Over Reacting

The Girl has a temper; she has strong screaming reactions to every hurt, every disappointment, and every irritation. Part of it is her age; she is not yet old enough to have learned more measured emotional responses. Part of it is her personality, her female essence even at this age, and her strength. I rejoice that she is so confident, so sure of her space and her boundaries that she is able to summarily reject any unwanted contact, physical and emotional, she will not tolerate violations. She also will not tolerate not getting her way. So it’s my job to teach her to have self-control, to be kind and generous and thoughtful, without damaging the strength that is in her, without violating boundaries that it is good for her to have. That should be easy right? I hear you all laughing.

I have vague memories of teaching her brother the same but they are hazy and distant. I remember forcing him to deal with me when he was having a temper tantrum, I remember that I would not let him rage alone. I remember teaching him to scream into a pillow if he was angry about things he could not change. I remember talking and talking and explaining to him that some things were beyond his control, and here were the choices he had, what was he going to do? It seems it’s time to start again with this one that she needs this from me even more than he did. I remember that it didn’t really make sense to him until one day when I was really impatient about something, and I was trying to get him to go to sleep. Without really thinking about it I just started hitting the bed next to me. Then I had to explain to my bewildered two-year-old that I was doing that because I was feeling angry and impatient but it wasn’t anyone’s fault and I just needed to release some frustration. That was the day I think that he understood that every one gets angry; they just make different choices.

So I am wondering if one of the reason’s the girl has been so high strung lately, besides the flu, is that I have not been the best model of how to deal with the complex emotions of frustration, rage, and disappointment. I’ve been a very good model of crying helplessly into a pillow, but it’s been a while since I’ve demonstrated much in the way of being proactive, or positive. I am by nature a pessimist. (Oh yeah, and I have pre-natal depression.)

One of the reason’s this is occurring to me is because the Genius Husband performed one of those classic services that are the reason it’s good to marry, and the thing we try to avoid for most of our marriage. He flashed a mirror at me and I didn’t like what it showed, but I knew it was true. He wasn’t an asshole about it, which is why I was probably able to listen instead of being defensive. I complain a lot, I am negative a lot, and I am crushed by the world, or more specifically, I am crushed when people let me down. I am the grown-up version of my almost three-year-old daughter’s collapses. The thing is, the wrongs are real, they hurts are real, the disappointments are real, I’m just not all that proud of how I have sometimes chosen to deal with them. So here I am, wondering just how to change, and how to model for the Girl the way I wish I were as I try to become that woman.

I’m going to start by trying to say thank-you to people more often, for the things they do for me. I am deeply appreciative of thoughtfulness. A thoughtful gift or hug at the right time can bring me to tears, but I’m not so great at communicating to that person how much I am grateful for them. I need to get better at that, if nothing else so that people don’t quit doing thoughtful things for me. I had no idea until two nights ago that for 3 years I have failed to communicate to my husband how much I needed him and how much he helped me the last time I was in labor. He had no idea; he thought I hated everything about that labor, because he’s only heard me say the things I learned that I’d like to do differently next time. How awful is that?

So anyway, goals for the next little while are to express gratitude, to not complain, and to try to remember that as bad as I feel, it’s not the end of the world, and I am extremely blessed.

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