“You angy Mommie? Angy at me Mommie?”
Her voice is small and impartial. Yet it rings out full of wonder like she asked me why the sky is blue. No preconceived notions or baggage with her observation- just that- an observation. We had been running late and I had raised my voice at the chaos around me while we tried to get where we were going in a somewhat timely fashion. My raised voice had been met by a wall of silence. An overreaction on my part? Probably. People are late. I should get over it. It’s hard to think and process in a calm and orderly fashion when the daily three-ring circus has its tent up over you.
And then, Sugarplum’s small voice innocently stepped in and I cringed. It broke through that angry red veil covering what I saw. That sheet of anger that once it is rolled out, bleeds into your interpretation of what’s going on around you. You stop just seeing the situation as something to just be in and you start judging and complaining.
“No Sugarplum. I’m not angry at you. Sorry I raised my voice. I was just frustrated that we hadn’t already left.”
“You angy Daddy?”
And then I get it. She’s asking me why I’m acting the way I am- why my voice was loud and my face contorted and why the steam came out of my ears- or maybe I the only one who saw that part. And she’s internalizing my answer. Out of our three children who I have felt love, anger, frustration, sadness and every emotion under the sun from and with she’s the first one to ask me how I feel and why in her little girl way. She’s learning how this world works around her and what we should do in a given situation. At such a young age she is already so reflective. She’s always been that way though. Since she could hoist herself up on her own two small feet, you could find her with her hands entwined behind her back watching from the fringe of the ruckus and actually deciding whether or not to jump in. She has a similar emotional intelligence to the Quail. I don’t want her to learn to be angry when things don’t go her way. I don’t want her to feel that the right thing to do when you are frustrated is to yell. I don’t want her to think that I can’t own my own feelings and blame them on her or her sisters. Or her Daddy. And suddenly the important thing in that moment is no longer the rush to get where we are going. The important thing in that moment is to say sorry because I got something wrong. Not wrong for feeling angry- but wrong in my choice of what to do with it.
People are kind. When you tell stories like this, people are quick to tell about how they hate to be late, and how it’s hard to be calm when you are tired from a long day. And how they don’t know how you do it. And while I appreciate those validators. I still need to control my reactions better. I don’t hit. I explain the whys, and whens and hows and whats. Sometimes calmly. Sometimes angrily. Sometimes after the third time-out and sometimes after getting sucked into a circular debate around it during the time-out.
“I said put that down now!” With anger in my voice, I reach over and pull the beeping timer that has been set off out of Sugarplum’s small hands. I was doing some exercise for 1.5 minutes of my morning before the sun came up. And as I planked breathing deeply with my eyes closed I heard the time I had set beeping too soon. When I opened them in frustration the first word out of my mouth is, “No. Put it back. No. Stop.” I didn’t reach over and take it right away. I felt angry that my personal minute was being wrenched out of my grasp. The minute my frustration morphed into anger it registered across Sugarplum’s small face as every small muscle contorted in disappointment and a crocodile tear splashed on to the carpet. She was just curious. Not naughty. Not obstinate. Not even mischievous. Just curious. And that isn’t something to be angry over. I closed my eyes, set down the timer and sat up. The minute my legs crossed, she pooled herself into them, her small piggy-tail poking me in the nose as I cradled her closer to me. I waited for her breathing to soften and told her that I was angry that time that she didn’t hand back the timer when I had asked her to. That mommy was using it and needed to finish before I could play with her. She sniffled and pressed her wet face into my neck and I said a silent prayer of gratitude that she can still fling herself into me after an upset. Because that doesn’t always happen so easily anymore as they grow up and away from me. The Quail, she stands her ground. Zuzu when she’s angry though, now moves physically away rather than towards me. It’s this developmental progression that I’m sad to witness. It’s one that I worry how I’m influencing. It’s a model for the girls that I’m not happy with and want to change.
I’ve talked about anger before on here. Others talk about anger and it makes me feel so very much better. To know that we aren’t in it alone. That wanting to be different is half the battle. It would be dishonest to pretend it doesn’t have a presence in our lives. The key is making sure it isn’t an overwhelming presence. And I don’t think that it is for us. Beyond the obvious cares we need to take with our health and wellness, I think the key is in talking about it and moving on. To not ruminate over it. To not be ashamed for being, and well; feeling human. To take that humanity and validate it in ourselves as well as others. To not let it consume my interpretation of how good of a mother I am or am even capable of being. To not let the mere fact of it arrest my own development in this journey. Because it is a journey. None of us are born mothers. I think talking about when we feel angry can lead to…happiness. Not happiness ever after- but an internal calm and ability to not make each molehill a mountain that we can’t bare to climb down from.
Each day happens.
And hopefully the next day does too. There are no perfect mothers, just perfect moments within motherhood. And if we can climb down off our mountain those days will be there waiting for us- and if we can’t get to dinner on time yet again, hopefully we’ll at least find our way off the mountain in time to begin again.