That Which Angers You

I see a lot of anger today.

Election results.

People blocking each other on Facebook.

Viral hate on Twitter.

Hockey coaches hitting kids.

Bullying.

Best Mad Face. EVER.
MUAH.
I kiss that face.

The last 24-hours have been a maelstrom of anger, tantrums, poor decision-making (no, I’m not making a veiled reference to any election), and hurt. Mostly hurt.

And I am not immune. I have spent the last 12-hours being so over-the-top angry at an incident at a local hockey game that I had trouble sleeping and woke up tired, with a headache … and still mad. And here I thought I’d been doing such a good job because I had controlled my temper. I had not over-reacted last night. I was damn proud of myself.

Look at you, the redhead in the mirror said. Look at you being all grownuppy and helping people calm their tits down instead of riling things up.

But inside, I’m still angry.

I keep seeing the coach from the other team, intimidating one of our kids, rubbing his eyes like a crybaby to make fun of him. I keep seeing his one finger salute to our team. I keep seeing one of our own kids skate down the line to shake hands and not raise his hand once to make peace. I keep seeing the charging penalties that weren’t called. I keep seeing one of the boys, crying in the locker room after being checked from behind so hard. I hear the ref saying “well, coach, you should make your kids run the gauntlet so they know how to give and take hits”. I keep hearing the jeering from the other parents, and the jeering from our own parents.

I tried so hard to keep my mouth shut, to keep my behaviour in check. I thought I did ok.

But I was still angry.

Maybe you are angry today.

Maybe you are mad because YOUR kid got hit. Maybe because your candidate didn’t win. Maybe because someone on Facebook said something. Maybe you got blocked on Twitter.  Maybe just looking at Donald Trump’s face makes you mad. Or Obama’s. Or you husband’s/wife’s. There is a lot of name calling and talk of “moving to Canada” and “diggin’ up mah ammo” and “d-baggery”.

There is one saving grace for me today. For an hour I worked out at the gym. For an hour I did not think about my anger.

When the workout was done, I realized, I wasn’t angry any more because I had spent that hour controlling my movements – directing my body in all manner of positions and I had come to terms with the reality:

That which angers you, controls you.

Or maybe better said:

He who angers you, conquers you. I believe that’s the quote from Australian Nurse, Elizabeth Kenney.

It’s what I used to say to my son, many years ago when he dealt with issues of not being able to control his emotions and temper. And it’s worth saying again, to all politically minded friends, to all hockey parents, to all coaches, to all kids … to myself.

It isn’t really about that outward expression of anger. That smack. That word. That Facebook post. That tweet. Those are reflections of your anger. And anger is a reflection of your fear. Don’t let someone conquer you by taking your fears and boiling them up into such vicious anger that your minutes, hours, days are wasted in their service.

For myself I can say:

I was afraid someone was going to get hurt.

I was afraid my son would get hurt, he’s 60 lbs playing against kids 100+ lbs.

I was afraid that my son would think that behaviour was ok.

I was afraid that hockey – his Island of Competence in life – would because something hurtful and painful for him.

I was afraid that a child who has faced bullying so bravely this year would be completely undone by a conquered man. Acting in anger, out of fear. Doing more damage than I want to believe he intended.

I was afraid our coaches would also take part.

I was afraid if I didn’t step up and do something, it was going to get worse.

This isn’t about controlling your anger – it is about knowing the real reason why you are angry, facing it and realizing that it isn’t a threat.

But Heather, what it if it is a threat?

Look, are you sitting at your computer reading this? Are you under threat? Unlikely. You are breathing. Your heart is beating. Unless there is a knife held to your throat, a gun to your head – there is no threat to your life. If there is – fear and anger are totally justifiable. I’m with ya. I got yer back.

But stop slamming the cupboards and cutting off drivers and snapping at your husband (wait, just me?) saying you’re “fine”.

I didn’t want to get too preachy. I really didn’t. I just finally found this calm spot in the day and needed to say something.

