23 May 2008

The Rage Within

I spent three years in the Peace Corps in Gabon, Central Africa. I was an English teacher for two years in the remote town of Makokou, the capital of the Ogooué-Ivindo province, then for my third year, I lived in the Gabon's capital, Libreville, and worked with officials at the Ministry of Education to write English books for sixth- and seventh-graders.

Anyone who thinks the Peace Corps is about helping other people is suffering some serious delusions. Sure, I helped a few hundred kids learn some English—a valuable life skill in the heart of the rainforest—and I opened some eyes to what else it out there in the world. I'm not saying I didn't help anyone. But what I really got out of my three years in the Peace Corps was a lot of knowledge about myself. It was a crash course in Hard Life Lessons, and I learned most of them by making a ton of bad decisions. It was an exhilarating, exhausting, difficult time in my life. I'm so glad I had that experience, but man, it was a tough, tough road.

One of the things I learned while I was there was just how angry I am capable of getting. I grew up in a house where we're always fine. Things are always good. We don't do extreme emotions very well, at least not the bad ones. We're fine with extreme happiness, but when it comes to being sad or mad or anything else that's uncomfortable, we tend to do a lot of faking it 'til we make it and hauling ourselves up by the boostraps and Moving On. It's a philosophy that's actually served me pretty well; there are times when I pretend I feel great and all of a sudden I do. Magic! If I'm feeling pissy about something that's actually quite petty, or irritated by something that's really not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, I am well-served by having been taught that I just need to Get Over It.

But when it comes to anger, I learned in the Peace Corps that you can only push it aside for so long before you Blow the Fuck Up. It all came to a head for me at the post office in Libreville. If ever there was a place designed to piss people off, the Gabonese post office is it. I once went to mail something when I lived in Makokou, and despite the fact that there were at least four workers behind the counter, I was told that "the person in charge of mailing things" was not there. It's the post office. Isn't everyone in charge of mailing things? Pfffttt. Care packages are what keep Peace Corps volunteers sane, and we usually had to pay bribes to get them. Even worse, sometimes Package Guy (yes, there was only one of him, and he worked limited and unpredictable hours) would glibly tell us that there were no packages to be had when we could see them behind the counter. I'm sure he did this just to make us sweat, emotionally, that is, since it was 90°F with 110% humidity and we were already drenched with physical perspiration.

So one day, I battled the heat and humanity of Libreville to go buy stamps. It cost 260 Gabonese francs to send a letter to the U.S. There was no such thing as a 260-franc stamp. You had to cobble together a collection of CFA20 and CFA50 and CFA10 stamps to make the sum total of CFA260. Once I had to put twenty-six ten-franc stamps on my letter, layered so as to show just the value and thus not cover the entire face of the envelope. Crazy. So I go, to buy fifty-thousand stamps that will allow me to mail ten letters, already feeling annoyed just by the idea of the post office. I don't remember for sure, but I'm certain that I was harassed for being white, or a woman, or fat, and someone probably groped my ass or my boobs, and at least a dozen people likely hit me up for money before I even got to the counter. But eventually, I made it to the front of the "line" and asked for enough stamps to mail ten letters to the U.S.

"We're all out of stamps, Madame."

Out of stamps? I repeat: it's the post office. How does the post office run out of stamps? I was livid. LIVID. I'm sure I yelled at the woman behind the counter, and I'm sure she yelled back at me. But what I remember most about that transaction is that for the first time in my life, I felt that if I were able to physically harm the Stampless Woman, I'd feel better. I wanted to punch her right in the face. Multiple times. She was my scapegoat for all that was wrong with the Gabonese postal system, the final straw in my two-and-a-half years of postal frustration.

I had never before felt like physically hurting someone would make me feel better. Of course, I didn't punch her and I'm sure that it wouldn't have made me feel better at all if I had. But the idea was so, so tempting. As I left the post office, I knew that it was time for me to leave Gabon and go home to the States to regain my cool.

