole different experience with her the second time around.


Ti Colluney February 6, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Ack wishy washy teachers that pick favourites.


Dee Davis Dee Davis February 6, 2012 at 10:24 am

Well if I had the power, I’d issue wands to both you and VB. But really you don’t need them. Your children both have fabulous mothers. And that really does make the difference in the end. You know? HUGS!!!!!!!!! And Kathleen, I’m picturing you toddling around learning all kinds of interesting things!


Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin February 6, 2012 at 10:36 am

True, Dee. Fabulous mothers make all the difference.


Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck/J. Kenner Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck February 6, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Awww! Thanks, Dee!


VB February 6, 2012 at 9:28 am

Wow, Kathleen, this post really hit home with me. I won’t go into the whole story here on your blog, but my son was teased so mercilessly at school. He was subjected to verbal and physical abuse most every day. I went through all the proper channels (though I would have preferred to knock some heads) and the school did all that they were capable of doing. Eventually, my son had zero self-esteem. He was depressed and convinced that he was stupid, weird, ugly, you name it. After much prayer and research, I made the decision to home school. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. He truly blossomed. Adults and kids both noticed the positive changes in him. He’s back to his bright, funny and intelligent little self.

He still carries some emotional scars, but they are healing. There will always be some areas where he struggles, some tasks that are more difficult for him than most other kids. He understands that and we are working together.

All that to say, there are still days that I could use one of those magic Mom wands. Hugs to you and Isabella!


Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck/J. Kenner Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck February 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Thanks for the hugs, VB! I’m so glad you pulled him out and that he’s thriving now. It’s a big and scary step, but some kids do so much better being educated at home, and I’m so glad that homeschooling has come into its own lately.


Kathleen O'Reilly February 6, 2012 at 9:05 am

I hate when other kids makes my kids cry, and it has happened a few times, however, I very rarely get involved and try and let the kids work it out themselves. Kids can be really mean to each other, and I don’t know why, but they seem to have a very durable shell, too. I’m sure that she’ll get over it and start playing with the neighborhood boys once again. I was the baby in my neighborhood and sometimes it sucked, but I got to hang out with a lot of older kids and learned a lot of stuff (mainly good and a little bad) and it gave me a lot of wisdom that some of the other schoolkids my age didn’t have. it’s a double-edged swored.


Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck/J. Kenner Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck February 6, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Yes, it definitely is. I can picture you being the baby, and yet being all wise and Kathleen-like and saying sage and pithy things to the neighborhood bullies. Don’t shatter my illusions…I like that mental picture!


Kathleen O'Reilly February 6, 2012 at 1:25 pm

How do you think I learned those sage and pithy things? I always had these long conversations in my head *after the fact* about all the things I could have said. Eventually, after enough practice, I learned how to say them *during* the fact. :)


Julia London Julia London February 6, 2012 at 8:49 am

Oooh, bless Isabella’s heart. I wish I had a wand for you, too, Julie. I hate that we can’t protect kids from kids.


Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck/J. Kenner Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck February 6, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I know! It sucks!


April Plummer February 6, 2012 at 8:29 am

I haven’t yet, but I experienced it a bit just reading your post. And I’m sure there will be moments I do experience this. I know my mom did when I was growing up. You’re a wonderful Mama, and I wish I could give you a wand.


Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck/J. Kenner Julie Kenner/J.K. Beck February 6, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Thank you, April! I do think that’s one of the hardest things about parenting…healing the boo-boos that don’t take a bandage.


Kathleen O'Reilly February 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm

I will say that I think when adults are involved with kids (i.e. other parents or school officials, etc), it does sometimes pay off to get involved. Sometimes I’ve had to keep my mouth shut and let my son learn how to deal with a ridiculous teacher (“Just remember, somebody you’re going to have a ridiculous boss and you can’t tell him where he should stick his scientific method”). But sometimes a parent simply has to intervene (or in Ti’s case, move across the pond). :)


Ti Colluney February 6, 2012 at 3:04 pm

LOL! I got married in Feb and the paperwork was astounding. It took until October for us to move here. But had I not moved, she would have def gone to a different school.


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