Anger is Part of the Process

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. 

Observations on SLOWING THE SPREAD

We have had an interesting couple days. On Sunday morning I had three children complain of sore throats. Since then I have rode the roller-coaster of wondering whether they could possibly have gotten THE VIRUS. Could we be CONTAGIOUS? My husband is still working and we wondered what we should do about him going to work if there was a possibility we were actually SICK. 

 

I spoke to the nurse for our insurance’s call line. She said there was no way of knowing whether we had strep, flu, covid-19 or some other virus. We waited 24hrs. My husband took a day off work. In that time one kid got completely better, another kid developed a cough to go with her sore throat and the other had a fever to go with her sore throat. I looked on our county’s Health Department Website and it said if you suspect you are sick, call your doctor.  I called our Pediatrician’s office and spoke to the nurse. Yes, she said, those could be possible early signs of the covid-19, but all they could do at their office was rule out flu and strep. If I wanted, I could go visit a walk-in clinic to rule out strep and flu instead of visiting my pediatrician who is located at UT hospital. I asked her what she thought about my husband going to work if we didn’t know what our kids had. She had no answer. I asked if there was any protocol we were supposed to follow. She said, if you are sick stay home. But as far as other family members who are working? Well, that’s your own call. 

 

I went back to the Health Department’s Website. They had a phone number you could call. I called and they said that they were looking specifically for fever and cough or fever and shortness of breath. Wheww. We didn’t have that specific combination. All was well. 

 

Then later that day I asked my daughter how she was doing and she said she was feeling achy all over and her chest was tight and she needed to use her inhaler. Great. Now we had more symptoms and they were the ones the Health Department had said they were looking for. (The other daughter’s symptoms had turned into something that was obviously allergies.)

 

Now it was Tuesday morning. My husband took another day off work. I had checked on my daughter several times during the night, taking her temperature, but I realized that the thermometer that I had bought at the store (the very last thermometer in the store) was not working. It consistently was saying that each person I checked had a temperature of 96 degrees. Good grief. 

 

I called the Health Department number and told them my daughter’s symptoms and her history with asthma. The lady on the phone said we should probably get tested. She asked what insurance we had (State Health Insurance) and she gave me the name of three walk-in clinics we could visit and their phone number. I called each walk-in clinic and all three said they did not accept our state insurance. One of them said that my pediatrician could probably give me a referral to a place that could test. So, I hung up and called my pediatrician again. I spoke to the receptionist who makes appointments and she said I had to talk to the nurse to schedule sick appointments and sent me to a voicemail where I had to listen to a 5 minute long message before I could leave my information. 

 

We finally got an appointment scheduled, drove to the hospital, went through a checkpoint where my daughter was handed a face mask and we were given name tags to show we had been screened. We walked through the nearly empty halls to our Pediatrician’s office and got checked in, being very careful to touch NOTHING. After the nurse had collected the samples she needed to test for flu and strep, I talked to the Nurse Practitioner. She explained that they could test for covid-19 but it would take 14 days to get the test results back and our entire family would need to self-isolate while we waited for those test results. It was up to me, did I want to get her tested? Yikes. We sat and stared at each other. What a crazy predicament. She knew it was crazy. I knew it was crazy.

 

My question is, how on earth are we supposed to be containing the spread of this virus when we apparently have so little tools to do so? When you read about the steps they took in Wuhan, China to stamp out the spread, and then compare it to what we are doing, we have no right to be amazed that our numbers have already exceeded those of China. Here in the US, the average citizen isn’t sure how to proceed if they get sick, and there doesn’t seem to be any organized system to get answers. If you are prepared to get on the phone and track down answers, you will eventually find out what you need. But there are a lot of people who would struggle to do that. People who don’t have internet access to look up the info they need, or don’t have phone service, or don’t have a personal doctor they can call. These aren’t made up people. I know them personally. 

 

And then, when you throw money into the equation: you can get tested and automatically miss two weeks of work, or you can just hope that you don’t actually have the virus and keep working…It is not an easy decision to make. And for some people, that decision will mean the difference between having food to eat, keeping phone service, starting the long downhill slide into eviction…There is very little motivation to get tested or self-isolate. 

 

The good news is that my daughter has Strep Throat. For which we are rejoicing. 🙂 I can treat that. My husband can go to work without worrying about spreading it around. I know how to deal with strep. (I do have to ask, how on earth did a kid, who has only seen four people besides her family in the past month, get strep?) 

 

I have to admit though, I’m not feeling a lot of confidence in our ability to slow the spread.