That deeply physical feeling of rage was quiet for years after I got home. Sure, I got mad—one of the things I started learning in Peace Corps was how to express anger rather than repress it. But then I became a parent. Kids do all kinds of things that make their parents feel angry. That's part and parcel of parenting. But I find I'm often angry with the twins about things that are my problem, not theirs, and yet I end up unleashing my anger on them even though they don't deserve it.

This morning, for example, I screamed at the twins. SCREAMED. It was gutteral and primal and, shamefully enough, quite satisfying. Their crime? Not wanting to get dressed. A toddler classic that I just didn't feel like dealing with today. So I screamed, they freaked out and got scared, and then they were compliant out of fear. I just said in a post yesterday that I don't like to be ruled by fear, so it hardly seems right that I'm ruling the twins that way. 

So we end up in a disgusting cycle of me blowing up, the twins being scared, me apologizing, and us all having a big snuggle and moving on. Sigh. I'm sick of it. They are sick of it. We have even instituted a house motto: No Freaking Out. It's cute and funny to hear little Maddie and little Riley say, "Mama freaking out. No freaking out, Mama!" 

I'm working on this with my therapist. And it's helping. Slowly. It used to be that I'd be yelling before I even knew what was happening. We'd be going along all fine and dandy and then poof! I was yelling, and I wouldn't have even felt it coming. Now I usually feel it coming, and sometimes I can stop it. I'll say things like, "Mama is feeling angry right now," or "What can we do differently right now?" or "I need to take a break for a minute." Sometimes I still end up yelling, but that awareness is slowly coming. 

I think that part of what's at work here is that being in therapy is bringing up a lot of anger I have about John's illness and death. I have a lot of resentment about what cancer has done to my life (not to mention what it did to John's). I spend more time during my sessions with the therapist talking about how to handle the anger that bubbles (boils) to the surface rather than talking about where it's coming from. I think the combination of keeping the anger at bay for so long combined with devoting more time to thinking about its causes mixed with a couple of two-year-olds is making a lot of uncomfortable things surface. 

I'm OK with that. I'm OK with yelling at the twins occasionally. I would never, ever, EVER hit them, nor have I even come close (although I have thrown a lot of things across the room and nearly broke my toe by kicking a bookcase). But I want to spend a lot of time in the next weeks figuring out how to release my anger in ways other than taking it out on the twins as they have somehow become my primary target. I want them to learn how to handle big emotions appropriately, and I have not been modeling that very well. I also want them to know that when I get angry, I mean it, and that it's not a more-or-less constant state of being.

Related to this is that I want to get more comfortable with just hanging out at home with the twins. I pretty much never get angry or yell when I'm out in public. That would be so shameful! So white trash! The truth is that one of the reasons the twins and I are out and about so much is that I know it's emotionally "safe" for us to be away from home. Home is where I lose my shit. Home is where my buttons get pushed. It's said that the reason a lot of kids cry when their parents pick them up at daycare is that kids feel safe releasing their emotions in the presence of a parent. I have a little bit of that going on with being at home. I feel like I can let it all out there, which is fine, but sometimes I need to redirect it. Maybe I need to start wearing a rubber band on my wrist and snapping it when I start to feel out of control. I've been working on naming my anger (or other feelings), acknowledging that it's OK to have that feeling, then choosing not to invite that feeling to be a part of my present interaction, but I think I need something more physical and immediate for when then a child says, "No, Mama, all by self," for the thousandth time, wanting to do something that is physically impossible for said child to do and refusing all help. Grr.

The weather is supposed to be gorgeous this weekend. We have a few things planned: a playdate at the park, a trip to have dim sum, a very low-key BBQ at our place with friends. We're going to start the weekend with a walk on the bike path after daycare tonight, as I know that exercise is a great way to get out some negative stuff and bring on some endorphins. I want to not expect myself to be perfect, but I do want to work hard. And I want to have fun with my kids. I want them to have fun with me. I want them to love being at home, to love for the three of us to be together. It seems so simple, doesn't it?

[NB: For those of you who (a) made it through this long piece and (b) might have missed another long piece, there is a post below yesterday's Idol post about how and why John and I decided to have kids despite his diagnosis. Due to Blogger weirdness with drafts, I posted it after the Idol post, but it appeared as though I posted it the day before. You can find it here.]

