Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Anger Management

Last week, I got angry.  I knew it was coming.  After a week or so's worth of emails, texts and phone calls about a children's birthday party, of all things, I sensed the limits of my patience were in sight.  Dark clouds gathered.  I knew I was about to declare myself really rather cross.  And then Mr W called, with news of yet more changes to said birthday party plan.  The anger arrived, a big storm of indignation, a whirl of rage, where I physically shook like rattling windows in a hurricane, followed by raining tears...and then...a sense of we always say after a good summer thunderstorm "Ooof, we needed that".

I don't get angry often, but when I do it tends to arrive with fairly startling force.  I remember my Grandma as being the same.  She seemed to have vast reserves of patience and love, and then suddenly - too late - we'd realise we'd tapdanced on her very last nerve, and the storm was upon us.  Whenever I get angry with the children, and am inevitably reflecting on it later, racked with guilt, I take great comfort from the knowledge that I loved and admired my Gran hugely, even if she did occasionally unleash a little fury in our presence.

When I say I don't get angry often, I'm talking about moments of real rage, not the minor annoyances or irritations that can happen every day.  Pffft, there are plenty of those.  One of the worst offenders is the Facebook status updates of women (and I'm afraid it is usually women) essentially posting their to-do lists and telling us all how many loads of washing they've already cracked through that morning.  Believe me, I know there are times when you really would like a trophy for cleaning the shower, but it's just a thing that's got to be done, no?  Then there's the people who mistake being at home for being an airhead, and assume that because you've chosen to be home with your children, it must be because you couldn't cut it academically, or in your career.  Not so, mon frère, some of us just choose to put our energy into running around the common chasing small people in superhero suits, rather than climbing the career ladder.

See, even reading the above paragraph makes me feel a little disgruntled.  It's not so much a case of Hulk-style "You won't like me when I'm angry", it's more that I don't like me when I'm angry.  Angry me is negative, draining, faintly out of control.  I'm all for a little healthy repression.  At work I used to be encouraged to get angry.  It was good to have a little tension in the creative process, I was told, and it kinda made sense. It wasn't a strength of mine, but I can see why having someone constantly seeking to keep the peace wasn't always the best way to arrive at great creative work.

In motherhood, however, being angry seems to be a pretty definite no-no.  I remember thinking that potty training was like some form of unique torture.  Someone who you know is perfectly able to understand you, is going to wee and poo in their pants, on the stairs, at the dinner table, wherever they so please, and you must use your kind voice, wash said pants, disinfect said stairs, all whilst being encouraging and positive.  I think I lasted about a week with both boys before Mummy Got Tough.  And funnily enough, that seemed to work wonders for their understanding.

I think a distinction must be drawn between getting angry and completely losing one's temper.  Even at my most cross with the children, I have been keenly aware of my language and the commitment Mr W and I made to never smacking in temper.  I've been the angry Mum in Sainsbury's, and have felt the weighty stare of judgement upon me.  But as long as I am in control of that crossness, I can deal with it, and see it as part of bringing the boys up with discipline.

I have only had true red mist rage once.  It was at my first ad agency, shortly before I resigned (fortunately).  I worked for two fairly ridiculous bosses at the time.  One Friday afternoon, as I worked hard to finish a presentation that had to be sent out, and after much less-than-sober provocation from both of them, I felt a rushing sound in my ears, literally saw red mistiness in front of my eyes and heard myself screaming "I'LL F*CKING HAVE YOU!"  How mortifying to know that when really pushed, I'm more Peggy Mitchell than Bree Van de Kamp.

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