I used to be pretty good at keeping my sh*t together. In fact, I was so even-keeled that, in second grade, the teacher moved a disruptive kid’s seat next to mine so my demeanor could "rub off on him." Now that children are in the mix, however, there's more everyday drama and triggers. Thanks to lost jackets, talking back, and cheating at board games, avoiding anger is pretty impossible. Still, I realize not all parents freak out over similar events. So, I have some questions for moms who never seem angry.
There is a calmness these mothers seem to posses when interacting with their children, and it shows in their slight smiles and the fact that the volume of their voices never seems to rise. They're not running after their kids or clutching their coffee like a security blanket. They're not scowling into their children’s backpack, as they confront the atrocity that is an unclosed lid on leftover hummus and pretzels.
They don’t seem to get angry about any of the daily pinpricks of annoyance that come with raising children. This makes me question the validity of my feelings. Is it not OK that I get angry? Dismissing an emotion doesn’t feel human to me and I am trying to teach my kids empathy: that they are completely justified in feeling whatever they are feeling, it’s just that they can’t act on that feeling all the time. Anger should be OK, but acting in anger is not.
So, as I try to follow my own parenting rules and not act out of anger, I find myself wondering how far do I, and should I, go? Do I dismiss my anger completely? Do I find new coping mechanisms? Do I keep myself from feeling a very real, very valid human emotion that, more often than not, is pretty damn justified? In the end, I must turn to the moms who never seem angry, and ask them the following questions:
"Is 'Keep Calm And Carry On' Actually A Thing?"
I thought it was just an ironic embroidered pillow my children gave me as a not-all-that-serious Mothers’ Day gift. You mean it actually works? Like, I should just not react with yelling or stomping or exaggerated sighs when my kids continue to ignore me about putting their shoes away? I should ignore them ignoring me? How will this make me feel better?
I know screaming doesn’t make me feel better in the long run, but in the moment it’s actually kind of amazing to hear how loud I can get.
"What Are You Taking?"
Deep breaths? Baths? Medication? What is the secret recipe for not flying off the handle when your kid just spilled the entire contents of her snack cup, after you warned her not to run with it?
(And if it's medication, does your insurance cover it?)
"Is It The Yoga?"
Please don’t attribute your serenity to yoga. I know the calming effects the practice has, but I do not have time to take all the yoga classes, which is exactly how many it will require to take the edge off my ire.
"Do You Have A Mantra? If So, Can I Borrow It?"
I heard chanting can help calm a person down. What do you tell yourself? “Anger is not productive?” “This too shall pass?” “I can choose my reaction?” All sound like great options, but none sound natural coming out of my mouth in the throes of an irate parenting moment.
When my 6-year-old son disappeared from a Halloween party to go trick-or-treating without my permission, I'm not one to repeat calm sayings to myself. So, what mantra works best in that situation?
"Is There An App For That?"
Technology may often be the cause of my anger (“OMG, why isn’t this page loading?”), but I’m willing to delegate anger management to my phone if you tell me that’s how the "cool moms" do it. Or do you go the opposite route, and totally unplug to disconnect from all the millions of things we need to compulsively check in order to help our kids live their best lives?
Just tell where to click to make it all go away.
"Do You Punch Your Pillows? Like, A Lot?"
There has to be some outlet for your frustration, right? Do you chop vegetables extra hard? Iron things that don’t need ironing? Without a valve to release any pent-up anger, you’d explode. Where does your hate go?
"Is This A Reverse Psychology Ploy?"
Maybe, just maybe, by never getting angry you succeed in exhausting all your kids’ attempts to get you mad, they eventually give up and become the most perfectly behaved little people on the planet. Most impressive. Playing the long game takes some serious willpower, though. I’m pretty sure my head would pop off if I attempted this.
"Are You A Robot?"
Cool if you are and absolutely no judgment. I just need to know if that’s what it takes to finally be able to chill the you-know-what out. If so, I might consider getting the surgery.
"Should I Be Worried About You?"
Seriously, your zen-like existence is freaking me out. It isn’t natural. I worry that you can’t feel any intense emotion and, well, that isn't OK. You deserve to bask in the immense joy that is the couch and the remote after your kids have gone to bed.
If you never get angry, how can you ever be happy?
"Have You Always Been This Calm Or Has Parenthood Fried Your Temperature Gauge?"
What were you like before you had kids? Does it take a certain kind of person to remain this unflappable? Were you just born this way? I used to be envious of those with fast metabolism but, after having kids, I'm now most jealous of people who are able to control their emotions.
"Can You Be My Personal Guru?"
Allow me to shadow you. Teach me your ways. Show me the light. Let your wisdom rain down on me. I want to know. I need to know.
Can there be peace in parenting? Is it something I can learn? Or am I forever doomed to travel barefoot down motherhood’s roads, paved with tiny Legos and the sharp reminders of my children’s relentless efforts to break me?