..and I can use it therapeutically if I want to. Right? Well I say yes. So if you’re not interested then read no further.
In my last post I blurted out the nightmare I had. Sorry if it was unpleasant for anyone to read. Turns out it seems to have been useful. So, at the risk of being too confessional, I will attempt to parse out what is happening. Please don’t feel obliged to read or care, but I have a problem. And because this blog has become an effective form of self-expression for me, I have decided to use it (in addition to its original intent to document my cute kids) as a tool (among others) in what I am now declaring will be my journey to overcome what seems to me now like an emotional addiction. So here goes. Yep, here goes:
I have issues with anger. Or Issue. I have Anger Issue.
What does that mean? Or, what’s the big deal? Well, it’s a big deal when you’re raising a family. Children -bless them- are like heat-seeking missiles genetically designed to push YOUR specific buttons, which in turn drives you either a) towards the edge of insanity, or b) to be a better person, or c) some combination of both. It’s not their fault. It’s what they’re FOR (in addition to other things). It’s their JOB. They’re SUPPOSED to push every nook of every boundary you could possibly set for them. It’s YOUR job as a parent to be judicious, resolved, open, creative, consistent and of course, loving. (Just a starter list for sure.) You can’t go blowing up at your little people just because their needs or behavior might be driving you bonkers in that moment. (Yet that is exactly what I sometimes DO.)
And then, if you’re lucky like me, there’s your husband. Amidst the oft chaotic swirl of parenting, housekeeping, work and bill paying, what little time you can find for connection is precious and rare. Sacred really. It’s so important to connect lovingly with your partner on a regular basis -even briefly- that the very well-being of your whole family depends on it. Even your extended family and other loved ones need it. And world peace and balance in the universe need it too, I’m sure. And you can’t nourish that if you uncontrollably “rip a new one” on your partner, EVEN if it’s not that often and EVEN if he does something that (seems like it) might deserve it. It’s still not okay.
So where does this leave me? Kind of lost, honestly. The way I manage to live with my own lack of anger management is apparently by having complete amnesia about it. Most times when I have a conflict or a fight with someone about something, I seem to completely forget it. Not in a psychotic way where I can’t remember, but one where left to my own devices I *don’t* remember. Maybe weird, but true. A convenient device for a sense of happiness really, as I consider myself happy most of the time. And -being so used to it- I am pretty adept at getting over emotional upset. Maybe this makes me strong and invincible. But what about others who are not like me? Maybe it also makes me a bully.
But alas it seems I can’t get away with this anymore. See, I kind of had my ass –or my ego, or the truth… what ever you want to call my ass– handed to me the other day, intervention style. Without going into detail, I actually welcomed the message, intellectually anyway. Emotionally it was/is pretty devastating to face how you hurt those around you, and also the timing was pretty unfortunate and demoralizing for me. So I have been feeling extremely sad and hurt and dismayed, which is exactly where the nightmare came in. That was yesterday.
THEN today, sleep deprived, exhausted, crazy sad and still feeling like a wounded animal, I’m picking up my boy after school; one of our erstwhile hot spots. He, in his spectacular and wonderfully independent, imperative way, is not, surprise surprise, super-cooperating. I try a few techniques, but (remember the part about them being genetically designed for YOU?) he surely reads in me that something is off, and KEEPS PUSHING. Tries to run away actually (instead of getting in the car, but to belabor this point would be to blame the victim).
I snap. I know just how to grab him safely (thanks to his pediatrician) and yank him into the car without injury. I do it, however, with abject rage. I cinch down his seatbelt EXTRA tight, and then buckle in the baby. Oh did I not mention the baby? Yes, I was *wearing* her, and surely not only scared the living crap out of her, but also bonked her head in the process. I close the car doors with the kids inside -both crying now of course- and give myself a moment to cool off before joining them inside.
It is this moment that a wonderfully articulate man -enlightened in a most elegant Cantabridgian way- walks up to me and says, this: “Excuse me, but I was just walking by. And to see you yank your boy into the car the way you did, having a child of my own, was very upsetting to see. It looked like borderline abuse. And I don’t know how to speak to that, but I certainly hope that you never do it again.” I look at him dumbstruck and just say, “I appreciate that,” and he walks away.
In my defense (and there is no defense of me here), when I get back in the car, Gavin has already plowed through most of the banana that I had brought for him, by which I mean to say I simply know my son and believe he is a low blood-sugar hot-mess at the end of his school day, and my utmost objective at that time is to give him a snack to bring him back to equilibrium ASAP. Which is exactly what happens. (Can’t bring food into the school btw; already thought of that.)
Another amazing thing about kids is their ability to forgive. Sure the young Mr. Mini-Me has some choice words for me tonight (sound familiar Mom?), but nothing a little time and distraction can’t resolve. (I even drove us on gratuitous detour to showcase a little refreshing scenery and give us extra time to decompress, which helped a lot!) But you wonder what you are doing to them long term. Kids need you way too much to be able to truly reject you or anything. It’s pretty scary to think about how much parents can fuck up and get away with it, and how much some kids get totally screwed by this. (And easy to connect the dots between societal ills and bad parenting, and so on etc.)
BUT THIS DOESN’T MAKE IT OK. It isn’t. It’s not. If you’re gonna have kids, you don’t get to shit on them. (I’m suddenly channeling Gordon Ramsay here, saying: ‘It’s not your privilege to break the yolk of your customer’s poached egg.’) No, mistakes are not acceptable in Hell’s Kitchen. Yes they still happen, but all the children’s forgiveness and your own amnesia are not going to make your complacency with them acceptable.
Enter my nightmare. Riding along the well-traveled, smooth, dry road as if everything’s normal, only to find you are driving with your EYES CLOSED and your KIDS UNPROTECTED. Terrifying. Weekly sitcom turned horror movie.
Shall we say my old beater car (oh, the pun) is an outdated mode of transportation? I admit that upon waking from the nightmare I spent some time thinking -literally and logistically- how to save my two kids from the car should we ever actually end up in water. (This is a mere side effect of being, like all those who have ever become parents, forever a “hostage to fortune.”) But now I find myself taking solace in the image of my car -and all my baggage- sinking to the bottom while I swim to the light for my life and the lives of those I hold most dearly (literally in my hands).
Ergo: This Journey. It began before I even realized. I’m already getting the insight that life, being neither black nor white, is not grey either. It is blobs of black and of white and of all the other colors smashed up bouncing and floating and splashing and crashing around, amongst and against each other. There are no good days or bad days. There are just days full of moments of all shapes and colors (and SIZES). If you are in a moment blob that isn’t what you want and sucks and you don’t like it… the jury is still out on what kind of day -or life- you are having. It’s no excuse to freak out on people and throw a tantrum. You never know what is just around the corner.
Later tonight when I got home from a parenting workshop (I know, the irony, but it helped a lot), I found my daughter -whom my husband had diagnosed as “morose”- was staging a fast in my absence (which is a big deal if you know how she loves to eat) and my son had managed to take a spill and nearly split open his face, just beneath his eye! And yes, after ascertaining that he was okay, I did think of that guy walking by my son’s school and hope he does not somehow see us tomorrow, with the shiner Gavin is surely going to have. Meanwhile I had the privilege of doctoring up my boy with antibiotic ointment, arnica, a band-aid and TLC. It was after some stories, lights out and snuggling with him in quiet darkness that I started feeling peaceful about the apt analogy of my nightmare.
And then my boy -who I thought was asleep- whispers:
“I really love you. Because you made my boo-boo feel better.”