Yep. I get angry. I am wiling to bet that as a parent, you do too. I have had more than my fair share of anger. Lately, I have been angry at the changes in my life. Angry at the bills that come in the mail. Angry at the job market. Angry that my pants don’t fit the way I want them to. Angry that there is currently no chocolate cake in our house.
All the bigger things that anger and annoy me are poisoning me and my attitude. I can actually feel it seeping into my bloodstream and flowing out of my pores. I try to push it back because no one wants to be around a negative person. Besides, history tells me that my feels will go unacknowledged anyway…
But, it’s always there. It’s hard not to let if effect the person you want to be deep down inside. Soon, everything makes you angry. I really just want to be heard. (Popular to contrary belief, when you ask someone what is wrong and you continue to do the thing that upsets them, or “forget” what someone says, that’s not really listening. It’s what you do when you are selfish and don’t have the other person’s best interest in mind. It’s what you do when you just want to get back to playing Candy Crush.) The louder I scream to get someone to listen, it seems the more people turn away.
Then one day while you are wallowing in your all-consuming bubble of disdain for the world, you see the damage you’ve unknowingly done.
Yesterday, my little guy, who is 7, helped me by rinsing off his breakfast dishes in the sink. He sat down on my new couch and left a wet streak of tiny fingerprints. “Look what you did to the couch,” I said in what I thought was a matter-of-fact way, and his eyes began to well-up.
“What’s wrong?” I asked him. He stumbled and choked on his words. I looked him directly in the eye. I put my hand on his shoulder and waited. His bottom lip trembled and the tears trickled down his cheek. After nearly 10 minutes, he was able to tell me. “I get blamed for everything.” My heart broke and rejoiced at the same time.
In the moments I watched him struggle, I understood what he was feeling. I have felt that way all my life. I have a problem. I have feelings. But, I feel like if I say something, I will be punished, ridiculed, retaliated against, or worse – no one will hear me at all.
On the other hands, I was THRiLLEd that he was finally able to talk to me and verbalize his feelings! (We have been working on this issue with him since he was 4 or 5.)
I wanted to make sure that he knew his concerns were being heard – REALLY HEARD.
I told him I could understand how he would feel that way, but that sometimes we have to accept the facts (blame) for the things that we do. Since he was the only on with little wet hands who had sat on the couch, I knew it was him. I told him that I also knew he did not do it on purpose. We talked a little more, and after a couple minutes to think about it, he was able to smile again.
Here’s the 5 second talk that every parent should have with their children. No matter how old. Rinse. Repeat OFTEN:
During our talk, I felt I had to explain to him that I loved him, and I know he loves me. I explained that we both are allowed to be angry. When I could see he was not quite convinced, I asked him to tell me the opposite word to “love.” He answered correctly, “hate.” Then I asked him to tell me the opposite of the word “angry.” Again, he was able to answer correctly, “happy.”
We were able to agree that these are two different sets of words that are not necessarily related. I can always love him, AND at times, I can be angry or happy with him.
That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Just talk TO your kids (and anyone else you may care about). BUT make sure you HEAR them.
Let them know they can come to you and say anything. Reassure them that you may get angry, but your love will never go away. It is the basis of honesty. It is the basis of trust. It is the basis of forgiveness and respect.
I am still going to get angry. I am far from a perfect person and I am not a perfect parent. I just try to treat my children like human beings. I want to let them know that they are decent, capable people with every right to be heard. They have been dealt some crappy hands in life, but they also need to know that they are blessed beyond most. They deserve it, and I love them enough to say it.