I am really struggling with anger right now. It just seems to be bubbling under the surface, ready to jump out at any minute. I’ve had a lifetime of learning self-control, so I’m not breaking things or saying really mean things, or screaming (too much). But, I hear it in my tone of voice. The impatience, the quick snap backs at my kids. The complete lack of calm.
When I get angry, for some reason or other, I always decide it’s time to clean. I just suddenly can’t handle any more mess or chaos. Then I start passing out jobs left and right and Woe to the child who complains.
Yesterday we cleaned the house and the kids cleaned their bedrooms. After it was all clean, the little kids wanted to have tea in the kitchen. I stood there and watched as they spilled sugar on the table, dropped trash on the floor, spilled ice cubes on the floor from the ice machine. Spilled tea on themselves.
My clean kitchen was no longer clean. I felt like I was about to burst a blood vessel. I retreated to my room. Unfortunately, the children followed me. I explained in a calm voice that I was very angry and that I had come into my room to calm down and I needed them to leave right now. My foster child decided that this was a good time to start a fight with me. Not very good timing. I ended up just leaving the house and taking a power walk around the neighborhood.
And then later, when I had finally calmed down, foster child and I had a long conversation about respecting people’s space when they are angry. Understanding that anger is a normal emotion, it’s ok for people to be angry, but it’s not ok for them to hurt others when they are angry. And that everyone has to develop strategies for how they are going to handle their anger. And we need to respect those strategies. If someone asks to be alone, you let them be alone.
Today, I still find myself on edge. I had the kids clean some more, but I brought a bag of gummy bears. I would give a child two gummy bears and an assignment. Eat the gummy bears and clean. Then when they were done, they would come back for the next two gummy bears and the next assignment. We managed to tidy up all the bookshelves, clean out the hall closet, put away all the winter gear into the hall closet, sort out all of our shoes, sort out all the plastic grocery bags and shopping bags and tupperware in the kitchen, clean out from under the stairs, and sweep the hall and living room.
Then I ran out of gummy bears.
But then the five year old washed his hands and decided it would be fun to dry his hands on our glass back door. I again almost lost it, but instead handed him glass cleaner and paper towels and told him to get to work cleaning the door. All the little kids thought that looked fun, so they ended up cleaning the back door, then all the other glass doors, and one child even went out and cleaned windows on my van. And while they were all being industrious, I got my room cleaned up.
And I’m sitting in my chair, taking a breather and I am surprised at how angry I am still feeling.
Our school board has decided to start supplying work for the kids to do at home, starting next week. It isn’t mandatory. It’s supposed to be a supplemental, enrichment kind of thing to help your kids not get behind. Great. But all these resources are online. I have one computer for seven kids. Yes, I can pick up paper packets, but then we’re supposed to watch instructional videos on youtube. I have six grades that would have to be sharing our one tv to watch the youtube videos. It’s just not feasible to do this the way the school is suggesting. I will have to be super-flexible and figure out some way to make this work for our family. And I’m kind of angry about it. I don’t want to be a school teacher.
We have been in our house since March 9th. I took the kids to the playground once that first week, but realized there were too many people there. We didn’t go back. The next week I tried to take the kids to a wilderness kind of place we have in town, again there were way too many people there. We didn’t go back. We have taken walks around our neighborhood and walked around a nearby park a couple times, staying away from the playground. And we have been home. I have gone grocery shopping and taken kids to the emergency room twice for genuine medical emergencies. And then one doctor’s visit this week. We go and pick up the free meals that are being passed out at our school and my kids all wave enthusiastically at the teachers and staff that are standing in front of the school. And that’s it. Those are our social interactions.
I miss people. I miss church. I miss hugs from friends. I miss teaching piano lessons. I miss all the self-care rituals I have set up so that I can do this humongous job of having a large family.
And I’m angry that I’m having to completely re-work my life. Come up with completely new rituals. New survival methods. New routines. New schedules. New parenting methods.
And then I have to remember what I told my foster child yesterday. Anger is normal. It’s ok to be angry. It’s something we have to process. If we don’t process it, and instead try to ignore it or stuff it down, it’s just going to pop up again later. We just need to come up with healthy ways of processing it. Make sure that we aren’t hurting others or ourselves with our anger. Find ways to help ourselves calm down.
Me, I need alone space. I need to read scripture and spend time praying. I need music. I need my home to be clean. And mostly, I just need time. Eventually, I hope to be in a place of acceptance. This is the new normal. Accept it, embrace it and start looking at ways to make life good where we are at. Here at home. But, I’m not quite there yet. I’m still simmering a little. And that’s ok.