Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Anger's Power to Scar

The other day, I followed one of my three-year-olds into the bathroom, only to discover that he had wet himself—again. This had been going on for several weeks, once or twice a day. He’d simply get so caught up in what he was doing that he wouldn’t reach the bathroom until he started to pee his pants. This time, I was furious. I started yelling at him, “What is wrong with you? Why are you acting like a baby? I can’t believe you wet another pair of pants! Look at this! When are you going to learn?” I said all those things to him that parents aren’t supposed to say to their child. I lost it. But my little boy was determined to be brave in the face of my anger. He looked up at me in defiance, his eyes meeting fire with fire. And then, seeing the rage on my face, his little lips began to quiver, and he broke down in tears. His tiny body slumped to the ground. I felt about two inches high. No, not even that tall. “I’m so sorry, honey,” I sobbed, as I gathered him in my arms. The look of utter disappointment on his face still haunts me. I had really let him down as a parent.

That took me back to another day, when I was a child myself, and I’d made my mother angry. I don’t remember what my offense was, but apparently she’d reached the limits of her tolerance because she spanked me. It didn’t hurt very much, so I laughed at her—which made her even angrier! When my dad came home from work that night, I got another spanking. And that one hurt a lot. It was a horrible day for my mother and me, one that I remember all these years later.

Ahhh, the power of anger to scar. And angry words can cut just as deep as angry actions. Surely, my horrible words to my son hurt just as much as, maybe more than, the spankings I received many years ago. I can only hope that my son won’t remember this day like the one I remember with my mom.

I think most parents will admit, though, to struggling with anger at certain times in their children’s lives. We’re overworked and overtired. Our kids seem to continually defy us. We say the same things over and over, with seemingly few results. It’s tough to maintain control of our tempers. Those sweet “Cosby” show moments certainly seem few and far between.

But I don’t want my kids to remember the looks of fury on my face as they reflect on their childhoods. I want them to picture me gazing at them with love and adoration. I want them to know that I still cherish them, even when they’ve wet their pants for the hundredth time. But it’s tough to show in the heat of the moment.

I think that’s the greatest gift we can give to our children—our unconditional love. Sure, they need to be told when they’ve done wrong and, at times, be appropriately punished, but they should never doubt that we still love them even if we don’t like what they do. It’s a legacy we should all seek to pass on to our children.

1 comment:

  1. As a career advisor working with many different adults in the somewhat precarious profession of showbusiness, it always stikes me as sad how many people (and i include myself) are afraid to either take a necessary risk or sometimes to stop pursuing a wrong course of action for fear of losing approval. How different it might be if we really did learn that principle Susan mentioned that someone can disapprove of what we do (after all not everyone is ever going to agree with all of our decisions) but that it doesn't mean the people who matter will stop approving us as people.
    But even if we haven't learnt that for ourselves it's certainly a principle we can teach our kids...or since as wih Susan's son , kids usually know this anyhow we can do whatever we need to to avoid muddying that truth for them!

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