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