Parenting an Angry Child

Let me start at the beginning.

I was so excited to have another baby. Soon, I would have two baby girls! My second child was my first natural birth. She was tiny! She opened her eyes and looked right into mine, and I fell in love right away.

At six months old, she would close her fists and her face would get red with anger if she didn’t want to be put in her carseat. I joked that she had the fiery temper of her Latina/Italian heritage.

She grew into the incredible, intelligent, strong 5 year old girl she is today. Long blonde hair, big brown eyes that turn into laughing half moons when she is happy. My beautiful girl whose name means “light of God”; Liora.

But, her anger has only grown with her age.

I have felt helpless, hopeless, desperate, and depressed. I have felt insecure, inadequate, and incapable.

I have held her strong little body as she flung her fists at me, raging at me until she collapses into a heap of sobs.

It could be smiles one moment, and rage the next. Playing one moment, hurting the next. Toys have been hurled at my head. Her finger nails have broken my skin. Her words have sunk into my heart like a knife; “I hate you”, “your not my real mother”, “you don’t love me, nobody loves me”.

Of course, I know it isn’t true. I know that she needs me more than she can express. I know she hates her explosive anger more than I do.

Lately, she has described her anger to me like this;

“My anger is a person who holds me down and wont let me walk away.”

“My anger is like a remote control.”

She wants walk away. She wants to be in control. She comes to me in tears after the anger flees her body and her true self is back in control; sorry. So sorry.

It impacts her big sister, who cries to me about why her sister isn’t nice.

It impacts her little sister, who is starting to imitate some of her behaviors.

We have gone to therapy, and tried many different things. Right now, we are focusing on being loving and firm. She needs those limits. She needs to understand that she cannot hurt people, even when she is really angry. But she also needs to know that she is LOVED.

It impacts her self image. Somtimes, she sees herself a bad kid. She thinks God doesn’t love her, neither do her parents. That breaks my heart more than any little fist she has thrown at me.

It is this impossible balance of love and discipline. It is this terrible fear of “am I doing the right thing for her?”

Raising a child who has explosive anger is a path I did not plan to walk, but here I am.

In my nightmares, she doesn’t get better. In my nightmares, she is 15 and hates me.

But, in my dreams she overcomes her emotions. She is strong and powerful, but gentle and kind. Despite her anger, she is deeply sensitive and loving. I believe in her, and I will never give up helping her.

For now, it is one day at a time.

Shalom.

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Mountain – A Poem

20170406_182751Our love is a gentle breeze

I am a mountain, tall and solid

From my soil grows all types of fruit,

Warm and ripe from the summers sun

From my ground—sharp rocks, jagged edges

You cut your feet when you try to climb me

Your hands reach for the delicious fruit

Hanging there on branches like slender arms

Your blood soaks into the earth of me,

Wet and dark

The ground is fertile like the lining of a womb

The rocks are a boundary raised from

Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes; things that injure

And kill

And our love floats up to me,

Where the white snow covers my highest peaks

It sings to me, asks me to allow you inside

Every crevice and cave

Allow you to pick any fruit you desire

Taste its sweetness

But I shake my earth like a quivering woman

In rage, in shame, in storm clouds and rain

Red fire engulfs the trees, the birds, all things

Alive and beautiful

I am covered in ashes, black as onyx stone

I cannot accept your bleeding feet, your outstretched arm,

Your longing song you sang to me

And yet, beneath the ashes of my rage and pain

The tiniest of sprigs pushes itself stubbornly

Through the hot earth

Its leaves are the newest green, soft and supple

Like the breasts of a young woman

And then it stands taller, grows wider, takes up more space

Soon I am covered in these proud plants

Then trees, and their strong branches

Where birds come to nest and raise their young

I am alive again

The mountain breathing

My lover comes again, here you are

Your feet have healed and my rocks

Don’t

Cut you

You are patient in your climbing,

Holding onto earth and tree

You find me in the quiet solace of

My highest peaks

We rest together in the comforting snow

I hear the song you sing to me

And I begin to sing it too

We live together

And the blood-soil you gave me

Has become a sign for

New things

To come and grow here

 

I Want to be Gentle, but I Get Angry

She’s 4 years old and she doesn’t want to listen. Or, maybe she can’t listen? The second of four children, always striving to be heard. You were always the angry one, temper flaring. At 6 months old you furrowed your brow and your face turned red when I upset you.

You’re also the one who needs me at night. Monsters can’t reach you when your legs are against me, and your arms are around me. As if I have some super mommy power to keep you safe and secure.

I feel like a big liar, because half the time I’m the monster.

You don’t like to listen. Or, maybe you struggle to listen? I don’t know. But I do know my anger swells inside of me like a tsunami after I. Told. You. TEN. TIMES. ALREADY!

Then, your eyes spring with tears and you rush to me. You cling to me “momma!” You need to know that I love you when I’m mad.

Just moments before, you are so defiant. Like a teeny, tiny tree with the strongest roots. Your feet are planted and your will is unmovable.

That is when I break. I threaten. I insist. I yell. My face changes from loving mommy with the super powers to…what? The monster?

I keep my hands from hitting you, but my words smack against you with force.

And then, you’re no longer that defiant and firmly planted little tree. You’re a branch being broken off and swept away on the wind. You reach out for me, desperate to hold on.

Sometimes, I reach out my hand right away. Sometimes, I break inside and I curse myself for losing my patience with you. Then, I take your body into my lap and stroke your hair.

I am sorry. I am so sorry.

Other times, I force my body to comfort you but my heart is still engulfed in the fire of my rage. It takes time. As I stroke your hair, as I stroke the soft skin of your arms, my heart begins to cool down. I love her so much, I think to myself. So much.
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Then, why is it so hard? Why is it so damn hard?

How can such a tiny person, whom I love more than all the stars and moons and planets and skies and seas, get me so angry? Why must I twist my face and point my finger in anger?

I seek a break when I need one. I’ve read all the books on being gentle, and I believe them. I have come far from where I once was, but still I can’t kill this angry thing I become.

A child’s heart is a fragile thing. It needs tenderness, love, and patience. When it breaks, it makes the saddest sound the earth has ever known, that pained “momma?”

I’m willing to learn. I will try every trick in the book. I will move mountains, I will dive deep. Just tell me. Tell me how to kill that nasty anger. Tell me how to handle my strong-willed, beautiful child’s heart with care.

Because I love her, and she deserves my best. All my children do.