I grew up around a stepfather who had an explosive temper. He would throw things, hit people, even toss us around the room. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I swore I would never put up with that kind of behavior and I would never inflict such pain on anyone else. But I did have one little piece of his temper I mistakenly carried on.
Now, I thought this was okay. It made me feel better and my theory was that I was only hurting things, not people. And I never destroyed other people’s things (well, mostly never) so I believed that this was justified. It seemed like a legitimate outlet for my rage.
I got married very young, in my early twenties, and had my first son that same year. He was incredibly smart (and challenging) and always kept me on my toes. I was constantly trying to figure out how to deal with him outsmarting me, despite my previous decade of working with children. Little did I realize, he was going to teach me something very important about myself.
One day, I was getting ready to go somewhere. I wanted to wear a certain pair of shoes. But I could only find one of the shoes. The other one was missing. As I searched my closet, I became more and more frustrated. I began to have increasingly irrational thoughts about this injustice.
“Why can’t I ever find anything in this house?”
“I can never just leave. Something always goes wrong.”
“This is so unfair. I’m always trying to keep up with everything and now I can’t just put on my shoes? One has to be missing?”
“This is insane. This shoe has to be here. Why does this always happen to me?”
“I hate this stupid closet. Why is it so messy?”
And then, I snapped.
I started to empty the closet, hurling items through the air and across the room. Shoes and clothes and belts and whatever else was in my way started piling up all over the place. I was going to punish that closet for causing me such problems in my life. I was SO MAD!
My 1½ year-old walked into the room. I barely noticed him. I smugly thought for a moment that he would see how mad I was and agree that this was ridiculous that I couldn’t find this shoe. Of course the contents of my closet deserved to be tossed through the air. The place looked like a bomb went off.
Well, he agreed it was ridiculous alright. He started to laugh.
And then, it hit me. I was ridiculous. Not the shoe. Me.
Here I was, throwing stuff all over the room to prove a point. Prove a point? What point? That I would have to clean the whole place up? That I was capable of tossing things around? Even a baby could see how stupid I looked. A baby, in all his innocence, was laughing at how utterly comical my behavior was. My rage at that shoe immediately dissipated. I was a fool.
My toddler taught me an important lesson that day.
Throwing things in a fit of rage didn’t prove a point to anyone and wasn’t justified by any means. All that behavior did was make me look like an absolute idiot. I never did it again.
I’ll never forget that day. The day I thought I was so right and so entitled to rage against a closet and a shoe.
But a very smart baby who happens to be my son, toddled into my room and put me in my place. I’m glad he did. Because that is the day I learned that anger is an emotion that needs to felt and embraced, then expressed in appropriate ways. Sometimes, when I feel angry, I’m not angry at all. I’m frustrated, overwhelmed, embarrassed, resentful or even sad. Retaliation does little to help me figure that out. But thinking about how I feel does. And then I can either resolve the cause of it or just express myself and move on. I also learned that as much as I’m here to teach my children, they are here to teach me, too. So I listen. And I learn. After all, I wouldn’t be much of a teacher if I didn’t hear what my children had to say. My little boy taught me to tame my temper. And in turn, I’ve been able to teach my children how to handle their own emotions with dignity and grace.
Smartest. Toddler. Ever.
What do you think your kids would say to you about your behavior, if they could? Have you ever struggled with anger?
- Anger Management Techniques (kesirajuramprasad.wordpress.com)
- Great article about the philosophy of anger. (sharedplatformblog.wordpress.com)
- Toddler lessons (insightsfromtheordinary.wordpress.com)
- raging lunatic seeks not-so-raging lunatic for advice (searchingandfearless34.wordpress.com)