Breakfast of champions, right?
Shovel in some angry with your Weetabix? Delish.
Whatever your story with a ‘insert really difficult shit show with your kids here’ – the one consistent emotion seems to be a bubbling rage kind of anger. My shit show is childhood cancer.
I’m not saying this happens every minute of every day but you’re simply not human if a fiery anger isn’t part of your emotional repertoire when you have a medically or emotionally complicated child.
As parents what we often do is just swallow that fire down for breakfast, lunch and dinner because…
You can’t get into a much desired fist fight with ‘insert child’s diagnosis here’
When our daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia there was a lot of angry and we were adrift with what to do with it.
We knew what we were angry about, but that rage seeped through our lives and the slightest thing would send us into a silent tantrum.
We’re ever so polite so our angry didn’t often show in public but we were raging, and we were not emotionally fit enough to process it.
We had worked SO hard for a life where we both felt successful at work and were available for our children before and after school, my husband and I loved each and the kids actually liked each other and were happy and healthy and athletic.
We were so ANGRY that this hard-won work had been turned on its head when a chromosomal glitch dealt our family a hand we had no control over.
Anger happens when your rights are violated
The healthy response to a violated right is a discussion or system or heated argument to establish boundaries so the violation won’t occur again.
If I’m swimming in the fast lane and I keep eating the bubbles of the swimmer in front – my right to an energetic swim has been violated. I can establish boundaries with a quick shoulder tap and suggestion that the swimmer may prefer the middle lane, we laugh together about it and we’re both on our way happily chasing the black line at our own pace.
That’s such an easy analogy but
a lot of anger can be rectified by establishing new boundaries
Identify the violation, discuss it like a reasonable human, and pinpoint a boundary to solve it.
Here’s the rub; so many childhood shit shows like cancer or a new developmental diagnosis, etc, just will not be negotiated with.
It’s a terrorist with a long list of demands and you have a simple choice –
accept the terms or rage against them.
In my experience the best bet is a little from Column A and a little from Column B, but a bit of both because you can’t always be eating your angry for breakfast. In truth it has a bitter taste.
We all have different ways of accepting and of raging.
Accepting to me is honestly feeling my legitimate pain at our daughter’s illness, her new limitations, and her uncertain future and letting it wash over me.
I painfully accept that our son has had to learn a tolerance and understanding well beyond his years. I breathe deeply and I cry, and I hold our children and ignore the dishes in the sink and the homework and my emails.
For a few days I just sit in our sadness and my children’s pain and my grief.
I’m learning that rage takes many forms
Rage doesn’t have to be a debilitating target-less anger for me anymore.
I can channel my rage into exercise, I can use my rage to be the best damned person I can be despite this sh*t show.
I can use my rage to remember to support those struggling today, to drive myself to better our family life a little more where we can.
Sometimes when the higher road isn’t available and I’m pretty sure no one is looking I have a private childlike tantrum of kicking and screaming and that often feels pretty cathartic.
So, maybe it’s time to understand our anger at things we can’t change a little bit more. The high road of acceptance isn’t always an option for me. Nor do I think it’s always healthy to do that.
So rage if you need to. Childlike tantrums, running marathons, striving to help others. Use that rage because eating it down isn’t the only answer.
Disclaimer: in the swimming analogy I was totally the slower swimmer.