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the monster inside

When I shared the story of the mom who had rage over goldfish crackers, I promised to follow up with more later. I am reminded daily of that story while I struggle to find inner…and perhaps more importantly, outer…peace in a chaotic household. I have often been told how patient, calm, quiet, or even keel I am. Once asked to describe me, my partner in seventh grade Spanish class said "Luisa es aburrido;" translation: Louise (my middle name & alias in class) is boring. Not bored, boring. But I digress.

I take these normally complimentary remarks with a twinge of guilt because deep down I know the truth. I suppose it’s true that very few people besides close friends and family have ever seen me lose my temper. Alas, the beast is there all the same, lying in wait for me to drop my guard. Often I am surprised to see it surface, as I usually pretend that I am impervious to anger. I am a hollow reed, I accept the things I cannot change, I’m rubber and you’re glue.

The cause of my recent tirades is the same; for some reason or other I don’t sleep one night, and following in quick succession, I endure a day with little or no napping by both of my children. Enter Genevieve, my brilliant but sly child, who seems to sense my weakness and decide she’d like to toy with me. I could relay the exact nature of her crimes, but that’s really not the point, is it? The point is I snap and drag her to time out. And oh no, I never spank her, not because I think it’s wrong but because I feel I can inflict more torture if I pray on her emotions, so I play mind games instead. I attempt to make her feel guilty for her behavior by telling her how sad or disappointed I am. And why am I so sad and disappointed, you might justifiably ask?

I’m actually not. If I could cool off before I hauled her to the corner of shame, I would see that I am in fact just tired and frustrated and looking for someone to take it out on. I would also see that I had just provided her the exact response she wanted. I got played. As my wise pediatrician puts it, "Attention, positive or negative, is toddler currency. When you give it to her, you pay out." Ca-ching!

This is where it gets funny. Even now I find myself chuckling a bit at her response. I call her my little sociopath, for as much as I squawk and moan and pull my hair out, she stays cool as a cucumber, never betraying a look of fear or regret, even smiling slightly at my insanity. God love her for her ability to shrug me off. I can only hope I will manage to quell my tidal wave of fury before I entwine us both in a permanent dance of anger. For now, I seek the wisdom of less emotional mothers out there, like this woman