Dear MOB Society – He’s a handful, and it’s hard, and I just get so angry. I see the hurt in his eyes when I yell, when I clap my hands in frustration, and it tears my heart apart. I feel like such a failure. Can you help?
I stomped to the sink and threw the bowl hard onto the counter. Pureed avocado splashed up, splaying across the back splash, the window, my cheek. Letting out a growl, I whirled around to face the drooling, chubby, fireball of a boy and caught myself, my hands shaking in frustration. He was 9 months old.
My anger was ridiculous and misplaced. I knew it, and immediately a deep sense of remorse and regret washed over me. How could I possibly get so angry over his refusal to eat?
This was the first time I dipped my toe in the hot, bubbling waters of mom-guilt over my quick temper. As my feisty firstborn grew, it became apparent that he shared my ability to fly off the handle swiftly over matters of little importance, which only added to my own inner shame. I watched him struggle with anger, saw the way his outbursts so vividly mirrored my own, and I wallowed in my sense of failure.
I knew that it was my job as Mom to stay in control. I understood that I needed to be the one to model self-control to him, and yet…
Day after day, I felt like he was pushing my buttons on purpose just to see me explode. It all came to a head two years ago. We were four months into a big move. I was alone, without any friends, homeschooling for the first time, and my husband was unhappy in his work. Life was stressful, and I felt like I was drowning.
All I wanted was to get through this one simple grammar lesson.
When he refused, I felt it. The heat and the anger beginning to bubble. Taking deep breaths, I pressed forward, and on he pushed. He squirmed and whined and talked, his words laced with disrespect, and I snapped. Grabbing the notebook I lifted it up over my head and slammed it on the table as he flinched and covered his head with his hands.
He ran to his bedroom in tears, and I fell to my knees.
In those first quiet moments I feared that I had done irreparable harm. Our relationship would never again be the same. I broke trust and my tears spilled hot and heavy.
I’m so thankful for a God who meets me in the midst of my mess and holds each weighted tear in the palm of His Hand. By His mercy, that was not the end of the story (<<—Tweet that!), because while I may have modeled a quick temper that day, I also had the opportunity to model repentance. With tears in my eyes, I asked for my son’s forgiveness, and he quickly offered it.
It’s been two years since that day, and my first born can still push me to the brink on any given day. He struggles with his own anger issues, and my husband and I are constantly training him through his frustration. This is a sin pattern that has been passed to him, but I cannot, and will not, bear the weight of that in guilt.
This is the way that God will refine and use my son, just as He has refined and used me.
Some tools for dealing with anger:
– Prayer. There is absolutely no substitute for coming before the Lord and relinquishing your desire for control. When the emotions begin to rise, get alone, even if it’s just for a few minutes, and lay it all out before Him.
– Call a friend. Sometimes you just need to vent it all out.
– Call your husband. I have found that when my children are particularly ornery, it’s best to just hand them over to their father. This has several added benefits. First, I don’t have to be the bad guy. Second, they know it’s bad when we have to call dad, and this quickly shapes up everyone for the rest of the day. Third, I’m able to keep my emotions in check because my husband can handle the issue while I tuck into a corner and pray.
If you’re struggling, dear mom, you must understand that your anger does not define you as a mother. God, in His infinite grace and mercy, is ready and willing to supply you with all you need to make it through your days, when the little ones push and test and siphon off the tiny shred of sanity you have left.
When anger bubbles hot, hold onto to the hope that God gives freely – the hope of redemption, of restoration, of self-control, and of unending grace. “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” Psalm 103:8
This post is part of our first series of 2014, Hope for the Messiness of Motherhood. Find all of the posts in this series here.