Sorry my quote isn’t more eloquent than “calm down your tits”.

I’m no Elizabeth Kenney.

And then I punched him. With my eyes.

I was running late for boxing last night.No particular reason other than oh I couldn’t find a sports bra and I had to clean something up after a kid and someone called about the event I’m hosting this weekend. I was 2 minutes late. I hate being late.

And apparently the boxing coach hates late people. It’s ok, I can accept his wrath. Once you’ve been yelled at my Warrant Officer Joseph or The Scary, Yelly Corporal for something you didn’t even do but you know enough to keep your trap shut and take the spittle… all other yelling becomes kind of boring. Yes, yes, yell at me, what are you gonna do, hit me?

But then one of my fellow classmates made some comment about how he managed to get here on time and he “has a full-time job”.

Well pin a rose on your friggin’ nose.

I was so instantly angry at him it was hard not to let loose with a large string of profanity. I was angry. It was a “lazy mom eating bonbons, I’m the man so I’m more important, I’m betterthanyou,you’re not busy” insult all rolled up into one sentence and I hated him even more for getting under my skin so quickly.

I wanted to detail my four freaking jobs, my volunteer commitments, my blog, my overextended life. I wanted to tell him that not even on his best day could he keep up with me. I wanted to rip himoff his little spin bike and punch him in the face. Except all that would mean he had won. He’d gotten to me.

You might remember my last post detailed some boxing ring rage? Yeah, I think it’s carrying over to the warm-up area.

I just shrugged my shoulders and ran my laps. The coach made a comment about how because I was late, I’d just made this class much tougher for me.

“Oh?” I said, “I didn’t realize you’d been holding back.”

That got me an evil smile. It did not end well for me. But I did not quit, I did not weaken, I just did what I always do: I just pushed through and kept punching.

I think what bothered me the most about the first part of the class was this assumption that they knew my story. They knew all they needed to know about me and yet they haven’t had one full conversation with me. As I was starting to do my warm up run, the words “maybe you need a time management course” were thrown my way.

I’ll show you an effing time management course. It’s called having a full life with a multitude of commitments that don’t give a crap about your schedule or your goals. It’s called being a parent and realizing that you are not in control of anything. It’s called taking risks in almost every area you can because that’s the only way you grow. It’s not all boiled down to showing up on time for the gym.

None of this will keep me away from the class, of course. It made me want to leave, but again… that would mean they had won. Instead I finished my class and then went and had a half-hour run on the treadmill. Just because. Boxing had left me cranky, not relaxed, like it usually does. I needed to DO something solitary for a few minutes before heading home for the bedtime routine with the family. They didn’t deserve a crankypants mom just because some jerkface needed a punch in the head.

I’m sure it would give them satisfaction to know I am still thinking about it this morning. But they don’t know that a) it’s just between you and me Dear Reader and b) I friggin’ won anyway, they don’t even know it.

Fear-Based Parenting

There was a time in my life when parenting was EASY. There was nothing I couldn’t do. That time was 1977-2001… also known as BEFORE I ACTUALLY HAD CHILDREN.

I could have told you everything parents did wrong and what the right choice would be. I could have fully explained proper discipline, correct bedtime routines and what constitutes a healthy meal.

Then of course I had kids.

This week there is one thing running through my head.

“This is haaaaard.”

But even now, I look at other parents and think that perhaps they have it easier. Thankfully most of my closest friends are parents and they are there to hold my proverbial hair back while I purge all the complaints and whines of the day.

You can tell me parenting isn’t rocket science, but I could probably find you a rocket scientist that’s as confused about it as I am. He or she is probably wondering how they can figure out the vector something something of a rocket leaving orbit something something… but can’t get their kid potty trained.

I sit down defeated some days and wonder how I can learn to read an ECG but can’t figure out the hockey championship schedule for minor hockey.

