“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end” Proverbs 29:11
The new morning routine now includes me carrying a bath towel downstairs to the living room. I’m learning that quality towels, puffs, and Ziplock baggies are all powerful tools in the game of parenting.
For me, moming has become a process of learning to care more and learning to care less at the same time.
I realize life with a kid isn’t going to get easier. The challenges will simply change shape.
The farther I wade into these waters of parenting, the more I realize how deep my battle with anger and control permeate my life and impact those around me. And I do not want these fleshy struggles to define my relationships, especially my relationship with my child.
So, after carefully observing some of my current patterns, I asked God for help. And the Lord is speaking to my heart and giving me some practical tools to tackle the angry mama in me.
Perhaps you can relate to my “no-no” rhythm:
Before my recent revelation, a typical morning had included me venturing downstairs with a baby on my hip after my 6 and ½ hours of broken sleep. I’d trip over Baylor, my dog, who was asking to go potty. I’d place the baby down and she would cry and cling desperately to my ankles while I drug her across the floor, reaching for the milk and coffee mug. My coffee would get thrown together. I’d fumble for the remote and turn on some music to try and cheer her up. She would eventually let go of my ankle and stop crying while making her way to the toy chest, I’d make a break for it and throw open the front door so Baylor could go potty. I’d stand on the front steps and yell at him angrily to “go potty and come home right now,” while praying under my breath that he would not dart into the road and get hit by a car. I’d take momentary peeks into the living room to ensure Summer was not eating trash, phone chargers, or dog toys. If I tried to pick her up at this point, she would flail and scream until I put her down. I’d become more angry with the dog for taking too long, and I’d resort to using bribery to get him to come home. He would then gallop to the front door to receive his treat. I’d close the door and run over to fill his water and food bowl. I’d then sprinkle some puffs on the ground, find my coffee, and collapse on the couch to wake up.
I’d begin to try and center my heart on Jesus with worship music gently playing in the background.
Then the baby would do something to the dog, or the dog would do something to the baby, and all I could do was hear myself saying “no-no.” “We do not lick doggies.” “No sir, do not knock her over!” “No Baylor, do not lick her head.” “No-no, doggies don’t sit in baby laps.” “We do not play in toilets!” “Do not eat that dog food.” “Baylor, do not eat her breakfast.”“No-no, do not lick that outlet.” “Do not unplug the TV.” “Do not climb into that cabinet.” – “Please do not grab the dog’s private parts” – “no-no, do not…”
Then I’d hear a crash. “Please, no. No.” I’d think to myself.
Yup. She did it again. She picked up the dog’s water bowl and dumped it on top of the pumpkin. Why is watering this pumpkin her new favorite habit?!
And such would define my entire day. “No-no’s” and “please dont’s” and “let’s not’s,” absorbed every minute of every hour of every day. And with it, anger seethed under the surface until a weak moment when it would leak out onto those I love. Or complete strangers in traffic. Or the innocent solicitor who decided to ring my doorbell during Summer’s naptime.
I noticed that “no’s” were becoming a vacuum of fun in my home. And in the void of fun, my anger grew.
I want nothing more than for my home to be a place of joy and fun. God’s intention is that my home would become a resting place, and a hub of His favorite things, which includes rest, connection, laughter and fun. And mistakes and messes. And genuine conversations, and consistent affection and edification.
So, as I heard the water splash around the pumpkin and as my dog took his morning walk over to the couch to let me know that his sister had watered the pumpkin yet again, I did not get up. I knew in my spirit that I could not allow “no-no’s” or my anger to continue running the show.
I sat on the couch and asked God to come show me how to create a space that He delights in. I asked him how to practically tackle the angry mom in me that wants to grab the baby’s hand and yell “NOOOOO!!!! I just filled that bowl up with water and cleaned the floor!!! And I was up all night nursing you!!!! And I’m tired. And you did this yesterday! And the day before that and the day before that!!!”
I sort of expected God to give me some lofty reminder of my 11 month old’s capacity for obedience and learning. I expected Him to give me a scripture to memorize or to bring me back to a deep breathing exercise or breath prayer. Or to urge me to have some sort of “5 step quiet time” or to sing a worship song.
Instead, God spoke to me in this moment and said, “What if you just expected her to water the pumpkin every day? What would that look like?”
I thought to myself how that may change my way of being. Could it be that simply adjusting my expectations may rein in my anger?
It’s funny how expectations drive our moods and behaviors. Actually, if we approached a great deal of life’s struggles through the lens of expectation management, casualties would be drastically minimized. Interpersonal problems, marital pressures, social anxiety, sibling conflict, depression, etc. could be alleviated if we quieted ourselves long enough to observe and re-calibrate our expectations.
So the next morning when I woke up, I threw a bath towel over my shoulder and headed downstairs with the baby on my hip. I expected her to cry when I put her down, and she did. I expected the dog to take what felt like 30 minutes to pee, and he did. And I expected her to water the pumpkin, and she did.
And it was okay. I was not disappointed or surprised. In fact, I was a bit proud that I had so adequately predicted the behavior of my kids.
I did not say “no” and I did not get angry. Every time I felt tempted to say “no-no,” I asked God to come give me a practical tool to use to calm and control myself.
I figure now would be the time to start learning these things, while she is still so little. If there’s one thing I have learned as a child and family therapist, it’s that re-direction does not always work with strong-willed kids. “No” is not only gibberish, but often a launching pad for disobedience. We can’t punish an adventurous spirit. We can’t admonish a personality type.We can’t value compliance over connection. Because God doesn’t.
I know I will continue learning, and I may be getting a lot of this wrong. I’m new at being a mama and she is new at being a human. Ryan is new at being a daddy and Baylor is new at being a big fur-brother.
Yes, she needs to learn to not dump the water bowl over, to not eat phone chargers, to not consume trash, and to not touch the dog’s private parts. And I will not be that mom who never tells her kid “no.”
But, more than anything, I must learn to control myself to maximize the meaning of the rules established in our home. I want my “no” to carry significant weight in our family.
So, I’m inviting you into this process. I look forward to sharing practical tools I learn for “Tackling the Angry Mama” with other parents struggling with anger and striving for fun.
“In your anger, do not sin” Ephesians 4:26
“Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” James 1:20