44 comments:

Becca said...

Toddlers are HARD and you have two and a lot of the time no help. And like you mentioned, you have a lot of residual anger surrounding John's illness and death. I have nothing but incredible respect for you. Keep working with your therapist and keep doing the best you can, one day at a time. You have a wonderful little family and this hard time won't last forever.

eba said...

Your post left me in tears for many reasons. Becca wisely articulated many of them.

I will leave you with this thought -- I contra dance and we often welcome new dancers. Newbies are terrified that they'll make a mistake. I like to reassure them that we experienced dancers screw up all the time -- it's just that we've learned to recover more quickly and gracefully.

Perhaps in this life we should not be struggling for perfection but for love and acceptance, both of ourselves and of others.

You are doing an incredibly good job raising your kids. Keep up the good work. And thank you for writing this beautiful piece.

Anne said...

Hi Snick,
Thanks for such an open and honest post. Sounds like the Peace Corps had a lot of life lessons for you (and raising toddlers also!). It's refreshing to hear you talk about your struggles, we all have our various difficulties and it's great to see someone work through them so openly and honestly.
I visited a friend once who was staying with her terminally ill father in the hospital. The condition had no cure, the family was waiting for those final moments. She was in a state where she was feeling and talking very spiritual, about the beauty of seeing a life well lived, a sense of peace, etc... (which are all wonderful and amazing and valid feelings). But (having a bit of experience with loss of a loved one myself, my husband died of pancreatic cancer), I said to my friend "I know, you're right, it's beautiful to see a life well lived, but this really SUCKS doesn't it????". She looked at me with relief and said "Yes, Anne, you're right, this really SUCKS". I think sometimes we want to put a pretty face on things that really are terribly terribly difficult, and it helps to have that human contact and recognition that there are just plenty of times when life really is just too darn hard.
(I write this comment not with pessimism or sadness, but just with a recognition that sometimes the best we can do is be in it together and support each other).
Thanks Snick, your insights are helpful to many....

Sara said...

Someone once said to me, in my days before children, "No one will ever make you as happy as your children will make you, and no one will ever make you as angry as your children will make you". Truer words never spoken. I have felt rage of depths I couldn't have imagined dealing with my children, and usually over the dumbest stuff. I have worked in child protection for all my adult life, and once my first daughter was born, I thought a lot about how amazing it was that any kids live to adulthood at all :).

I'm definitely all for thinking of different ways to manage my anger, or to not get to anger in the first place. Sometimes, though, there's nothing that works as well as walking away. Keep being good to yourself, OK?

Deb said...

First, thanks I did miss the piece after the Idol post and as I have said before I look forward to reading all your posts.

Second, you have had a rough road and it is still stretching in front of you. You have your great days, good days, not so good days and bad days. We all have those days, so dont fret. Continue with your therapist and maybe try to get yourself a punching bag - helps a lot as silly as it may sound. I cannot tell you the number of balled up socks I have thrown around - usually in my bedroom behind a closed door, but not always. I unlike you did actually hit my son once - he was a teenager and no excuses here but again he was a teenager.
It's hard almost everyday Snick, but your doing great! Those babies know you love them and at the end of the day that is all that matters.
Lots of love to you all!!

dana said...

It takes SO F*CKING LONG to recover from a serious illness or death. So much longer than you want it to. And anger is a really tough emotion to work through. It's so convincing when you're caught up in it! And other people - even kids - can help with grief and fear. But anger, not so much.

I have anger issues too, and have been working consciously on them for about six months. Now I catch myself before I freak out about 50% of the time, and calm down and apologize much faster the other 50%. It's hard, but it's worth the work to avoid the post freak out shame.

moo said...

Listen.

Toddlers know how to push buttons. It is what they are good at. They want to know that the same thing is going to happen EVERY TIME they do something. They test limits. They test patience. You think WHEN WILL IT BE BEDTIME and they fall asleep and an hour later you think I MISS THEM I LOVE THEM THEY ARE AWESOME.

It's normal and natural. You can't fix everything all at once. Starting in one place doesn't mean you have to stay there. It's ok to go backwards, work up, down, left right .... whatever you need to do to get through.

