No matter what

Anger never featured much in my life up till now. I would get upset, frustrated, indignant, offended, hurt – but rarely did I encounter rage. Not the kind that makes you want to break things and hurt people. I think I can maybe remember one or two occasions in my first 32 years when I felt like that.

Now, rage is a regular, almost daily feature.

The Boy, currently 2 years and 9 months old, can wind me up to a point where I  want to scream and shout and smash plates in a matter of minutes. How does he do it? Simples!

* He ignores dire warnings to put that down, no it’s dangerous, I mean it, NO! STOP! Listen to Mummy, why don’t you listen to Mummy? Usually this happens while the baby is screaming/I am changing her nappy/I am handling hot pans.

* Nappy changing (oh can he just be potty trained overnight?) is a frequent flash point, with him kicking me away, or trying to roll off and escape while covered in poo.

* Bedtime delay tactics are getting more and more elaborate, and trying to navigate them and cajole him into tooth brushing, getting in and out of the bath, in and out of a nappy and pyjamas while simultaneously trying to stop him screeching and crying and waking his sister is… a little stressful.

* He ignores me.

* He ignores me.

* He ignores me.

* And finally: he ignores me.

(I don’t like being ignored.)

I barely know what to do with my anger. Or really, model student that I am, I know exactly what I should be doing but am struggling to put it into practice.

I know anger is normal and what is important is to model for him how to deal with it in a way that doesn’t hurt people or things – and yet I end up shouting at him and then feeling terrible for having been angry at all. 

I know a lot of the situations that wind me up can be prevented by stepping in early and pretending to be Miss Piggy/Coco the train/The Puzzler – but aside from the fact that this takes a measure of patience I often do not have, I find that I almost want to get angry with him, that I want him to have to apologise for ignoring what I say. I want him to stop ignoring what I say and start listening to me.

I know that he is more likely to respect my authority and eventually learn to listen to what I say if I stay calm and in control – but every time it happens, it seems to get easier to head down the slippery slide into rage.

We find ourselves in a phase where our goals clash and our tempers flare, the Boy and I. 

So I have started reading this book with him at night, to make sure we end the day on the right note. For him and for me.

"No Matter What", by Debi Gliori

“No Matter What”, by Debi Gliori

We have had this book for a while, but it is truly coming into its own now.

Small was feeling grim and dark. "I'm a grim and grumpy little small, and nobody loves me at all."

Small was feeling grim and dark. “I’m a grim and grumpy little small, and nobody loves me at all.”

A small fox (Small) is having a bad day and feels as if nobody loves him. Large reassures him: “Grumpy or not, I’ll always love you, no matter what.” Small goes through all the most likely looking scenarios (“If I was a grizzly bear, would you still love me, would you care?”) and Large reassures him every time that her love is unconditional. It ends on quite a serious note: “What about when we’re dead and gone, would you love me then, does love go on?” This is a topic perhaps a little beyond my not-quite-3-year-old’s understanding, but the answer is not:

“Small, look at the stars –
how they shine and glow,
but some of those stars died a long time ago.”

"Still they shine in the evening skies, Love, like starlight, never dies."

“Still they shine in the evening skies,
love, like starlight, never dies.”

We look at this book and I hug him close. Large and Small have no gender and could be Mummy and son or Daddy and daughter or any combination. But my imaginative little boy knows that right now, it is us. After the first time we read it together, he greeted me the next morning with: “Hello, Mummy Fox!”

I am trying to learn how to deal with my anger, and how to deal with his new defiance. But while we work on that, at least at the end of the day I can reassure him that my love is completely unconditional, and however much he makes me want to kick the sofa and throw nappies around the room in frustration, he is my son and I love him – no matter what.


Images from the book and quotes all (c) Debi Gliori. This book was bought with my own money almost a decade ago and I mention it because it is relevant and I love it, not because someone paid me to.


20 responses

  1. It’s really hard. I know how tough it can be. I think the most important step is to recognise how you feel and then take small steps to make changes. But you’re a human being, not perfect. Toddlers are ore-programned to challenge. And I love your choice of book, it’s a beautiful story and a great way to end the day,

    • In a way, it helps me to feel this way because it means I can sympathise more with his frustration and anger. Not that I never felt frustrated before, just not to this kind of level. At least if we both feel like kicking and screaming we’re on the same page!

