Aug 30, 2013

The Raging Mama

We had been reading through the kindergarten science textbook, the girls and I, and we came to the chapter on animals.  We read the page about insects and spiders, and the text noted that insects have six legs while spiders have eight.  We talked a little bit about this, counted the legs on each, wrote down 6 and 8 next to the respective bug, and then I attempted to review, the book still open in front of us.

I start with, "How many legs does an insect have?"
She replies offhandedly as if we hadn't just been talking about it, "I don't know."
I try again, pointing to the number 6 jumping up and down on the page, "A spider has eight legs, how many does an insect have?"
She counters again in the same casual manner, "I don't know."

I can feel the steam building, my armpits sticky and my face blushing.  I'm half-amazed that she could not remember two numbers that we had just spent 5 minutes discussing and writing. The other half of me is irritated that my daughter is not taking me seriously. My voice is starting to grate, and I feel a lump form in the back of my throat.  I tell her I am in earnest, and now is no time for fooling around. I continue to question her, unwilling to just move on.

By the end of the incident, I am red-faced and ticked off, and she is in tears.  I am  a n g r y.  ANGRY.  The temper that I didn't think I had rears its ugly head.  I have it.  And not just that time.  When a sweet gift from a dear one, just received, is broken by careless hands.  When the milk is accidentally spilled for the second time in five minutes.  When the older ones make the youngest cry from unintentional roughness. When sisters provoke and agitate repeatedly. When I have been up countless times in the night and I am, and little faces and hot, sticky hands will not even let me eat my breakfast in peace. In the heat of the moment, I feel so controlled. So controlled by my emotions.  I say hurtful things, barbed words that stick in the soul, unfiltered by the Spirit and dictated by the demands of my passion.  I'm exactly what I had purposed never to be--an angry, yelling mama.

Five years ago, as my belly swelled with the beauty of new life and dreams that I had thought might never be mine, I had pored over child-rearing books, and all of them agreed that anger has no place in the home.  I knew it, mentally assented, and for the first few years, never struggled.  Now, three precious bundles later, I still agree, but now I labor to live truth, stretched thin by the relentless onslaught of dirty dishes, clothes, and diapers, and the demands of loving, teaching, and caring for three little ones who take, but give little at this point. I've asked for help from friends and mature mothers, sought God's Word, and counseled with my husband.  I'll share with you what I have been learning.

  • In the moment, just stop.  Step back long enough to rationally respond, not instinctively react. You make the choice to allow anger or truth to determine your reaction.
This was the beginning of small victories for me.  I began to pray for the Spirit to give me an awareness of when I was about to blow up.  Often, I was so caught in the moment, I had already reacted before I was even cognizant of my decision.  The Holy Spirit is so good to me, and He has given me a real consciousness of my mental state.  Proverbs 29:22 says, "...a furious man aboundeth in transgression."

  • Choose humble gratitude. 
As I name my blessings one by one, out loud, it is much harder to maintain an angry heart. Remembering that what I have is more than I deserve serves to humble my offended, proud heart. 
I love the following thought by Nancy Leigh DeMoss--
"One of the fundamental qualities invariably found in a grateful person is humility. Gratitude is the overflow of a humble heart, just as surely as an ungrateful, complaining spirit flows out of a proud heart. Proud people are wrapped up in themselves. They think much of themselves and little of others. If people or circumstances don’t please or suit them, they are prone to whine or become resentful." (quotations are mine)

  • Actively forgive.  

Many times my anger was not based on the singular incident in which it happened to appear, but it was the climax to a series of events.  I had been saving my anger from the last run-in, nurturing my irritation.  My frustrations were just piling up in my heart until I just exploded either in ugly, quiet tones or loud, uglier words.  I was in the midst of this battle when I read Matthew 18 in my devotions one morning.  I read the passage in verses 20-22 where Peter asks Christ how many times he should forgive his brother, and he thought 7 times was a reasonable limit.  Christ's response really struck me. He wants me to forgive my little hedonistic children countless times.  Even when they aren't sorry.  Even when she gets in to my purse and eats gum and breaks my chapstick three times in the same day.  Till seventy times seven.  Forgive. Again. And again. And again. 

  • Find joy.
I asked an older mother about my situation, and she encouraged me to enjoy my children and cultivate times of fun and bonding.  Often I feel like I can't take time to do this, because hellloooo, the laundry pile has reached epic heights and dinner doesn't feel like making itself tonight.  Regardless, having those moments when they flash a smile of appreciation and they bring you bouquets of flowering grass and wrap their chubby little arms around your neck are priceless.  Writing down their adorable pronunciations and delightful words make the hard times more palatable.  Watching them sleep, catching them doing right (even if it's momentary), and treasuring their artwork are all ways that I have found to create joy.

5 lovely comments:

Deena - said... Best Blogger Tips

Well written and heart of this Momma can relate. I am so thankful that the will of God will not lead us where the Grace of God cannot keep us. I love you friend~!

Phyllis Blickensderfer said... Best Blogger Tips

Been there - and so grateful not to be there again. Monday my three bundles of joy (now circling around 50) will bring their families and we'll exchange stories and their children will wonder if they can make it through with their own children! With God's grace. Only with God's grace.

Mary said... Best Blogger Tips

April, loved getting caught up on your blog! I didn't know you had the EXACT same life as me!?!? :) You are not alone! God is good - He is always there to rely on when life gets tough. I will be praying for you! ~Mary

Jennifer B said... Best Blogger Tips

This is so good, April! Thank you so much for the encouragement and the helps to remember! You're such a blessing to me, my friend! Love you!

Annie Trott said... Best Blogger Tips

April I read this when you first posted it, and it was good then. But I just reread it and it was soooo helpful! Our precious, sweet children can bring out anger in us that we had no idea existed. It's amazing how infuriated I can get over the silliest, childish things. And yet, like you said, often it is just the event of a series of events that brakes us mommas. We need God's help, strength, and grace daily. Thank you for sharing your heart. Love you and miss you friend!