There are only a handful of people in the world who can make me flare up in anger, and most of them are my mother. (Biological, grand, and in-law.)
They don’t mean to, of course, but somehow they have a knack of pushing my buttons and I overreact. I say too much, too harshly, too loudly, and too soon before I can keep my words in check.
On the positive side, this anger usually dissipates as quickly as it comes on. On the downside, I’m then left with feelings way more complicated than easy-peasy anger. Feelings like remorse and regret and wondering if I should apologize or let it go, admonishing myself to be more patient and sympathetic next time around with my own mother(s).
Unfortunately the number of people who can make me flare up with anger has just gone up by 33%. I’m ashamed to admit it, but Dominic provokes uncontrollable rage in me when he whines. I have yelled at him too loud, grabbed his wrist too hard… at times scaring him and scaring me more. And if you think I feel guilty after lashing out at my mother(s), how much more so when I shout at my three year old.
How can whining even be evolutionarily possible? I get it… the squeaky chimps got the coconut grease, but when I hear Dominic whine I seriously can’t believe the whiny gene wasn’t literally stamped out eons ago.
Why didn’t anybody tell me that I would get fuming mad at my own kid???
Shortly after I first became a mom I attended a barbecue party. It was a beautiful summer afternoon but instead of hanging outside in the garden, all the moms – including me – were indoors doing fun mommy things like protecting our babies from the sun, breastfeeding, soothing, rocking, bouncing, and, in general, trying to shield the non-moms from our own wailing infants. Or at least that’s what I was doing…
I have no idea why the others were inside, but maybe the universe sent them to me. Hearing the conversations in the room that day was like a having a curtain pulled back. I suddenly realized that with motherhood I had de facto been initiated into this club where everyone openly talked about all the stuff I’d never even heard of before. Those squeamy little secrets that no one tells you about motherhood was all blasé, passé, pass-the-café-au-lait to these moms.
!!!Spoiler Alert!!! Like that you will need to wear a menstrual pad for three weeks straight after giving birth. And that as soon as your baby starts getting cute and smiley all your hair will fall out. And that on day four of his life your breasts will be at their biggest and your baby will be at his skinniest and you will honestly think that he is going to die of starvation if he doesn’t suffocate first. And that after you are done breastfeeding there will still be feedings but no more breasts [image not provided].
Maybe you were lucky enough to have been warned about all those adventures before living them first-hand, and maybe you have your own list of the secrets and surprises of motherhood. So with all these secrets flying around amongst the initiated, how is it that no one mentioned the dirtiest secret so far… that my own children would provoke seething rage in me???
I guess moms don’t like to talk about it, preferring to gush pink-fluffy-unicorn tidbits like, “Did you ever know you could love another human being so much?”.
I should’ve seen it coming.
When we were young my mother would literally bite back her anger at us kids, preferring to bear her teeth down on the knuckle of her index finger rather than take a swipe at us. A finger-bite became an unspoken threat, silently and clearly warning us, “I’m so mad, you kids are gonna get it… as soon as I’m done with this knuckle!”. Thank goodness that knuckle never gave way because I suspect we were pretty bad. It’s been thirty-six years since her youngest was born and she still has callouses on her knuckle from biting it so hard and so often!
Despite the cuts and knuckle swelling she gave herself over the years of our badness I guess we didn’t find her silent threat too scary. This gesture was so familiar that it actually became a joke… My eldest brother Julio would mimic her and chase us around the house, but his version meant, “I love you so much, you kids are gonna get such a squeeze if this knuckle gives way!”. Ironically Julio’s version was actually much scarier. See?
Am I doing it wrong? Or is he just worse with me?
Last night around 3:00am Dom woke up in a fit. OK, truth: he was perfectly asleep and I put a sheet on him for fear he would wake up because he was too cold.
BIG MISTAKE NUMBER 1. Dom has never, ever, woken up because he was too cold. But I put one little sheet over his feet and he instantly woke up kicking and whining. Fix my pillow! It’s knotted! The other side! No, not like that! etc. etc. Since I know that he is at least half asleep and mostly delirious I indulge him by smoothing the pillow case and talking to him. “There you go, Sweetie. Put your head down now…”. In other words, I engage.
BIG MISTAKE NUMBER 2. By this time he is sitting up wailing in his cringe-worthy screaming-crying-whining mix, perfectly pitched to provoke uncontrollable anger in me. That’s the wrong coooorner! Not like thaaat! Noooo! The other waaaay! You didn’t fix iiiit!
“Lie down, Sweetie. Put your head down. You know Mummy doesn’t like it when you make that noise.” More scream-whine-crying. Control yourself, Max… keep it in… too late. Can’t help it. I sweep my arm across his neck and shoulders and pin him to the bed. “I SAID LIE DOWN”, I growl.
BIG MISTAKE NUMBERS 3-99. Now he is hysterical and making himself hyperventilate. Hoooo boy; time to take myself out of the picture. I skulk out of his room feeling sheepish and sorry while Justin glides in all baby-whisperer styles, Mr. Let Me Show You How It’s Done.
He gathers a blubbering Dominic in his arms and just holds him til he sputters out and his breath returns to normal. Within minutes I hear Dom whisper, “I’m OK, you can go now, Daddy.” What!! I don’t believe it!!! And just when I’m simultaneously thinking that Justin is a genius and how unfair it is that he can quiet Dominic in 90 seconds flat, Dom pipes up one last time. “Who makes trees, Daddy? Who? Who?”
Passion and Chicken Fingers
What Julio had instinctively known was that my mum’s knuckle biting was ultimately an expression of passion… And although this passion can cut both ways, so far only the lovingest parts have been passed on through the generations. Both my kids are tender and affectionate and love nothing more than to squeeze their mother (biological and grandmothers).
I don’t recognize the temper that Dom can provoke in me and am ashamed that a three-year old can make me lose my mud. This is truly a no-fun secret to share, which may explain why nobody told me this part of motherhood… but spilling the beans may help me to start looking at own my knuckles with a bit more appetite. Compared to losing my cool? DE-LISH!