Sunday, August 25, 2013


What an amazing summer we are having. I guess the "not having to go into work" thing really agrees with both me, and Owen. I need to figure out a way to do this every summer!  Sabbatical is the best.

We've been taking advantage of the AMAZING weather on the East Coast for the last month. We've been outside constantly, to the beach, hiking, to the various attractions. It's been SO much fun.

Through it all, though, I'm dealing with some difficult behavior right now with Owen. He has been going into what I'll call "rages"--like tantrums, I guess, but directed toward me with uncontrollable anger that results in hitting, scratching, and biting. It's really hard to take, especially on certain days when I am not at my best. What sets him off? The most mundane things, of course: chiefly, when I say "no" to something he really wants to have, or thinks that he should have (like ice cream first thing in the morning, yet another video after he's already watched 2, etc). Yesterday, it was leaving the park. It was time to go and lunchtime was already past, and we really needed to get in the car. I gave numerous warnings and tried to gently direct him toward the car. He was not having it. He went into an absolute rage and began scratching me (ow, it really does hurt!). At the point of no return at this point, I had to literally stuff him into the car. This, of course, only made him more angry. He raged the entire 15 minute ride home, to the point where I was worrying about his vocal chords and bruising from the car seat straps. As we were nearing our house he THREW A FULL JUICE BOX box at my head, THEN the cup holder from his car seat!  I cannot tell you how angry that made me. I know, it's exactly the wrong response---to meet uncontrollable anger of a 3 year old with your own barely-controllable anger. But wow did that piss me off. And wow, I yelled.

What a nightmare!  When we got home, I proceeded with the punishment (which he is fully aware of at this point) for hitting, scratching, etc, which is to go to his room and be in his room by himself. He hates it, of course. And he begins wailing at the door, which I need to lock for any of this to have any effect whatsoever. It makes me feel like the evil stepmonster.

After he has recovered and we've hugged (and after I have cried--I cannot help it), I try to talk to him about anger and how angry he was and what he did, something like this "boy, you sure were angry, honey, and Mommy got angry, too. Boy, we were both yelling and that was no fun at all. I love you, sweetie, but hitting and scratching Mommy is just not acceptable. And yelling is no good either. .. etc" This is the usual tone of the "reconciliation" and then he moves on happily whereas I am usually an emotional wreck for the entire rest of the day.

I want to emphasize that I don't see anything particularly alarming in Owen's behavior, at least not yet. I have had the experience of spending time with a wildly tantruming 3-4 year old (my nephew), who would wail and rage for 2-3 hours EVERY DAY, and Owen is not even close. So at this point I am not concerned that there is "something wrong" with Owen, especially given his age, and the ease with which he recovers from these events (and their relative infrequency).

But what happens is that I really beat myself up over these events. I think about how I acted in the moment (the anger in the car after being belted by two things in the head---how could I have acted differently I ask myself?). THE biggest challenge I have faced as a parent has been dealing with my own anger. I have a very hot temper and there have been a few moments in the last 2 years where I have lost my temper and yelled like a banshee. It kills me, emotionally, every time. For days. I hate myself in those moments and think about how much I hated it when my father directed his unfounded and inappropriate anger toward me. I am working on this. I know that the most important thing for me is to talk to Owen about these incidents, and to talk about "when Mommy got angry" as well as when he got angry.

At the same time, as indicated by my short reference to my own upbringing above, this is really bringing out some challenges from my own childhood---the fear that I have somehow "done this" to Owen. WOW, isn't parenting just the best at bringing this stuff up?

I also realize how we all go through this as parents, but on different issues. My best friend had a childhood where she was constantly moving and felt abandoned by her father and sometimes her mother. As a mother, she is really struggling with weaning, with separating or leaving her son for even short period, with even letting him cry for one second. I didn't have ANY issues whatsoever with that stuff. But I understand why she would.

But the anger...eegads, that's my cross. And anger has such a stigma. I've carried the stigma of being a "hot tempered" lady my entire life.  It can be hell on relationships, and I know that it has been the demise of one or two of those, or at least part of the demise. But my closest friends have also made me realize that anger (when controlled of course) has been a source of strength for me, pushing me to set and reach goals and to make things happen in my life.

I am really going on a tangent here, but it's getting to the meat of what this post is about. Owen is fine--happy, smart, creative, imaginative, loving, and sweet. I am also feeling extremely happy, strong, and optimistic right now in my life. And our love for each other is crazy intense and just the best of all worlds. But I see anger as the main challenge of our relationship, like, forever.


Heather said...

Wow, I could have easily written this post myself...same story over here. Well, except for the scratching and biting. I'm not proud of myself at all for how bedtime went down tonight--too much yelling on both of our parts. Like you, I have a short temper, too, and I really, really hate it. I wish I had some sage advice for you, but I'm battling the same thing (and the guilt!! Oh, the guilt!). What is it with three year olds and anger? The same things provoke it--being told no, wanting something that Mom won't say yes to. I hate it when she refuses to do something I've asked her nicely to do, several times. I've heard that this angry stage in three year olds does pass's hoping!

Jo said...

Heather! We have so much in common! :) Too bad we don't live nearby.