In the meantime ... can you hire a babysitter to come and be with you guys during the 4-8 pm meltdown/crises times? You'll be able to make dinner while someone else entertains them. You'll have help with bathtime and bedtime and cleaning up. You'll have HELP. Is that even a possibility for you? It can just be a neighborhood teenager, even.

Astrogirl said...

Oh yeh, that's my bugaboo too - anger. I have a wicked temper anyway, especially when things don't go my way. Which, having a four year-old boy, is a LOT of the time. When he was younger, I had many many moments like you've described - where you Lose Your Shit over the silliest things. Funny you should mention feeling that being among people was safer, because you wouldn't lose you shit there - I've always felt the same way about myself. I'm a much better mother when I'm in public, because I wouldn't want strangers to see me Losing My Shit.

Things do get better as they get older though, at least in the sense that they will be able to understand you (some of the time) when you try to explain things to them. But yeh, it's always a challenge in one way or another, I think.

Plus, as they get older, they understand the sentence, "If you don't go to bed right now, you will not be going to the birthday part tomorrow." I've always felt that the concept of consequences for your actions doesn't hit for most kids until they're at least 3 or 4.

Sarah said...

I want to share an anecdote from the other side of the fence: my mother had a pretty rough time raising two kids (not twins - 1.5 years apart) and dealing with an undiagnosed chemical imbalance (nowadays they'd probably call it borderline diabetes). I can remember times when my mother would just SCREAM at me, or even worse, bottle it up until she burst.

Once, she threw a hairbrush in my general direction.

But look, I'm fine. We're fine, my brother and I. My mother is fine. We worked through it, with no more lasting scars than anyone else.

erinwithalatte said...

Snick, I'm coming out of the lurking woodwork to let you know that I think you're doing a great job. Unlike a lot of people, you're very self-aware and you actually want to get to the root of your anger so you can start to conquer it, rather than just denying its existence. That self-awareness is making you an amazing mom. Also read the post about your decision to have Maddie and Riley and I fall into the "I would have to done the exact same thing" camp, so there you go. :-)

sappho said...

hey snick
i second the punching bag suggestion and the walking away suggestion (when you need to walk away). i suggest combining the two. you can keep the punching bag in a closet or something and when you are so angry you need to walk away, you can go visit the punching bag.

i also personally find dancing really therapeutic. it releases a lot of emotions in a creative way. if you're comfortable with trying dance (any form) i highly recommend it.

good luck. you're going to be ok.

CP said...

Your post really hit home for me. I grew up in the same "paste a smile on your face and make sure everyone thinks everything is fine" household. I too have problems with losing my shit at home with the kids. No, I don't hit or anything like that but I do feel that I yell too much. For things that really, in the big picture, aren't that big of a deal. So we're running a few minutes late? Will the world end? (I'm still working on getting to the point of answering that question with "no". Not there yet)

Your discussion of home bring the safe place to let out emotions is so true. I would never scream in public like I did at home this morning. Yet, when my husband and I got married, one thing we talked about was making our home a safe place where our (future at the time) kids would feel totally secure and safe from all negative emotions. OK, that's naive but I certainly haven't even come close to that goal.

While I haven't gone through the same emotional trials that you have (and instead of twins I have 3 kids who are 4.5 years apart- from oldest to youngest), I get what you are saying and I thank you for posting it.

Rachel said...

It sounds like you are on the right track with the therapy. I know I was shocked at how angry I got when I became a mother, and how to manage it is something that we don't talk about enough. So thanks for bringing up the subject.

Positive reinforcement really helped us. I started saying, "I like it when you do x" (get dressed by yourself, pick up your toys, etc.) and giving lots of hugs when it happened. That seemed to help tame Bella's defiance, which in turn helped me stop yelling.

Little Read Hen said...

I raise my voice at my toddler too. Hell, I think I raised my voice at her when she was a baby once or twice (although, obviously, that was more just frustration than trying to get her to comply to anything). I've noticed this year, as we have been spending a lot of time at my parents' house taking care of my father (who has been ill) that I have a much shorter fuse when I am there (in the house where I grew up and have not the greatest memories of) than I do when we are at our own home.

