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Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Chalk

Have you ever watched your child get angry with you? I mean really, really angry...where the fire starts to blaze behind their eyes and their mouth gets small and mean? The kind of anger that, to them, feels righteous and deserved - but that you know is selfish and petty and a little ridiculous?

Yeah. So that was my yesterday.

What do you do in that situation? How do you handle it? For my part, I goaded it on a little - eager to let him get it out and express it. It's like lancing a boil - all that ire has to come out or it festers and gets ugly. I have one child that expresses himself very well - he cries and is able to tell me what is bothering him.

The other one?

Not so much. He gets hung up in his anger - it sits, maliciously stirring up his tender heart and telling him lies and making him believe them. I understand that kind of anger. I'm prone to it, myself - the kind of anger that simmers under the surface and turns inward, doing the most damage on the one who harbors it.

People like that need permission to be angry - permission to let it out in a way that does little harm to themselves and others. I guess I've taught him that, because when I finally gave him permission to "collect himself," and closed the door to the room he was in, I heard him give a primal yell and stomp his feet a time or two, much as I do when I finally give myself permission to release it. It releases that knot of anger, for me, better than crying or throwing things - and much safer than using the words that have grown out of that simmering mess.

After he'd stomped and yelled, he came out and flung himself on the couch and cried for 15 minutes straight, and I let him - I didn't comfort him, hard as it was. It wasn't comfort that he needed - it was permission and time. When he came to the table and sat down to talk to me, the fire of anger had grown small and dim behind his eyes - it was replaced by remorse and and inkling of understanding - that the righteousness of his anger was not so righteous after all. The rest of the afternoon passed in laughter and kind looks - a touch of his hand on my shoulder occasionally - and sweet kisses at bedtime.

My boy. Restored.