  2. What a lovely book. I’d like to get a copy. It is so hard managing frustration, patience and tolerance. I find this at home as well as in my job. What matters is exactly what you say – that children know we love them above all else x

    • Aha, now I kind of wish I was on commission! 🙂 I can definitely recommend it, it is so heart warming and the illustrations are full of lovely little jokes that adults will appreciate. She really thought about how foxes might live (recipe on the kitchen wall on how to rummage in a dust bin, toothpaste brand is “Fango” etc.)

  3. Ohhh. The challenge of children. You love them enough to do anything for them and they manage to reduce you to tears of all sorts! That is one of my favourite books- I read it to my then littlest after his twin sister died and he needed reassuring that everything would be the same and we would love him no matter what. Good luck in working out a strategy for parenting him and helping yourself too! It’s a tough time for sure- but only a small phase- before you know it, it will be gone along with the lovely things about that phase too!

    • Oh my goodness now that is a trauma of epic proportions. I hope the book brought some comfort in such a difficult time for your little one. It must be so tough to need to provide strength and continuity and comfort when really you are breaking to pieces and want to curl up in a ball and cry.

  4. I get the ignoring treatment from my youngest, my daughter and it drives me crazy too. Like you mentioned, especially when it concerns warnings about dangerous things she is about to touch. It’s very difficult to deal with and leaves me feeling completely out of control as a parent! I think it’s lovely that you have found this positive way to end your day with your son, sharing a story that you can both enjoy and reminding yourself of the unconditional love you have for him.

    • I think that is a very good point – you feel so out of control when they’re ignoring you, and the anger is almost a way of trying to force them to pay attention to you and feel in control, but perhaps it is not the best way in the long term!!

  5. Wow, now I feel really relieved it’s not just me. I too am wondering where my rage is coming from and when it comes, it totally hits me and I see red. Then I’m fuming and at the same time feeling really guilty about being angry with my two-year-old! What a lovely book, will search for it now, this very minute! All the best, Dean.

    • Me too, very relieved this is a common experience! It feels terrible getting so irate with such a small helpless person, it’s just they don’t seem very innocent and helpless when they’re wilfully ignoring you and laughing when they kick you!

  6. Looks like such a beautiful book – I love the quotes! I really want to read it now 🙂 We are still at the sweet pre-terrible twos stage so i am trying to enjoy it as much as I can! x

  7. I think you are doing a great job, you are working through the issue and finding solutions, where teaching your son to have quiet calm moments with whispers, giggles and cuddles which make him feel as good an even better as the times when he is venting his emotions, can only be good. Be strong!

  8. Sounds like you’re doing a fab job Judith, and ending the day on a nicer note is a great thing to do. As hard as it can be – trust me I feel your pain and am here on a regular basis… if your little boy is anything like my eldest, a lot of it could be his way of manifesting jealousy towards his sister. Have faith that it will get easier, no matter how tough it seems right now. Hugs to you lovely lady x

  9. What a wonderful book. My Dad used to (actually still does) call me Small!
    A very positive and uplifting end to the day. Children do know how to push our buttons, but they are programmed to, because it is the safe environment in which they can test boundaries. Try not to beat yourself up too much. Easier said than done, though, eh? By sharing your story here I’m sure you have helped lots of other of us mums who struggle with this too xx

  10. I think we need this book – I have been struggling recently with some of Jess’ behaviour, a lot of it directed towards her sister, and a lot of the time nothing I do or say makes any difference.
    Getting past this stage will happen, I know it will 🙂

    • Oh I hate the way it takes ages upon ages for anything to sink in with them!! And especially stressful when they are rough with little sisters. Do you think it is overenthusiastic expressions of love or does she aim to hurt? I never know what to do with the hug-round-the-neck-that-pulls-baby-onto-the-floor. He means it well but it is dangerous and it hurts her. I want to encourage the love but discourage being rough and just saying “gently!” seems to have zero effect.

  11. I think ending the day on that note is just lovely and your anger is so normal with all the stresses and strains of modern life…. keeping it in is not good though – I do emotional surpression and then it explodes at totally the wrong time… I am working on it though!

    • I think perhaps redirecting rather than holding it in is the way to go – I try to teach my son to stamp his feet or whack a pillow if he is angry, rather than directing it at people, so that is what I try to model! I’ve been known to punch the couch…

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