There are a few things that really push my rage button:
Having the necks of my clothes continually tugged on, being jumped on by child #2 whilst I’m desperately trying to get child #1′s flapping tentacle feet into a pair of shoes, and spending all the spare time I have folding a mountain of clothes ready to put away only for it to be violently strewn across the floor so child 1 & 2 can bounce on the bed. Pure rage right there. But I bury it down because I choose my battles wisely. Ergo, I’m wise enough to know that I’m on the losing side.
However, there is one more thing that I find it really hard to control my temper over and that is when I see one of my children purposely hurting the other one.
When I say rage, I mean I feel like I want to punish them. Make them feel extremely sorry for their actions. But my instinct stops me and tells me that would be a waste of time; everyone would feel bad and nothing would be gained. So I swallow it down again, try and explain why it wasn’t a very nice thing to do and find some kind of truce. This is what good mothers do, right?
Recently though, I just couldn’t hold it in. We were at a soft play (where we spend 90% of our time because I find crawling through piss infested cesspits easier to navigate than doing stimulating activities at home that entertain for ten minutes but create a mess that only petrol and a match can sort out).
I saw my daughter run up behind her brother and shove him really hard. He was tottering towards a cushioned pillar but had his drinking bottle in his hand so as he fell forward, he was unable to stop himself and bashed his face on the pillar.
I rushed up behind my daughter and shouted, “YOU DO NOT PUSH PEOPLE!” I scooped up my distraught Son and left her. I caught the look on her face. She caught mine. She was clearly shocked by my outburst and huddled herself on the floor and began to cry. A whole world of maternal guilt rained down upon me but I couldn’t stop myself being angry. I knew I should go to her but I just couldn’t make myself. I wanted her to be sorry.
After a few minutes when The Boy was happily tottering off again, clearly moving on from the ordeal without a second thought as they do, I went to find her. She reached out her arms to me and I gathered her little soggy, sweaty body into my lap as I knelt on the floor.
“I’m sad, Mummy. I don’t want you to be angry because it makes me sad. I’m really, really sorry to Ted.”
One of the ‘things’ I try to do as a parent is to endeavour to make sure my children feel heard. That their feelings are validated because no matter how ridiculous (and utterly tedious) it seems to be crying over a fish finger falling into the ketchup, it is obviously something that is vitally important to them, at that moment in time. It’s exhausting but I’m hoping it will save me in therapy costs later. As in reduce it by a couple of months.
In this moment in time, I realised something. I had spent so much of my energy validating my children’s feelings that I had forgotten to validate my own. I had feelings too. Feelings that were appropriate and correct but in suppressing them, they had turned into an erupting volcano exploding when the punishment really didn’t fit the crime. My stomach was churning and I wanted take my daughter’s sadness away, the sadness that I had just caused, whilst simultaneously trying to deal with my own anger at what had just happened. I had anger at my daughter for not knowing better despite being told a million times NOT TO PUSH HER BROTHER!
Something my daughter says to me when I’m trying to help her feel herself better is, “I want to stay sorry!” Or, “I want to be sad, all day long in the whole wide world!” This is usually my cue to allow her to wallow a bit because clearly just being told to stop feeling a certain emotion isn’t that easy and will not work.
That was it! I wanted to be angry. I had a reason to be angry and I couldn’t just switch it off. I was angry and that was okay.
“I love you. Mummy is angry and that is okay. You are sad. We can be sad and angry together.”
We sat quietly hugging for a few minutes, rocking gently to and fro. My daughter wiped away her tears and announced loudly, “I’m not sad any more. Can I play?”
This was a bit of a revelation for me. It doesn’t mean that I now think it’s okay to scream and shout at my kids because I’m cross at them, although I really want to sometimes. It’s feeling like I now have a safe way to express my feelings without becoming some unpredictable angry monster and rejecting her by having to remove myself and count to ten, or a thousand. Ten is a crap number to count to when you have child-induced rage.
It feels like I have a tactic that doesn’t involve the ‘but’ word. I used to struggle with, “I love you, but that *thing* that just happened made me really angry.” Or, “I love you, but you are a complete shit sometimes.” I haven’t said that one. That’s just my fantasy one.
‘But’ sentences do smack of, “I’m not a racist, but….” so I like to be able to avoid them.
Hopefully, this new technique of just stating the facts without the details will be as effective next time. Because let’s face it, there will be a next time. That box of rage I’ve been storing is going to be opened again at some point in the very near future.
Now, the next thing I really need to work on: stop referring to myself in the third person. Yeah, good luck with that, Mummy.