Not a lot of things make me angry.
A lot of things make me react, for sure, but I tend more towards melancholy, hurt feelings, depression. But anger isn’t generally one of my bigger go-to’s. Having said that, I have spent a VERY large portion of the past 18 months being extremely angry at my therapist.
At least I thought it was anger.
What I realized somewhere along the way was that 98% of the time, it wasn’t really anger at all. I was uncomfortable because he’d challenged my core beliefs. I was defensive because deep down I knew he was right. I was embarrassed because he’d brought things to light that I’d have rather kept hidden. I was frustrated because he’d put the onus on ME to examine, to question, to choose whether or not I was willing to change something that wasn’t serving me, or wasn’t serving the people I loved.
None of those things are the same as anger. It’s just that it’s So. Much. Easier. to blame someone else than it is to do the uncomfortable, messy, hard (soooo freaking hard) work of actually doing a little bit of self-reflection. If I blamed HIM, then I got to completely let myself off the hook. I didn’t have to admit, or change, a single thing.
But the thing is … it wasn’t him. It was me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about anger the past few days, ever since I read the comments on my “Can We Stop Being Jerks At Christmas” post when it ran on Scary Mommy. I stopped reading after the first couple hundred, because after awhile they all honestly sounded the same. I’m judgmental, I’m arrogant, I’m sanctimonious, and screw you, you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do-with-my-kids. Ad nauseam. By the way, while I’m on the subject, the not-really-a-word word, “Sanctimommy,” is THE silliest, most ridiculous word to come out of the internet, and the idea that I’m supposed to be offended or feel bad to have it hurled in my direction is…. laughable, at best.
The one big theme I saw though, the one that ran through nearly all the comments, was anger. Dear Lord, so much anger. Anger directed at me, for…. daring to suggest we be nicer to our kids. Does anyone else see the irony in that? Nothing makes people angrier faster than proposing a little more respect. A little more grace. A little more understanding. Nothing makes people angrier faster than challenging the status quo. Challenging the idea of punishment, of spanking, of time-outs, of manipulation. Nothing makes people angrier faster than bringing up the idea that YES, children can learn discipline, and self-control, and empathy, and personal responsibility without being shamed and threatened into it. Nothing makes people angrier faster than the assertion, that yes, gentle parenting is not only possible, but is in fact preferable, for all parties.
But I don’t actually think it’s anger.
There’s always much ado about the fact that “there’s no right or wrong way to parent”, and that to suggest otherwise is arrogant and judgmental. Well, sorry (except I’m not), but I do believe that kindness is always the right choice. I do believe that respect is always the right choice. I do believe that treating our kids the way we’d like to be treated, that treating our kids like HUMAN BEINGS instead of second class citizens is always the right choice. Always. Every time. And it’s a hill I’d be willing to die on… any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
And I wonder, if you’re so confident in your own choice, why on earth would it make you so angry if someone else suggested something different?
It’s likely because you’re not really angry. You’re uncomfortable, you’re defensive, you’re frustrated, you’re embarrassed. Your toes have been stepped on. But you’re not actually angry. And you’re certainly not angry at me. You don’t even know me. But just like with me and my therapist, it’s easier to be angry at me than it is to actually think about anything I said. To actually ponder it. To actually wonder if I made any sort of point worth listening to. It’s easier to make it my fault. To call me names. To call my kids names.
It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to church with any regularity, but I have some very strong memories of some sermons that really affected me. And they were never sermons that were sunshine and rainbows, never sermons that patted me on the back for what I was already doing. No, they were the ones that called me out, the ones that challenged me. The ones that stepped on my toes. The ones that made me want to hide, red-faced, under the pew because surely he was talking directly about me.
So I get it. I actually do get it.
But I think that parents – ALL OF US as parents – should be nicer to our kids. And no negative comment will ever change that.
So call me names. Call me judgmental. Call me arrogant. I can take it. But some day, at some point, you might want to admit the fact that it’s not actually me you’re mad at.