I love you when you’re angry, you know,” I said and pulled her close. She looked at me with disbelief. “I love you when you are angry, I love you when you are happy, sad, mad, glad, board, excited, sleeping, awake, home or at school. I love you, no matter what.
I never felt like I could get angry as a child. My parents sure did, but I got the message loud and clear that I was supposed to keep the peace, be good and above all never ever loose my cool. As a parent I found myself getting angry at my child for being angry.
Hmm, that was a red flag. I felt helpless when she was upset. I wanted to fix it, fix her, just make it better. I felt resentful. How could she be unhappy, when I’m working so hard to make her world wonderful? And I heard myself using words to try and shut down her anger. I gave lectures, I offered new activities, I reminded her of good things, fun things. And yes, sometimes I got angry back.
So I guessed it was time to do some work. . . on myself. I’ve found the API community so valuable for this kind of support. There is always someone who can share a book, an experience or a shoulder.
The book and surrounding conversation that hit the spot this time was Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham. What if I let my daughter be angry? What if I just listened, empathised but didn’t try and fix it? Oh, this was going to be tough. But I made a commitment to try something new.
And the last time my daughter got angry because it was time to turn off the TV, I just stayed still. It felt very strange. In the past her anger was my call to jump into action. But I just watched.
She stomped around the house. She yelled, she scowled and she yelled some more.
I tried some empathy. “It sounds like you are very frustrated that we have to turn off the TV now.”
“It’s not FAIR!!!” she yelled.
I tried again, “I know you don’t like that the TV is going off but we had an agreement about how long you can watch.”
Again, she screamed, “It’s just not FAIR!!”
And here is where I did something really new, I gave her some space, just let her be. I walked to the other side of the room and started puttering. I have to admit my heart was pounding and I really really really just wanted to turn the TV back on, give her ice cream, or yell. But I just kept organizing the crayons.
After a time she picked up a book. I puttered for a while longer and then sat down next to her with my own book. We sat side by side for a long time just breathing.
“I love you when you’re angry, you know,” I said and pulled her close. She looked at me with disbelief. “I love you when you are angry, I love you when you are happy, sad, mad, glad, board, excited, sleeping, awake, home or at school. I love you, no matter what.”
Our kids give us such opportunites to heal, and to do things differently, but the old patterns are strong, and we have to work, not on them, but on ourselves.