I grew up being afraid of authority figures. No, I wasn’t abused or anything like that; I was just naturally afraid of doing anything to offend the people in charge of me. Being an overachiever, I took that to extremes.
When I was 10, I got my first horse. He was nearly impossible to control and both my parents and I struggled with him for nearly a year before admitting defeat. He was too dangerous, we couldn’t get him to cooperate with even the simplest commands, and we were completely mystified as to how his former owner could come out and ask him for anything and he’d comply.
We were afraid of him.
Once the decision was made to sell, I marched on out to the barn with a pretty big chip on my shoulder. Stupid horse. We were going to teach HIM a lesson. Not gonna behave for me? Then he’s OUTTA here. Good riddance.
Would you believe it? That horse started behaving PERFECTLY for me. Once I wasn’t afraid (because I was mad) he knew I was boss. Instead of selling, we kept him for years and rarely had any trouble with him again. If he did act up, I knew how to get him back in line.
That lesson stayed with me, all throughout my years with horses, then into my teaching career, and on into parenting. It was a good lesson: I am the authority and you have to cooperate with me. My own self-confidence has grown, and I am so much more comfortable in my own skin. Unfortunately, the “mad” part got hooked into it, and I have found myself frustrated and angry with the boys too much.
This is not their fault, it is mine. It’s also my responsibility to fix. But how? How does one undo years (decades!) of habit? It’s something I’ve been struggling with for years now. There are times when I get the balance back, when I’m not constantly frustrated, and then there are times when…I’m frustrated.
For a long time, the pattern was tied to the school year. By May we’d all be sick to death of each other, but the break from lessons over the summer was enough to repair the family relationships, and we’d start fresh in the fall. This year by August things were not really better. TechnoBoy going to school and some sizable changes to the lesson schedule helped make our lessons a lot better. (Not that TechnoBoy was the source of any problems…I think it’s just having one less kid in the mix. Any one of them could have gone off to public school and I think we’d have seen the difference.)
Even with the school improvements I still ended up angry a lot. Dealing with teens is hard! I would get up feeling peaceful every day and be angry by dinner. I think a lot of the anger is related to feelings of helplessness in the face of foolish behavior.
Anyways. Two Sundays ago, we had a family reset moment. The boys heard Hubby and I being angry at the same time and for whatever reason this motivated them to be super sweet and cooperative all day. I don’t know that we’ve both been angry very often in their lives. Usually we end up with a Good Cop/Bad Cop scenario. It isn’t planned, it’s just how we’ve rolled so far.
The reset allowed me the chance to be sweet in return, and now for the past ten days I’ve been able to stay peaceful. All day long! No anger!!! It’s great.
The honeymoon was bound to end, and I’ve noticed additional challenges from the boys. So far though, I’ve avoided getting mad. I did have to put my foot down a few times with them, but it turns out that I can do that calmly by just remembering some facts:
- I’m the Mom
- I am the boss of my children until they’re 18
- It’s my Biblical responsibility to be in charge
- It’s my legal responsibility to be in charge
- I owe it to the boys to teach them properly how to behave so they manage themselves successfully in the real world.
Parenting without anger does mean that difficulties get resolved more slowly, but I’d rather practice my patience and sweetness than lose my temper and ultimately…my family.
Am I going to get angry at times? Oh yea. I know how flawed an individual I am. But I’m going to hang on to this feeling as tightly as I can, and try to stay here so that I can be the Mom I want to be. If I fall off balance, I’ll climb back up. With prayer, practice, and a lot of concentration on the goal, I think I can get to this point.
And maybe even stay here.
Image courtesy of Sepehr Ehsani via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.