So, here is my thought having read a lot of your stuff since the CNN article a few weeks ago. You've talked a lot about moving; closer to family, chage of pace/community/etc. Do you think that your fuse at home (even as opposed to being out of the house in Boston) has to do with just all of the greif/pain/memories that you lived through in your house?

Anyway. Hang in there. Hope your summer is grand.

Anonymous said...

In an earlier blog you mentioned that you hissed shut up to your children and now you really scared them by screaming. I think you are asking for help.
We will never be perfect parents, but I am concerned.

caro said...

Thanks for this. It's interesting to know more about your past life and helpful to hear how you're dealing with anger as a mom. I hadn't thought about the Inefficient Third World Bureaucracy Rage in a long time, but, boy, it is very similar to the Typical Two Year Old Behavior Rage.

What I want is to get a used hot tub and set it up in the basement alongside boxes of cheap glassware. So that I can, you know, smash glasses when I'm mad. Would that count as a healthier outlet for anger?

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with anonymous #1. I remember you posted about your son being hurt at daycare when you were picking him and up and instead of going to you he went to the daycare worker. Do you blame him?

Maria said...

I don't know if this will help right now, but there is a great book called "How to Talk So Children Listen, and Listen so Children Talk" By Faber and Mazlish. I don't usually recommend parenting books, but this one is just full of good practical examples of actual words to say. It's a great start that you don't want to yell at them, the hard part is having something to replace the yelling with. Sometimes it's as simple as repeating what it is they want, or just an "mmm hmm" But if you can get in the habit of having an alternative response available to you, it might help decrease the impulse to yell.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I wanted there to be a positive anonymous comment, so here goes:

You've been through and are still going through a lot. This grief thing is so tough. Keep working at it, things will get better, and don't beat yourself up for it. You love your kids and they know it. I think it's better for kids to know it's ok to feel anger and sadness than to bottle it all up and spew it all out later in a destructive way.

Erika said...

I totally understand the anger thing. I am there right now and it's awful. My anger comes from different places than yours, but instead of taking it out on my child (17 months, already in the terrible rotten whatevers), I take out on my spouse. And then I apologize, and cry, and he hugs me, and I'm fine for a while ... then I yell again and the cycle continues.

I have no advice. I am taking some meds to try and keep myself a little more emotionally balanced (at the urging and prescription of my brand! new! psychiatrist!) - but other than that, at this point, have no idea how to deal with it, either. And home is definitely the place I unleash. I get it, but for different reasons. I get it.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post, yet again. I'm a constant lurker but had to comment. These toddler years are so hard! I have felt the same way, exasperated to the point of outright anger, and I only have one son! You are doing so, so well the both of them. I have been a single parent now for 15months (b.c of DH's job) and it is so, so hard.

Everyday, all day, I remind myself that I am doing the best I can. And also that my son probably won't remember any of this, thanks to baby amnesia. ;-) Keep writing, I am reading.

Adam said...

Someone wisely pointed out to me that the emotion of "anger" is, historically, the one that actually accomplishes anything. We don't change the world when we're content or even when we're slightly concerned. Anger is where it's at, at least once we figure out how to channel that into something productive. That's the trick.

I also hear lots of people confirming that we all reach the "Lose My Shit" stage. I do, and I haven't lost a spouse and am not raising two kids on my own. I think it's natural -- not necessarily right, but natural. Anyone who tries to place a judgement of "concern" on this is missing the point. You're concerned too, on a deeper level, and you're working on this through the writing and the therapy.

I also hear a lot of people in these situations -- parenting OR self analysis -- suggest book A or author B. This is the one case where I think that books suck. Books will tell you anything you're willing to read, and they will contradict one another with regards to parenting and the self. Don't read books. It would be more helpful to write your own . . . which isn't a facetious suggestion.

OTRgirl said...

Good for you. Seriously. Figuring out healthy ways to express anger is a huge thing to work through. So many of my friends, from both white and Korean culture, are completely uncomfortable with the fact of anger. As you work through that, it will be a powerful example to the twins.

