What To Do When Anger Gets The Best Of You
You know those days when it all just works out? Your children are happy, clean, fed, well behaved, they know that you love them, and everything is peaceful?
I'll wait until you stop laughing.
Well shocker, today was not that day.
Today my kids woke up on the wrong side of the bed and they let me know all about it. Tween #1 refused to eat breakfast and Tween #2 took an hour to make and eat breakfast. I ate nothing because by 10 am I already had a migraine. We homeschool so we have more flexibility than most, but I am a Type-A psycho and I have a business to run AFTER I school my kids all day. And yes, red hair is a WARNING label.
This morning, as I tried not to scream like a banshee, reminded me of a time when my kids were younger and I had another one of those days you just know is going to be a port-a-potty of a day as soon as it starts.
This story is from years ago when my tweens were toddlers. Also a super fun age. (Gag)
One morning my kids also refused breakfast and one put shampoo in her hair 5 minutes before we HAD to leave the house. As I hurried them out the door, the youngest kicked me repeatedly as I tried to alligator wrestle her into her car seat. In the meantime, my toddler got her new pants dirty digging in the dirt in the front yard while I was strapping the baby in. First the shampoo, now this? What the actual...
No time to change, on we go. Already running late I realize I am literally out of gas and we coast into a gas station. We arrive at Bible Study Fellowship (which I love) ready to worship… yeah, right. I have to peel my crying kids off of me to give them to their teachers and I miss opening prayers and worship time. Sweet. After class, a friend suggests lunch. Now for the big finish.
I am already mad, the kids are unruly and no one will sit in their seat. They are yelling, fighting with each other, and ignoring me. The baby flips herself out of the booster seat while the toddler tries to climb across the table. Practically in tears, I hauled two crying children out of the restaurant without eating, again. I dropped money on the table in front of my stunned friend for food I ordered but would never eat. Lovely.
I wish I could tell you it gets better. When I got to the car, I threw my purse and their diaper bag across the hood of my truck and then proceeded to angrily stuff my children into their car seats. As if that wasn’t enough, I proceeded to yell at both of them. Loudly. Louder than I’ve ever yelled at them before. I didn’t lay a hand on them, but it didn’t matter. I could see it in their eyes, they were scared of me.
That was the day. That was the day I snapped.
Sidebar to now:
If you are a parent of tween or teen girls I don't have to tell you about screaming or losing your ever-loving mind. I DO NOT understand moms who never yell. I imagine they have little birds land on them like a Disney princess. All the birds do with me is crap on my car.
However, at that time, my children were 2 1/2 and 1 1/2, and up to now I can honestly say that at that time I had done a pretty good job of not completely losing it. Sure, I'd had bad days and I had certainly have yelled before, but not like that day. I could feel the emotional storm coming from the very beginning this morning and even a few days before. I should have known better.
I grew up in the tornado belt in the Midwest and now I live in hurricane central here in Florida. I have lots of big storm experience. The thing about big storms is that you don’t need CNN to tell you they are coming. You can feel it. The air is just different. And right before a tornado or hurricane comes, it gets quiet. Too quiet. And then it hits you. I should have noticed the signs of a storm in my own heart coming, but I didn’t. I ignored the signs that I was over-tired, losing patience, feeling over extended and needing some serious quiet time in God’s word.
“Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” Ecclesiastes 7:9
“In your anger do not sin” Ephesians 4:26-31
Um, good luck with that. I should have seen the signs and responded then. Not when the storm was right on top of me.
I’ll admit it, there have been many times that I’ve shaken my head and some other mom publicly yelling at their children.
You know, before I had tween girls. Pray for me, y'all.
Today I flashed back to a few of those moments during my drive home that day and felt ashamed at my judgmental attitude. I’m right in there with you now gals, just so you know. The next time I see and exasperated mother yelling at her kids, I’m going to get off my high horse and down on my knees to pray for her.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
That day was a real wake up call because I was that mom who no longer had an ounce of patience remaining. All I had was rage and there was plenty to go around. When I got in the car at the restaurant to go home I was shaking and crying. I would normally say that I am not a crier but it would seem that is no longer the case. I’d also like to tell you that it got better after that. I’d love to say that I got in the car with my children crying and quickly offered a prayer asking for forgiveness from God. What actually happened is that I proceeded to call my husband to tell him that I didn’t think I was cut out to be staying home with my kids this much kind of mom anymore. After all, I did not spend 10 years in college to deal with this. I’m a doctor for crying out loud. I should be at work. This is ridiculous. I don’t have time for this kind of foolishness.
So now I’m a crier and a quitter. Classy.
At the time my husband was getting less than six hours asleep for months due to the demands at work. How nice to get a call from a crying, angry, bitter wife telling him that she wants to go back to full time work.
