The other day, I overheard my 10-year-old growling in anger when she couldn't find her shoes. And I totally saw myself. Because whenever I feel frustrated, I let loose with a deep, guttural "Grrr!" sound. I hate this bad habit of mine and usually feel pretty silly once I've calmed down — when dinner isn't burned after all or I manage to locate the TV remote in time to record Grey's Anatomy or I wipe my baby's spit-up off my phone before it gets damaged. I'm not proud of how I basically turn into a cavewoman during times of extreme stress, but I hadn't given it too much deep contemplation . . . until I witnessed a mini primal roar emanating from my little girl. Then, sh*t got real. I realized it was time to rein in my temper and model a calmer mode of anger management for my four kids.
First, I knew I had to take stock of what causes me to fly off the handle. I quickly noticed my emotions start to boil over when stresses add up all at once — the phone rings right as the baby starts crying or when the kids' dinner is about to be ready when the doorbell rings. "Grrr!" I'll growl and tear through the house to see who's at the door, while the baby wails in one ear, and my husband informs me he'll be late tonight (again) in my other ear. Yeah, not cute, especially when I see my young child mirroring such beastly behavior. I resolved to try and take a step back, breathe, and be more mindful about how I approach nerve-fraying moments.
Determined to choose calm over choler, I talk to my children about how a little space and some smooth, even breathing helps mommy avoid letting frustrations get the better of her. Now it's their turn! The next time my daughter feels flustered, I'll encourage her to take a few deep breaths before she morphs into the creature from the black lagoon. It's become a pact between us. If I promise to take a step back and attempt to cool down before I let my irritation spiral out of control, she must do the same.
Of course, I know even if you have a plan of how you hope to handle something, it's impossible not to fall into old patterns sometimes. I might still let out a random roar now and again — like when my baby suffers a poop explosion right after I've just changed him — and it's OK not to be perfect. This is another important message I repeatedly convey to my kids. But if the intention to do better is there, most of the time serenity will win. So, here's to (hopefully) not growling when the going gets tough.