Based on some knock-down, bloody lip fights with my brother, it can feel really good to hit someone! Obviously, not a kid or someone younger, but in an equal fight, it's scary how much that releases the anger valve. Perhaps a punching bag in the basement (so to speak)?

It was fun to see you for lunch. I hope next time I swing through your area, I can play with the twins.

And, the anonymous negative comments? If you need to say it, have the courage to use your name. I see this as a totally normal range of emotions given the catastrophic events of the past year. Snickollet is working through her emotions, naming what is going on and acknowledging her struggles, that's no reason for pot-shots. Ugh.

Sandi said...

I have found myself doing the exact same thing with my children. If it's any consolation, I have seen plenty of women with husbands still alive lose it with their kids, too. I am not 100% sold on the fact that it's because we lost our spouses so tragically, but because, as someone else stated, "toddler push your buttons."

sara said...

This is the first time I am posting. YOU are the first mom whom I've read who I feel is telling the truth. I felt/feel the same way. My friend recommended a book called "the mask of motherhood." I haven't read it, but it about being kind of let down and disillusioned. I finally had to get on some medication, and it made a world of difference. My life still kind of sucked, but the way my mind interpreted it, changed.
I love reading your blog. Thank you for being so honest.

Michele (Moosh) said...

Hey sweets,

This happened to me on Friday morning: "So I screamed, they freaked out and got scared, and then they were compliant out of fear." Is it bad that I breathed a sigh of relief when I read that?

Maddie had taken my car keys and credit card and hid them when I was off to meet with my orthopedic surgeon for my 4 month post op. She had already made me late by not complying, and wouldn't tell me where my keys or cc were--just kept laughing and dancing around.

I just LOST IT. I'll never forget the expression on her face for as long as I live--she was so shocked and scared that mommy yelled. I cried all the way to the dr's office and teared up during my physical therapy session two hours later. To be honest, your post is very comforting to me. I'm not the only one who snaps every now and then? That's wonderful. LOL

But seriously hon, you're not alone. You have so much to deal with and you're HUMAN. Keep on keeping on. You're a wonderful mom and the twins are lucky to have you.

Lisa Sipka said...

Longtime lurker, have to come out of the closet to say.. you are amazing. I know you don't know if that is true. You are real and your draw is that you honestly represent a normal person going through a life that is supremely normal and abnormal at the same time. If I knew you in real life, I think we would be friends. I would hope so.

Anonymous said...

Parenting toddlers requires a tremendous amount of patience along with the ability to truly ignore their efforts to push your buttons. Once they see that their behavior affects you, they repeat it and wear you down.

I had very little patience or calmness with my first son, now 13 years old and he's fine despite it, and I often "Lost My Shit" too with him. You are being completely normal.

It might help you to try to adopt a larger perspective too and remind yourself that while it seems so hard right now, the years are going to fly right by and before you know it, your twins will be grown out of this.

With my second, who is now a toddler, I find I have infinite reserves of patience and calmness. He just can't push my buttons, though he tries often. I think it comes from having gotten through the first child's toddlerhood intact (both him and myself, LOL), and knowing from experience how very fast the years will fly by. Before you know it, your twins will be teenagers too (okay, don't think about that as it brings a whole new set of parenting challenges! LOL).

Just hang in there and know that it will pass, and probably too fast for your liking (as it does for most parents). As long as you never want to, or actually do physically harm your kids, a little yelling isn't going to be a long-term problem for them. Don't beat yourself up so much about it. No parent is perfect. (While my current toddler can't work me up like my first child did, I still make mistakes with #2, just different mistakes).

I am also a widow (18 years ago) and so I like to think I might know something of the grief and anger of which you are dealing with. I don't see it as you are taking out your anger for your husband's death on your toddlers (toddlers are just mind blowing creatures). Give yourself a break and don't worry too much about it, ok. You are doing a great job as a parent!

carosgram said...

