Girl Power, Mothering

Angry Moments

Yesterday I agreed to drive The Princess to school to allow her some extra time to get ready. A crisis over jeans and two changes of shoes later, we got into the car.

"What time is it?" (Her tone was snippy.)

I reported the time to the sound of a huge, aggravated sigh. She wants to be early, but a delay in the shower rotation put her behind in her preparations.

By the time we arrived at school, which is roughly 7/8’s of a mile from home, I felt the steam coming out of my ears. The sighing and eye-rolling, the latter of which I at least could not see directly, since she sat in the back seat, drive me crazy! The absolute certainty that I will be wrong about everything–ditto!

I exclaimed, "Princess!"

"Mom," she said, "don’t get upset. I’ll see you this afternoon." She slammed the door and flounced away, as if I were the emotional basket case.

And suddenly I related to a famous parent who has been in the news this past week. While I don’t condone his choice of words, I certainly relate to the explosive feelings he voiced in leaving that terrible message for his daughter.

I’m reminded that my mother once gave me what she thought of as "progressive" parenting advice: "Never spank in anger."

When else would you want to? Anger grips, frustration erupts, we feel powerless to resist them, and sometimes, for a moment, we are. What is the difference between those who act in the moment and those who do not? Self-discipline? Divine intervention? Triumph of a sense of humor?

I think the answer is waking up, becoming alert to who we are, to what presses our buttons; the answer is reducing the time between the reactive flash and the awareness of what is really happening. Although a sense of humor about our own weaknesses couldn’t hurt.

If I am frustrated by, impatient with, enraged about my daughter’s all-consuming interest in her wardrobe, could it be that I am seeing something in her that I grapple with in myself? She seeks to define herself with an outfit. I want to look professional; I want to look feminine; I want to look, well, Songbird-ish! But at the same time I don’t want to be judged by my "cover," nor do I want to do the same to others. I ponder the balancing point between authentic self-expression and spending time on what really matters. I like to think I’m doing this at a more conscious level than a sixth-grader, but that’s not always true. I think about my hair: "Can I really go through with letting the gray come in? Does it make me look older? Will it look silly while it’s growing out? How short can I cut it to speed the process of getting all the way there without making it look ugly?" I hate to admit how much this topic occupies my thinking at certain times, day and night.

That famous parent called his child a "rude, thoughtless little pig."

I wonder if he doesn’t feel that way about himself, too? (Perhaps minus the "little.")

11 thoughts on “Angry Moments”

  1. This is why you are a great parent. You had the same feelings all of us had, but you stopped yourself before you acted on them.
    My friend’s daughter freaked out Saturday night right before her First Communion. My friend was patient and allowed her child some space and eventually Lily overcame her fears and went ahead with the ceremony. I told my friend how proud I was of her, that I would have probably hissed at my kid to quit being so silly and forced them to proceed, ready or not. She said she felt like that. I said “I know, but you didn’t do it.”
    It’s a lesson we all need to learn. Hold our tongue and remember our children have faults, just like us.

  2. Wise words, as always, Songbird.
    I felt the steam come out of my ears when my daughter was a teenager. It’s been long enough now—she’s 24—that I’ve had time to recover. Soon I’ll be tested again; my oldest son is heading toward 13.
    Thank you, God, for having things work out so that I’ll have time to recover after his adolescence too, before my youngest son hits adolescence. I used to pray to you, when I was a child, to ask for more patience. I’m humbled to realize that as an adult, I apparently need to learn patience three times over.

  3. I wish I’d read this before losing my temper with LG 78,943 separate times this afternoon and evening. Sigh. I need that awareness to not only click in earlier, but to overpower my native crankiness.

  4. Oh, how they do push our buttons. :c) It’s hard to just take a deep breath and maintain control, but I suppose what we have to remember is that we are the adults and they are simply going through exactly what we went through when the world revolved around us and the straighness of our hair determined our “coolness.”

  5. Native crankiness….I like that, I have that.
    My wise husband says that they don’t just push our buttons, they install them first.
    Songbird, I hear what you are saying about how being self aware makes the difference.
    But for me, it all hinges on prayer. When I pray the “Please help me with these kids prayer”, (sometimes many times a day), then things go well. When I don’t, they eventually fall apart.

  6. at three in the morning with a screaming thee month-old i definitely understood how shaken baby syndrome could happen do you mean to tell me it doesn’t get any easier? 🙂
    however, typing one-handed right now with her sleeping on my shoulder is a gift i cherish. some of the buttons they push lead to peace and joy and deep love.

  7. Good stuff. I have a friend who always advises me to seek to understand, rather than be understood, with my kid. Yeah, yeah.
    You know what? I’m sure that Ireland Baldwin WAS a rude, thoughtless little pig, and that she has been one before. So has my son. So have I, and so will I be, again.
    Poor Alec, to have everyone in the world hear him say what we all struggle NOT to say.

  8. Now, why is it that they’re born knowing innately where each and every one of our buttons are and can even rewire the ones we disconnected in therapy……yet we get them delivered into our arms without a procedure and maintenance manual and no knowlege of where the “off” switch is?
    Not fair.

  9. What Mary Beth said. And Songbird, too. And who among us parents of adolescents hasn’t at least thought, if not gone ahead and said, worse. I may not have called my 14-year-old “rude” or a “pig” when he was 2, but these days both of those words with a “thoughtless” cherry on top could sometimes apply. Sometimes I do not possess the patience, wisdom, self-control and view of the Big Picture that I would like to have. But I’m not a celebrity, so my meltdowns don’t get played on Larry King. Thank goodness.

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