parental anger management 101: the night before the intervention

At Family Meeting tomorrow our #1 topic of discussion will be yelling.

not him


Me yelling.

My yelling.

My temper is a problem for my family.

I smother my anger and wrestle it and tamp it and yank it back, but suddenly it slips out of my hands and thrashes around like a shark on the deck of a tilting ship: obviously desperate, functionally useless, but still strong and fast and full of teeth and scaring the shit out of everybody until it finally drops back into the deep.

This morning I overheard Buster yelling at his stuffed puppy with the hoarse bellow wherein every word is a bark that demands its own complete volume of air, the one that he usually employs when he's being a pirate: "NO! YOU! CAN'T!" And then in a soft high-pitched puppy voice, "But why?" Pirate voice: "BECAUSE! IT'S! DANGEROUS! ROAAAR!"

That's not me, right?

If you're asking...

Hours later, I yelled at Buster because he was literally bending a mirror that was bolted to the wall. 


I can justify it by saying it was SAFETY yelling, which is a different beast from feelings-based mom-rage yelling. But ask me if I ran over to place a hand on him to keep him safe.

I did not.

I yelled really loud, so loud that each word demanded a fresh gasp of air, and clapped my hands together so hard they stung. It felt good. Sickly good.

Buster flinched and sat down facing the wall, and he wouldn't look at me for the rest of the night, and the only thing he would say was the whispered words, "I sad." Ryan put him to bed.

After a pretty evenly-matched internal debate, I ruled out killing myself.

But I have decided it's time to stage my own intervention.

Children understand yelling - it's their mother tongue, so to speak. The first language of a baby is a scream.

But they don't understand a parent's shame. They don't understand the way parents love them -invisibly kind, murderously fierce. There's a reason people tell their children that they want to eat them up. In every act of consumption, as in every parent's love, lives hunger, delight, and violence.

And the kids won't understand any of this, not until decades after the parents have already done what some people call "their best" and what others call "the damage."

I sad.

After Googling "anger management for parents" I wanted to add "asking for a friend." It felt transgressive to say the words, even to an algorithm.

I have this recurring fantasy that I'll be called to answer for all of my parenting choices in front of a jury of my peers in an actual courtroom, and when the prosecutor enters, as Exhibit A, a search history of "anger management for parents" I can just see my defense attorneys leaning over to say, "WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME ABOUT THIS?" right before burying her head in her hands and muttering "It's over. All over. Maybe we can still plea-bargain to keep the needle out of your arm. But I doubt it."

The good news is that I'm not alone. There are dozens of us - DOZENS! Google gave me pages and pages of resources for parents who yell at their children. Tonight I'm reading it all. Or as much as I can before my laptop dies. It's at 4% right now.

Once my laptop dies I'll go into the boys' room and lie down on the floor between their beds and think about all the ways I need to be better.

I sad.

And tomorrow I'll tell you all about Family Meeting: The Katie's Rage Monster Intervention.

My goal for tomorrow?

To find some way to tell the kids that my anger is not about them, except when it is. But that even when I'm mad, I can and will find a better way to show it than yelling and scaring them.

I sad.

To show them that I'm working hard to learn how to be calmer and kinder and quieter, even when it's not in my nature to be any of those things, really. To show them that they're worth that hard, uncomfortable work. To show them that I have a plan.

Okay, sleep tight you guys.

Tomorrow will be a better day. But tonight, I sad.

Read about A Very Special Family Meeting here!

1 comment:

  1. oh katie - i'm right there with you. i keep hearing myslef yell at M & M and it doesn't make me feel any better or even help keep the peace in our house. if you find some good resources, please share. hugs to you mama. we've all made our kids sad.