I started reading your blog shortly before John died. I was amazed and awed with your ability to express your sadness and grief. I admired the way you continued to live and love. The way you shared with your children and the other people who loved John. But I wondered where the anger was, the recognition of how unfair it all was, the cruelty of his death and how he deserted you and the children. It wasn't his intention to leave you to deal with it all alone but that is what happened. I am glad you are beginning to realize it is ok for you to be angry with him as well as life. When one is injured it doesn't hurt any less to know it was by accident or fate or whatever. It hurts, aches, burns, chills, and leaves a whole so big it feels like it will never be filled in again. You were 'strong' when you needed to be but now is the time to let yourself feel. Thinking of you and wishing you the best.

erica said...

i don't have children, but i do have a husband and two cats, and boy, i really let them have it. i did the vitality compass test online and was docked serious points for saying that i am angry at least once every day.

my mother was often in a bad way, threatening suicide, yelling and screaming. and i hate to say it, but i do the same thing, but even worse. anger makes me both impotent and decisive, so i'm reluctant to let go of it.

this is just to say, you're doing a good thing by working through these issues with a therapist. i wish i had the courage to do the same.

Julia said...

Sorry about the trolls in the comments. I know you don't need that.

I know a woman who has picked up boxing, and loves it. I am not sure how it would work for you to be able to go to the gym to do something like that, but I do think the anger needs to come out. You certainly have a lot to be angry about, and I almost see this particular emotion as a bag of water-- you can change its shape to mold to the outside container, but you can't get rid of the thing. I feel like the anger needs to be let out. So punching things, breaking things (someone told me they buy cheap dishes at garage sales or thrift stores to smash them in anger release), or some hard physical exercise seem like they might help. Or not. I might just be talking out of my ass, as I often do. I just find that my anger is not so easy to dissipate... much easier to let it out in some safe way. Trouble is the finding of the safe way part.
Best of luck to you. I know you are working so very hard on this and every other aspect of your still-new life.

Bee said...

Delurking to say THANK YOU. You have so bravely and honestly described what I have felt on and off over the past number of months. I have a 2 year old son who I adore more with all of my being, but I have felt such terrible rage at times when he is just doing normal toddler stuff - you know, pitching a fit when you're trying to get out the door to day care and work, etc. I have been guilty of "the scream," too, and felt horrible seeing how scared he was. I feel sick even admitting it and I'm so glad to read that I'm not the only one.I don't want him to be scared of me so, like you, I am trying to be more conscious of the antecedents that can set me off. And, like you, I never lose my cool in public. That's probably why, when I'm having a rough day, we spend more time running errands, being busy, than being home.

Thank you for writing this. I so appreciate that you are able to articulate some of the hardest subjects that parents usually don't want to face, let alone face in public.

DoctorMama said...

I also grew up in a Just Get Over It family. It was a little weird to have it applied when my father died when I was five -- it's not ALWAYS the healthy response -- but I agree, it's a mostly useful technique.

I involuntarily play a little fast forward in my head when my son really pushes my buttons. Like you at the post office, I suddenly visualize myself smacking him. When this first happened it horrified me, but then I came to realize that it results in my NOT smacking him, and I feel good about being able to make the choice of keeping cool.

Actually it still horrifies me a little bit to know I have these impulses, but it sure helps to know others occasionally freak out too.

I love the "No freaking out, Mama!" It's amazing how early they can understand this stuff.

BlackenedBoy said...

At least you realize you're doing it and are actively trying to stop.

It's the people who just don't care who are bad parents.

Janice (5 Minutes for Mom) said...

It amazes me how quickly I can get angry with my son. I ADORE him - but wow - kids can drive a person CRAZY sometimes. Add to that the stress of what you have been through and I completely understand why you have freak out moments.

Amy said...

Put yourself in time out when you want to scream. Tell the kids you are feeling very angry and need a time out.

My kids responded very well to this. They understood Mom sometimes felt very frustrated and it kept me from yelling at them for stupid things.

When I came out, usually minutes later I was far better able to explain why I was angry and direct them far better as to what they were supposed to be doing.

I grew up having unexplained anger directed towards me. Sometimes it was my fault, sometimes not. It always felt awful.

With my kids I try to explain my emotions and deal with them as best I can. With honesty and compassion I really do believe kids thrive. Even if their parents are only human.

