October 14, 2010

The Wide-Eyed, Clenched-Jawed Monster

I lose my temper.

I’m not proud of this. I wish I were one of those people who, like my father-in-law says, are sweeter by nature than others are by grace. But I’m not. I have a short fuse, a quick temper, and a wide-eyed, clenched-jaw, scary look when I get angry. It’s not pretty.

Nowhere does my temper cause me more pain than in my parenting attempts. My children’s antics can make me go from zero to sixty in no time and anger me more than anyone else. I don’t like this side of myself and I’m trying to be a gentler momma. Sometimes I succeed, many times I fail.

One of those times happened this week. It was one of those days. You know, THOSE days. From the moment my feet hit the floor everything was a struggle. The kids woke up in their own difficult moods, the morning was hard, lunch was hard, life was hard. By the afternoon, I was tired, grumpy, and dejected. I asked Isabel to pick up some toys lying around the living room while I piddled in the kitchen. She came to the kitchen with all the toys, dumped them on the island and started to leave the room. When I turned around and saw the toys on the table I lost it.

Silly, right? It was just some toys on the table. Right. Right. RIGHT. I see that now. But at that moment those toys were the whole day’s worth of repeated requests, whining, and siblings’squabbles.


With a clean motion of my arm I swept all the toys from the island.

- I TOLD YOU TO PUT THE TOYS AWAAAAAAY! growled the wide-eyed, clenched-jawed monster as she threw the toys to the floor.

As soon as the last item hit the ground I realized what I had done: Jonas, Isabel’s precious newborn baby she had lovingly “carried in her belly” for two days, and then birthed to great rejoicing of the whole family, was among the victims of my ire.

Too late.

Her little face crumpled into a look of such pain and betrayal that I wanted to crawl into the trashcan and be carried to the curb the way I deserved at that moment. All the anger evaporated in an instant giving way to nothing but shame and regret.

I once heard someone say that apologizing to your children only makes you look weak in their eyes. I pity the children who grew up in that household. Thankfully, I follow the One who is as gentle and humble as a lamb, so as quickly as I could I hit my knees to come eye-to-eye with my little girl and try to explain to her, between her tears and mine, how sorry, so, so sorry I was.

- Mami made a mistake, baby. I should not have reacted the way I did. Mami got angry, but she did not have the right to yell and throw Jonas to the floor. Please forgive me, do you forgive me?

Thankfully, she is learning to follow the One how is as gentle and humble as a lamb, so she nodded and nuzzled her head on my shoulder. Thank you, Jesus, for a child’s innocent forgiveness.

I teach Isabel many things every day. With me she is learning to read, to count, to cook. But I worry about the other lessons she is learning also; the ones I don’t want her to learn. My lack of self-control could damage her little soul and teach her ways to respond to anger for which I will have to give account. “In your anger do not sin” Paul reminds us in Ephesians. I want my children to watch me get angry and know that it is normal. I also want them to see in my response a reflection of the God I serve who is “compassionate, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.” (from Exodus 34).

I need your help. Will you please pray for me and ask me how it’s coming?


Jennifer said...

You KNOW I'm there with you girl! But, the Lord DOES answer prayers, and I can see an improvement in my efforts in the last week. So we will keep praying for each other that God will give us gentle, humble spirits and patience with our precious babies that he has put in our care only for a few fleeting moments. Love you girl! Thanks for your willingness to share your weaknesses - we should all do more confessing! : )

Unknown said...

Oh my sweet friend, we are so very alike with our tempers. (Good thing God found us mild-mannered men!)

Praying for you!

Gaby said...

Thank you, girls! It's nice to know we're not alone and to have sisters praying for us and with us.

Jennifer said...

You are not alone! Many of my blogs are about this same weakness that I share. I will pray for you, and please pray for me! Yes, we both need to allow God to change us, but we don't need to beat ourselves up in the process. Satan wants us to feel like failures, but we're not.
If I may offer one tip that's helped me...it's very simple, but I don't always do it: I pray first thing before I get up that God would give me patience, and in addition, that he would let me feel the effect of my words and actions the way a three or four-year-old would feel them. Obviously, I am still me, but I know God has honored that prayer on more than one occasion.

Gaby said...

Thank you, Jennifer. That is a great idea that I will try. Knowing you are not alone helps you to feel you are not an awful mom, just one that needs grace like all others.

Christy @ One Fun Mom said...

Sooooo good, Gaby. Thanks for linking this up. You're talent for writing it all out is amazing and this is definitely what I'm working on as well.

Thank you for your transparency.

I, like you, am sad for the children who grew up in that household. My children and I experience the most healing when I ask forgiveness.

Rebecca said...

I found your post through Christy's Children and Anger series.. I am so glad I did. I am sitting here in front of the screen with tears in my eyes, seeing myself the way someone else would see me if they peeked through a window during one of those instances. Transparency is harder than holding the mirror up - giving others a glimpse of our weaknesses takes great courage and I admire both you and Christy for being able to do so with such grace. This is not an easy subject to talk about, but I think together, sharing experiences and encouraging each other through the journey, we can overcome this monster we carry within us. I'll be praying for you all. Please pray for me too.


Gaby said...

Thank you for stopping by, Rebecca. I think what Christy and I understood as we were writing these posts is that often this is a mom's "dirty little secret": I get angry with my kids. And you feel so alone when you blow up or blow it and are embarrassed to admit it to someone. And you are not! Christy is crazy courageous to even go to a Recovery meeting and I admire her for that. It does not mean we are right to react that way, but it does mean it is normal and we are not alone is trying to take control of our emotions. I will definitely pray for you, girl!