It’s almost midnight and not much is well

Long day, fair readers. Long day. And I can briefly say that Peanut is handling kindergarten well, that he was reasonably eager the first few days of school.

Things are a bit stressful over here, between kindergarten and sibling asshattery and a mountain of freelance work (which I really wanted but which is piling up in my eagerness for work and inability to admit that two very active people demand almost all of my time).

So today I offer you this: someone else’s post. On keeping your cool. On seemingly insurmountable parenting anger and how to manage it. How to keep from sitting up at midnight worried that you’re making horrible, terrible, awful parenting choices. (Actually, that’s not in there. I really wish it were.)

Here. Enjoy. Identify your triggers, let the little stuff go, remember you’re teaching, and don’t take it personally. Thanks, www.mothering.com.

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Anger management

A story from Morning Edition on NPR yesterday claims that venting anger is counter-productive, and that the best way to express anger, according to years of research, is to dispassionately discuss it.

Just curious: was this research done by robots? Are the psychologists involved using drugs to which I do not have access? Have the researchers involved ever had children? This line from the report makes me a little itchy in my yelling lobe: “The key is to speak out your anger without getting emotional about it. Basically, we’re not supposed to yell at anyone anymore.”

Look, if I were anything other than a shell of the person I once was, I’d enumerate reasons that this research is, aside from being counter-intuitive and repression-inducing, just dehumanizing and degrading. Especially the snide bit where they call out Moms as yellers.

But I don’t have any anger about dispassionate researchers. I reserve my passionate responses for the fight-or-flight flood that follows being kicked and hit and screamed at by a tiny irrational person.

Here’s the link to Spiegel’s article. Would that it were this easy to be gentle and logical and dispassionate all the time.

Peanut’s rage

Our son has found a voice for his rage. Today he experimented with screaming as though he’d been stabbed each time we said something we didn’t like, and bellowing as loudly as an angry moose when we proposed an activity in which he wanted no part. It was quite lovely to watch, really, even if it drove Spouse to new heights of frustration. Okay, time for bath. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGG!” Is your boot stuck?  “Yes. YES. YYYYYEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYYYYY!”

The most interesting part of watching our child scream alternately shrilly and soulfully was his own reaction to his voice. A few times he felt quite satisfied for finding the power he always lost when he hit, bit, or went limp while kicking wildly. He even tried the yells again when they felt just right and sounded even better. Other times, though, his anger scared him, and somehow his primal screams scared him even more. And as soon as the yell was over he asked for a cuddle with tears in his eyes. I told him that, of course I would cuddle him. Being angry is okay, and mommy still loves you if you yell. Yelling doesn’t hurt people. It’s scary, but it doesn’t hurt. Did that yell scare you?  Yes.

It’s not uncommon for this two-and-a-half-year-old’s anger to overpower and terrify him. That’s the nature of toddlerhood. As is the inability to come out of that anger by themselves without help. Hence tantrums–things spiral out of control and they don’t know how to transition back into normalcy. And I have often tried to tell him that there are acceptable ways, including yelling, of being angry. Being furious is okay. Hitting is not okay. Biting is not okay. Throwing things is not okay. Stomping is okay, yelling is okay, cuddling is great, deep breaths are wonderful.

Is it too late to amend the approval of yelling? Was it just my way of justifying my own angry behavior to include yelling in the acceptable category? Did I completely f— that one up? Is it okay to be a family of yellers? I don’t like it when Spouse yells. I don’t like it when grandparents yell. I don’t like it when Sibling yells. Peanut doesn’t like it when I yell. So shouldn’t I be teaching a better coping mechanism for anger?

Yup. Working on it. But by the time I really get control and model “breathing away the anger” behavior, Peanut’s going to be yelling at his own kids, other drivers, his bandmates, and his staff.

Ugh, I need another parenting do-over.

Rescue Remedy by the quart

I’m realizing just how many of my posts are angry, bitter rants. I’m trying not to feel guilty about that, because that’s the stuff I need to get out. I bottle it up all day because I don’t think it’s appropriate to be snippy in front of my son. And lucky for Spouse he’s 400 miles away or he’d take the brunt. So blogging has really helped get the vitriol flowing and out. I store up every ounce of courage I have and project peace and thoughtfulness and patience (mostly) during the day. But I’ve got to let the rants out. Leaving them inside blocks up all my mental pores and gives me angry, bitter, negative acne on my brain and in my heart.

So if you’re put off by my anger, please, scan down the archives. There are some lovely, life-affirming bits in here if you dig.

But I am trying to navigate the parenting roller coaster, and just haven’t find the right balance. When it’s good, it’s so eye-closingly, deep sigh infusingy, happy little sigh eruptingly, perma-smile grantingly good. When it’s hard, it’s so white-knuckle infuriatingly, self-esteem wrenchingly, bad-side revealingly, regret inspiringly, soul-leechingly hard that it takes my breath away. I really do, sometimes, wish I could find Rescue Remedy by the quart. The blister packs haven’t worked for me yet, and, in fact, make me a little less grounded because the solvent is alcohol and it just makes me want a pint of liquor.

Talking to working moms, stay-at-home-moms, stay-at-home-dads, and the childfree, I realize that the biggest issue for me about parenting is that the day’s rhythm is not my own. I don’t own one piece of the day, and I don’t control any of it rhythms. As an academic, I wrote when I percolated ideas, I read when I felt responsive to ideas, I rested when I needed rest, and I exercised when I needed a mental escape valve. As a professional, I went to meetings where everyone was ready to jump into one of a few appropriate energies to talk about a specific thing. When I worked independently I drifted into one of a few appropriate energies to think or write or create. When I needed to pee, I did. When I needed to eat, I usually did. Now the day’s schedules and energies and milestones and needs have nothing to do with what my mind or body needs, and it’s very destabilizing. Isolating. Frustrating. Sad.

Because with a child, my needs are subsumed by his. My rhythm is supplanted by his. When he needs to run around, we have to. Not because I feel children should be the center of the universe. I don’t. Because I live with this child and his needs are valid. I understand this child, and when he makes his physical or emotional needs known, I respect them (within reason). And if he is metaphorically swaddled when he needs to wiggle, or is forced to engage when he needs cuddling, all systems fail. He melts down (I still refuse to call this volitilty terrible twos. He’s not terrible. My life is not terrible. Our family is not terrible. He is struggling to control things and get some independence and he’s terrified and frustrated by his incompetence. But almost every vascillation is understandable, predictable, and reasonable. I wouldn’t do the things he does, but putting myself into his shoes and his experience, I know exactly why he does what he does. I sometimes marvel, sometimes balk, sometimes well up with anger, but I understand. And I can anticipate it when I’ve slept and eaten, both of which are rare, since, did I mention, my day is not my own, my timing is not the primary Blackberry by which we run our day, and my needs are secondary because I can meet them all by myself. He can’t, so his needs come first.)

I’m a tired, hungry, cranky parent. Hence, again, the need to spew nastiness into my blog. And I’m not sorry. I’m coping.