**Work-in-Progress** said...

A good friend of mine served in the Peace Corps in Malawi for several years.

I have read pretty much all of your blog, and I want you to know that I am praying for you and your twins.

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1,2

Mary Ellen said...

Carrying on as if everything is JUST FINE, thank you, is an underrated life strategy, in my opinion. It may have long-term health implications... but it's done me just fine.
Also, don't feel bad about preferring your children in public places. That's pretty endemic to motherhood, I think!
It gets easier. I look at my 3-year-old and think, whoooo. She's easy peasy. And I look at my 15-month-old twins and think, how much longer??? (Which makes me feel bad, of course, because one should CHERISH ALL THESE MOMENTS.) When it gets too crazy, I put them all in the stroller and go out for ice cream.

TD#3 said...

I could relate to your rage in so many simple ways. I found myself at the same spot - when things are chaotic and I don't feel in control of the situation. So I leave home a lot too - so I don't look at the stuff piled in the garage - or the den catch all room - what am I avoiding I ask myself and what am I teaching my daughter. It's okay to rage, scream, be frustrated as long as you are trying to figure out why and how to deal. take care!

Aimee said...

Thank you for your honesty.

As a lot of the previous commenters have pointed out, you've been through so much this past year. I think that you wouldn't be normal if you -didn't- feel anger.

As OTRgirl said, most people aren't comfortable talking about anger and being honest. I, too, have been struggling with how to deal with my own anger, rooting in events from long ago and a year ago. So, that to say, in some ways, I know how you feel.

I also heartily second her about the negative anonymous comments. Apparently, those people do not have children and have never gone through a tragedy or trauma. Forget them.

As my therapist said during my last session, it's better to be honest than to be "good" (meaning, doing what you think everyone else wants you to do/say).

UWSParent said...

Long time lurker coming out from hiding here... I, too, am a yeller and I hate it. It brings me back to being a child and having my parents yell at me and I remember how awful I felt and then I beat myself up for making my daughter feel that way... That's a long-winded introduction to my COMPLETELY UNSOLICITED advice: buy yourself the book Screamfree Parenting. It's not as cut and dry as the title sounds. It's a very interesting book about looking within and taking care of yourself to help guide you in all of your relationships (not just your parenting). I am not a proponent of parenting books at all. I am usually of the "put the book down and step away slowly" camp but I had to come out here to just make the suggestion.

Jana said...

I have felt that kind of rage before, and for a much less legitimate reason (I was at a concert and a thick-necked dude pushed me).

Have you ever read bell hooks' essay "Killing Rage"? Although the essay focuses on the benefit of controlled rage and anger for African Americans, I think it has a lot to say for people interested in the topic of useful rage in general.

Jen4 @ Amazing Trips said...

This post scares me a little and makes me ashamed, a lot. Over the past year, I have lost my shit too many times with my children. I swore I never would and never did "hit" them when they were two, but once they turned three, I did, I have. I hate it. But it's happened.

Here I want to raise kind and gentle people and yet I'm yelling and smacking them because they are YELLING and SMACKING and yowzer, it feels like this plane is going to crash. Fortunately I don't have very many ... but on a bad day? It takes great restraint to not pick them up and THROW them out of the house.

In my case, I don't know where the rage comes from. Thankfully, I haven't lost my spouse, so I feel like I have no valid excuse for going completely off the deep end. But I am raising four children under the age of four (including our 3-year old triplets) and CRAP it is DIFFICULT at times.

I really like the rubber band on the wrist idea. Although, I might have to wear 20 or so.

Jessica P. said...

I get it. I spent three in PC in Zimbabwe and now am the mother of an 8.5 month old. I, too, felt crazy, violent rage in response to certain experiences; and I, too, had to leave my two month old crying in his bassinet and go into my bedroom to pound the shit out of my mattress so that I wouldn't take anything out on him. Dark days, they were. Full of fatigue and frustration...and often feeling like a failure. Where did all that anger come from?

I am in a happier and more balanced place right now, but I suspect that the rage still lurks and it will only take a similarly frustrating set of circumstances to bring it to the surface. We can hope that our self-awareness can lead the rest of our being into healing of that anger...