Me: Good Moooooorning!!! Time to get up! It’s Mommy/Daughter Day!!! We’re going to have so much fun! We’re going swimming and to the park. Just us girls! Wahoo!!!
Lily: NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! It’s not wake up time! Go away.
And so it began. In the next 25 minutes the following things happened:
Zosia’s first request of the morning was to watch “Full House”, and when I started to explain why she couldn’t she moaned out loud, and stomped off into her room
Lily woke up asking for waffles for breakfast and when I told her we were out she screamed at me and threw herself face first onto the couch.
Lily picked out one of Zosia’s skirts to wear, which resulted in a full-on, WWE, skirt-pulling fight.
Zosia couldn’t decide what to have for breakfast (despite me reciting the entire menu of options five times) and then sulked off to her room, whining about how hungry she was and how we never have anything good to eat.
Up until this point I had been managing the morning pretty well, keeping my cool and helping them work through their challenges. But then……..
Me: What do you guys think we should do first? Go swimming or go to the park? I was thinking we could go to the park first because your friends will be at the pool in the afternoon…..
Lily: Stop talking. I can’t hear the music.
Me: LILY! That’s it!!! Do NOT speak to me like that. You two have been rude to me all morning and I HAVE HAD IT!!!!
Silence. Zosia walks into the room.
Zosia: Mom, I noticed over there you seemed a little angry.
Me: Yes, I am feeling very angry.
Zosia: Well…..I just think maybe you’re ruining Mommy/Daughter day.
I hate this part of parenting.
When all I want to do is scream out loud, “I QUIT!!!”, storm out of the room, throw a kicking/screaming tantrum and then hold a grudge all day at the injustice of being a mom. When my amygdala has completely hijacked the situation and my rational brain is curled up in the fetal position in the corner. When every fiber of my being, every brain synapsis is screaming at me to throw something, run away or completely shut down.
Instead of doing all that, what I am called to do is move through my anger in a conscious way, and show them how it’s done.
And let’s not sugarcoat this – it is fucking hard. I actually think it is the hardest thing you will ever do as a parent. To be aware of your triggers, to build your emotional intimacy, to breathe and take a moment to feel, and then to re-connect.
This takes a huge amount of courage and love, and it’s actually the only thing that matters.
Because more than an intellectual education, more than toys, more than tea parties, play dates, and adventures, our kids need us to teach them to feel their anger in a healthy way. How to own their emotions without doing damage.
And the only way they’re going to learn this, is if we learn it first.
So I hate these moments, and I also love them. Our kids will trigger us constantly and thank goodness for it.
Without the challenge, how would we grow?
Practice: Conscious Complaining
This is one of my favorite practices to move through Anger, from the incredible Karla McLaren in her book "The Language of Emotions". I find it’s really effective if you can do it right before you flip your lid; when the Anger has lots of juice to it, but you haven’t exploded yet.
First, communicate with your kids that you need a moment to yourself to calm down and that you will be back. Then find a place where you can speak out loud without being heard (I usually go to the bathroom and turn on the fan).
Then, let it all out. Out loud say everything that’s on your mind. Here’s one of mine as an example:
“I am so angry! I can’t believe how mean they are! I don’t deserve to be treated this way! Nobody deserves this! All I wanted was to have a nice day and they are ruining it. I don’t want to do this anymore!”
Keep going and let yourself feel all of the emotions that come up. If you need to move, do it. Cry, scream into a towel, jump up and down. Do whatever feels good as long as you’re not hurting yourself or anyone else. Usually for me, after a little while I’ll start laughing and that’s great too.
When you feel complete, like you’ve said everything you need to say and the anger has left your body, take a few deep breaths. Thank yourself for taking the time to feel your anger and sadness. Breathe deeply into your stomach for just a few moments as you come back to yourself.
What you’ll notice is that once you’ve given yourself the time to consciously complain, you’ll be in a much better place to go out and set boundaries with your kids. You’ll be able to do this in a clean, loving way rather than from a place of uncontrollable anger.
“The more intimate we are with our emotions, the more adept we’ll be in both containing and expressing them, so that their presence serves rather than hinders us and those with whom we’re in contact. In this sense, there are no unwholesome or negative emotions – only unwholesome or negative things we do with them.”
- Robert August Masters