Monday, May 2, 2011

Anger management

Sometimes I'm convinced that the primary reason I have kids is so they can teach me my limitations. Andrew is particularly good at this--probably because we're alike in so many ways. Case in point, at his recent preschool graduation, Andrew was awarded, "most determined." I was (I'll admit) a little appalled by this, because I could see it meaning that he'd been giving the teachers a hard time (they reassured me that it was a good thing--he's just good at sticking with tasks). When I told my mom about this, she laughed and said, "well, you would have gotten the same award as a preschooler."

One of the things I've struggled with as a teenager and an adult is controlling my temper. I actually thought I'd more or less over come it; when I got married, I hadn't yelled at anyone in years. Sure, I got annoyed on occasion, but I was generally able to work through it and even have civilized conversations about it. Even after I married, Dan and I generally able to work out our disagreements through discussion, without resorting to real fights. (Although now that I think about it, Dan probably deserves more credit for that than I do. It would take a lot to provoke him to a real fight). And then I had Andrew. Even as a baby he was trying--so determined to have his own way, so frustrated when it didn't work out. And I found myself yelling, again. Not all the time, mind you--usually this happens when I've tried four times to respond calmly and the fifth time I just can't do it anymore. (I'm not alone in this--there was a NYT article a year or so ago that argued that "Shouting is the New Spanking." Incidentally, I enjoyed the comments to this article the most--it was clear that some of the well-intentioned commentors had never had children; one person went so far as to suggest that parents yelled because they lacked the vocabulary to do otherwise. Um, I don't think so. Whatever my problem is, it's not a limited vocabulary.)

This brings us to this morning. I volunteered to make cupcakes for a community fund-raiser this evening; I was supposed to drop the cupcakes off between 11-noon. I spent the morning mixing cupcakes (two different kinds); the kids helped me put the liners in the cupcake pans and then played with a neighbor kid for a while. I kept thinking this would be a great opportunity to help my kids learn about the importance of service.

Then, however, my deadline approached, and with it, my stress level increased. I tried to call my contact, to let her know I'd be late, but none of the numbers I could find for her worked. When I finally loaded up the cupcakes and kids into the minivan, I'd just about had it. I was frustrated, worried about being late (I abhor being perceived as irresponsible), and not nearly as patient with my kids as I should have been.

Later, after I figured out a contingency plan (take the cupcakes to the event when they're setting up), I was able to calm down and I apologized to my children.

"That's okay, mommy," Andrew said. "Everyone gets frustrated once in a while."

So now it seems I have something else to learn from my son: a better sense of perspective.

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