There are some things that parents just can’t do. For example,  I can hold my son accountable for his chores and homework and how he treats other people. But I can’t *make* him behave at school. It doesn’t matter what treat I dangle in front of him, he still makes some poor choices. And in some cases, it makes things worse because he thinks “not only have I lost my footing here at school, but now life at home is going to be horrible” because of whatever privilege he imagines he’s just lost.

And I sit down, head in hands and try to remember: How does the wise man learn to make good choices? By making bad choices.

And it doesn’t just work for the kids, that’s kind of how parenting works, too.

How do I know that yelling at my kids doesn’t work? I’ve yelled at them, and it didn’t work.

I think… I think that perhaps you have to learn to NOT take things personally with kids. Which is hard, because what is more personal than your children??

Case in point: yesterday I had a fever, was exhausted after three days of 12 hour night shifts, and I took my son to his hockey game. I cheered, I encouraged, I tried to keep his spirits up after a loss. It seemed to be going well.

But our stumbling block was my lack of cash and his deep, essential need to have some ice cream from a specific ice cream machine in the rink. And I said no.

The pouting began.

And the hardest thing in the world at that moment was to control my temper.

What I wanted to say was “I’m your sick, tired, overworked mom and I’m trying my best and have gotten you to hockey, I make sure you get to every hockey game and practice and organize everything I can do to get you to where you need to go…. and yet I’m currently seen as a total failure by you because I can’t make ice cream come out of this machine with $3.75.”

What I did was tell him to get in the van and stop pouting. And then I cried. Which probably freaked him out a little bit more than the previous paragraph would have. But it was an honest emotion.

The paragraph I wanted to say was not an honest emotion. It was a list of complaints detailing why he was wrong and why I was right. How well does that every work when you are in conflict with someone?

Oh, I’m upset with you and so to prove how this is your fault and not mine, I’m going to list my awesomeness and then list your failures. Not a good tactic at any time.

And yet I think parents do this – I know I have in the past.

We react in anger. And anger is just a mask for a different emotion, usually fear.

In this case, I was sad that I couldn’t do everything for him and fearful that he would see me as a failure because I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) buy him the ice cream. The little voice in the back of my head was saying “I bet his dad would buy it for him”. And the fear that being the parent in charge of all the discipline and all the instruction and all the day-to-day worries will result in him overlooking the good things I do… that fear was overwhelming.

I’m done with fear-based parenting. A parent who parents out of fear is an angry parent.

I don’t want to be that parent.

But Lord, it’s haaaaard.

It’s not that I WOULD… but I COULD.

I once read a blog post that started with the statement,”I am an extreme mom”, and it took me a few paragraphs in before I realized she meant “I’m a better mom than you”. The gist of her point was that because she spent almost every waking minute with her baby and enjoyed each moment, she was a better mom, a more extreme mom… like, Ultra Mom. Or Mega Mom. She’s the Venti Mom to my Grande Mom.

I think my response was something along the lines of “um… you have a baby. Sooooo come back when your kid actually, you know, acts like a kid”.

Because at some point, your kid is going to misbehave and actually make you kind of angry.

How extreme is it to be screaming into a pillow and locking yourself in the bathroom for a little r&r?

I think maybe your extreme and mine? They aren’t really the same.

Many people have seen the “creative” way one dad punished his daughter for her disrespectful Facebook post. Here’s the Cole’s Note’s version: he said if she ever repeated a previous egregious Facebook posting error of criticizing her parents … he would put a bullet through her computer. She did. So he did.

His logic was that he was following through with what he said he would do.

Some say he’s being a bully, some say he’s hilarious. Some wish they had the cojones, some think the girl should be taken away from the crazy gun-totin’ Republican. (Cause he has to be a Republican to own a gun, right? And have a drawl. And be an anal disciplinarian. Right? I mean why couldn’t some really cool Canadian do this, eh?)

I think he’s just another example of extreme parenting. And at some point in our parenting career we all have moments of extreme parenting.

“If you ever…”

“I will never…”

“.. grounded until college!”

“… over my dead body!”

“… it will be taken away forever!”

