27 August 2012

I am Still Learning

I found a good article yesterday at a wonderful site I subscribe to called Creative With Kids. The site is so great, with lots of activities and recipes and parenting advice and resources. The article is called Dealing with Parenting Rage and when you have a moment please go read it. I know I'm in the right place when I'm reading an article that has the word RAGE in it as opposed to words like anger or frustration. I have a stack of worthless discipline books that all address parental rage with words like frustration and anger, suggesting that you "take a moment for yourself and breathe in and out slowly while counting back from 10." Or offering cute little tidbits like "this too shall pass!" and "why don't we all just have a time-IN and snuggle together to diffuse frustrations!" and there are scribbles of balloons and rainbows and kittens in the margins.

And then I puke and visualize my fist through the wall. Relax, it's just a fantasy.

Seriously though. A person can begin to believe there is something very awful and broken about herself reading crap like that. But then I find the articles that really make a difference and they are the ones that use words like rage, or they are the ones that make me laugh my arse off because sometimes all you can do is laugh. And sometimes you try to laugh but you can't, you just need some time to process. And so that's ok too. Today I'm processing.

Yesterday my sweet and beautiful child had his own fit of rage and while screaming as loud as he could, curled his little fists into balls and hit me in the face repeatedly with everything he could muster (and a spoon). I responded by scooping him up, holding him as tightly to myself as possible and going into his room, shutting the door and sitting on the bed. After a moments passed where I was making sure I wouldn't physically harm anyone I then proceeded to yell loudly about how it is "never ever ever ok to hit ever." Then there was a long pause where I loosened my grip and Jack wrapped his arms around my neck, trying to make his apologies. And I said to him, "I don't ever hit YOU. EVER. Why do you hit me?" I know a three year old can't answer a question like that. I asked the question more for myself than anything else.

I was stymied yesterday at our predicament: I can work every moment of every day to stop the cycle of abuse that rolled downhill in my family and still my child can have issues with how to properly express anger. I can not hit my child all I want and it doesn't mean that he won't hit me while expressing his own rage. And the worst part of all of it is that today I feel betrayed because of that. Which is just WAY too much power to give a kid so that's why I'm processing. Trying to figure out what it means to be actively engaged in ending violence in my family, like being the first one to graduate college, I will be the first one to never hit my child. Ever. So what the hell do I do when he hits me? What the hell do I do when I my kid hits me and I did NOT teach him that by example.

The problem is I feel like I am still teaching him rage by example, even if there is no hitting involved there is still an anger that feels overwhelming. There is a learning curve here. We are ALL learning how to properly express our anger, and I am failing at it daily. So of course my kid is too. And this is what keeps me awake at night, wondering if I am indeed ending the cycle. Is it enough?

I recall very clearly a moment from my childhood where I took a calculated risk with my father and played a sympathy card. My dad was very angry with me and I could see disaster coming so I went in for a hug hoping it wouldn't just put me close enough to him to backfire and end in violence. It worked, my father softened and I learned something very unfortunate at the age of 5: how to manipulate my father by playing a part. My desire for his affection was disingenuous - it was purely a tactic to fend off an attack. And I knew all of that at FIVE YEARS OLD.

I think about this example all the time because when I get mad Jack sometimes goes in for the hug. I see him very clearly trying to fend off the rage. And my heart breaks. All I want to do is not repeat history, and I am learning very quickly that it's not enough to not engage in violence. Because rage can still elicit fear. And it's the fear that is my enemy. Always has been.

This is what I'm processing today. I don't think there is an end to this post - I guess that's because it is ongoing. Thanks for "listening" anyway. Feel free to discuss your rage below. I can take it.

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