For those of you keeping score, this makes me a crier, a quitter and majorly insensitive.
“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Proverbs 29:11
Fortunately, my husband has more grace in his emotional bank account than I. My husband and I work because he’s my tether. I like to think of us as Ben Franklin and his kite. My husband is Ben Franklin standing in the storm, excitedly looking above but with feet firmly plant on the ground. I, on the other hand, am often the kite. Rapidly flying this way and that oblivious to the mounting storm around me. Thank the good Lord for my tether. My husband has a gift (I think granted to all Germans) for using the least amount of words possible while still achieving maximum impact. This was also true that day. He still can do it and it is both awesome and infuriating. My Irish-Maltese mojo does NOT respond that way. I'm a hot little tomato.
After some loving words with zero patronization and sarcasm from my husband, I calmed down and was finally able to talk to God. It’s a humbling thing to realize how angry you were when you relive it as you confess it. But the bigger confession comes even now. The bigger issue here is, why did I lose it? Sure I could chalk it up to just being a bad day. Heck, we all have those.
Nothing ever just “happens.” People do not suddenly wake up one day out of shape or out of love.
Something happens and that something takes time. That day's incident has made me take a closer look at my life to see where the warning signs were that I missed, or worse, flat out ignored.
Here is a list of what I think are good way to burn out and lose your cool:
1. Say "Yes" to everything.
Seriously, who needs sleep. Bake sale? Sure, I hate cooking but surely the fundraiser will fail without my lumpy cookies. Another activity across town first thing in the morning? Sign me up! What would life be without frantic breakfasts and the joys of gridlock set to the soundtrack of screaming kiddos? Girl Scout cookie season? Sounds fun. (Nope, nope, nope.)
2. Drink a ton of caffeine so you can ignore how tired you are.
I don’t want to listen to my body anymore. It never says anything I want to hear these days. It’s a pain in the (insert body part here) anyway. And while we are at it, where the heck is the lovely 18 year old body I knew and loved? This 45 year old body is slowing me down, bumming me out and starting to act up like a kid in the back seat on a cross county road trip.
3. Stay up way too late.
Looking for a new tip on how to look haggard and more like Kramer from Seinfeld every day? Skip out on the hours of sleep you desperately need to Netflix and chill or binge some “must see” TV until the wee hours of the night. I want my, I want my, I want my MTV! This season’s fashion must have? Puffy, self induced bags under the eyes that looked like my kid parked their matchbox car on my face.
4. Have your brain sucked out by the social media zombie.
Seriously, what makes you feel better than going online and reading the endless details of other people’s "perfect" lives? No way that breeds discontentment, no m'am. Of course I’m glad the girl that treated me like crap in high school lost all the baby weight in one month. Good for her. That makes my heart smile. I feel better about myself already.
5. Make sure you're too busy to spend time with God.
You know, I’m really trying to fit quiet time with God into my schedule but I’m busy at church, Bible study, my other Bible study, fellowship group… I know He is all knowing, omnipotent, and omnipresent but unless I have a totally quiet house, there’s nothing good on TV and my isn’t pillow screaming my name, I just can’t seem to find the time.
Guess who has two thumbs and at one time or another has been guilty of all of the above? THIS GIRL!!!!
My point is, it doesn’t take much looking to discover where you shortened your own fuse. Why then are we so surprised when we lose it after abusing ourselves for so long? Today I realized that while I am not on social media at 2am or ignoring God, I am not recognizing that some times I need to just “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10. (HE is God, lest there be any confusion.) I need to be still and just BE with God. I need to let Him surround me. I need to shut out all noise whenever I can and speak to Him. If I can’t quiet the world, I can ask Him to quiet my heart.
The reason I lost it that day, and nowadays too, is because I was out of touch with myself, and worse, out of touch with God. Oh sure, I’ve been reading my Bible and doing my Bible study homework. However, sometimes that can just become busywork. At times, I think it’s the real stillness with God that we need. No to do list, no specific chapter to read or reflect on. Just pure, silent, still reverence for the God that made us, sent His Son to die for us and redeem us and then sent His Holy Spirit to minister to us. When was the last time you were still and just let all the truth of that sink in?
I have never literally heard God speak to me, but I have heard Him whisper to my heart. I feel the urging of the Holy Spirit when I am still. I feel the urge to call a friend who may be in need, send my husband a text telling him what he means to me, or to give my girls an extra hug.
This week I am going to try to take a lesson from what happened today. I am going to simplify my life, take a break when I need to (shut up, dirty dishes), and reconnect with myself and God.
Breathe, Mama. This is a long game and our sanity is just as important as our kids' needs.
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