Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Kicking and Screaming

Last night she woke up in a pool of pee at 2am and was wildly unhappy about it, hollering for "Mommy!" and "Daddy!" in turn. Exhausted but jarred awake, she punched Pynchon right in the face when he lifted her out of her wet bed. Uncomfortable and sticky, she kicked me hard and repeatedly as I stripped her out of her soaked pyjamas. She screamed imprecations, flailed in all directions, demanded snuggles while slapping faces, gripped our arms in desperation while kicking us violently in the groin.

For nearly an hour we struggled to get her back into bed.

Changing the sheets and changing her clothes were, comparatively, easy. The challenge was to ease her temper. And my temper. And Pynchon's temper. Because we are, it must be admitted, an angry family. Short on sleep, long on deadlines, discombulated by the dark, assaulted by lights and noise and blows, none of us are at our best. Finally, she heaved a great sigh and flopped her arms up above her head, tilted her chin towards the wall and consented to be tucked in, still muttering darkly. I returned to my bed. Pynchon reached out a reassuring hand and fell soundly asleep. I tossed and turned and considered, as is my wont.

What I've considered is this: My daughter's rage is my rage. She expresses what I wish I could, awake and angry about it, rage against the fruitless lonely dark. Rage that what she wants, she can't have.

I am, and have always been, quick to temper. My mom tells a story of my infancy aglow with my compliant behaviour, but some of my earliest memories are of frustration and annoyance, cornerstones of my relationship with the world. As I've matured, and particularly since, in these past four years, I've come into my grownup life, I find that I'm sublimating my anger in resentment, quiet bitterness, apathy, and cynicism.

I watch Munchkin rage, and while the violence and noise and frustration of her outbursts can provoke a like response in me, for her, its cleansing. She feels angry? She's rocking it: "Mom, no, I don't WANT and snuggle, I am very ANGRY right. now."

I don't do that. And I don't think I'm any less angry than I've ever been and I don't think I've made peace with the world. In fact, I'm annoyed / resentful / bitter a lot of the time, and I don't want to be.

A couple of weeks ago, on the long long weekend of Thanksgiving, full of visits and cooking and packing and international travel and worry, I snapped. Sleepless again at 6am on Thanksgiving Monday, I tossed off a cynical 'to hell with it' and left the house to stake out a seat for the 8:30 am parade. I put out our chairs in a modest arrangement to take the minimum required space. At 8:15, a women pushed one of my chairs out of the way and sat down in front of it. I freaked out. I told her off. I raised my voice. I called her a name. I wouldn't let it go. It was awful, mostly because that's not who I want to be and I lost control.

I don't know how to be angry anymore, about the right things--don't know how to do cleansing, honest, effective anger. So part of what I'm feeling when Munchkin screams and flails and lets rip? Is envy. Huh.

10 comments:

Bea said...

I think it's a misnomer to talk about anger as if it's a personality trait - as if one person is angry by nature and another is not. Anger is a completely predictable response to sleep deprivation. It's just how our brains work (which doesn't make it not suck, I know).

Omaha Mama said...

Holy cow Mimi - I was just thinking about how I must do better with my temper tomorrow. Hello!
Two year olds are, shall we say, awe inspiring? Insanity-inducing? My M - he tells me, "I will NOT give you a snuggle." Smacks me in the face. And then cries, "I.Want.My.MOMMY".
Give yourself a longer leash. This too shall pass.

crazymumma said...

and how great you are letting her have that. Cause angry is okay.

I would have gone batshit on that woman by the way.

Mad said...

I don't remember you as an angry person. I think Bea has a point here.

hoppytoddle said...

I sometimes find our MiniMe's anger cathardic. Even when it's against me. I guess it's because I, being an adult (ahem), I feel like it's not okay for me to express my anger so honestly anymore.

Mamalooper said...

Gah - the anger. Sometimes I think my job description is "keeper of the rules" for everyone else. Shushing the talkers in the movies, shaking my fist at the drivers cutting me off, etc.

I REALLY need to resign from this position...

Jenifer said...

I'm not even sure what to say except I totally understand where you are coming from. Mamalooper hit it dead on too, I feel like I am the only one following the 'rules'sometimes and it makes me crazy to live like that sometimes.

Mimi said...

I joked to Pynchon last night that my rallying cry could be, "I'm mad as hell! And I'm just going to keep taking it!"

Gah.

ewe are here said...

I don't when and why it became 'wrong' for women to be angry. Because everyone gets angry, and rightfully so... but only women are asked to bury it. And that just isn't right. Or healthy.

Bea said...

LOL Mimi (literally).