I am pretty sure more than one of these has left my lips over my 10+ year parenting marathon. In fact just this morning I wa threatening to withhold something from my son that I really, really didn’t want to take away from him. As soon as the words were spoken I cringed. I did NOT want to follow through. And that’s the thing with using threats to elicit compliance from your kids. Either they will work or you will have to follow through. And they won’t always work.

In fact, if you were ever a kid like me growing up, you would have pushed past any limit your parents set down just to prove that you knew exactly how to play brinksmanship and you were going to WIN. Yes, it was about WINNING.

I was like the Charlie Sheen of teenagers. Without the drugs.

Or the hookers.

Or, really, the illegal behaviour.

But I had extra helpings of attitude and stubbornness.

Anyway, I am certain my children are my mother’s payback. And the proper discipline of said children is something that I may never, ever WIN at. Because it’s damn hard and frustrating and there are days when I could go off the deep end and shoot a computer. Or hockey bag. Or beloved stuffie.

But we do have a few rules regarding discipline in our house:

1. No punishment is valid if handed out in anger.

2. Parents should apologize when wrong.

It would be wonderful if these two rules prevented poor parenting behaviour, but they don’t. Just like rules for behaviour don’t prevent misbehaviour. They just help get back on track when things have gone off the rails. Before these two rules were in place, I felt like such a parenting failure when I’d have to half-heartedly enforce some punishment I felt bad for doling out in the first place. Because if I’d been calm and had my wits about me, I would have done something a little smarter and more effective.

The epilogue of the gun-toting father is kind of a funny one.

Truthfully though the social attention has helped her and I both deal with it. We had our discussion about it after she returned home from school. We set the ground rules for her punishment, and then I let her read some of the comments on Facebook with me at my computer. At first it was upsetting. Then as we read it became less so, eventually funny to both of us.

At the end, she was amazed that other people had such amazingly strong reactions. Some said she’d grow up to be a stripper. Others that she’d get pregnant and become drug addicted because of the emotional damage. She actually asked me to go on Facebook and ask if there was anything else the victim of a laptop-homicide could do besides stripping because all the posts seem to mention that particular job and she wasn’t so keen on that one.

The fact that they were able to sit down and have a conversation and deal with the aftermath of misbehaviour-punishment-reaction is very hopeful. It’s hard to judge a parent-child relationship from a brief moment in time when you see it in real life, nevermind out there on the interwebs.

But when you think about it, the dad went out into a field and shot (oh, bad pun) a video to show her (and the world, apparently) of the punishment. Can you imagine the reaction if he’d drug his daughter out there with him… and the laptop… and the gun… and let this all play out in real time? With emotions high and possible anger waiting to erupt?

That would have been a recipe for disaster. And the more I think about this dad’s response, the more I see it as calm and calculating.

I’m still not employing the use of any type of firearm in my parenting arsenal.

And I’m trained on the C-7, so let’s be clear that I could handle one.

And it would have been a whole lot more impressive than an ittybitty handgun.

gun-totin' mama

gun-totin' mamawww.

 

When I'm feeling judgy

Have you ever had a moment when you are just feeling judgy? You know, when you just want to smack someone or your eyes are rolling so far back in your head that if the wind changes they’ll stay that way?

Today was one of those days.

We went to the zoo. (Note, brother carrying his sister’s coat and sister saying “get me out of this flippin’ contraption, there are animals to squeal at!!)

We did have fun, we had a lot of fun. The kids wore themselves out and they both love the zoo now. M was never a zoo kid, but in the last year he’s started to love it. E is a total zoo kid because there are Animals! With fur! And they are cute! Her favourite is the warthog, I swear. She goes nuts when she sees him.

It would have been perfect if it weren’t for ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE. I don’t mind the kids running around, it’s just some of those parents. The lady yelling at her son because he wasn’t pushing the stroller right (“you just about ran into that lady!”) who five minutes later nearly ran over E with her crazy stroller-pushing-while-dragging-kid maneuvers.

I did feel bad for the one mother who was trying to jam her stroller up a hill and thought she was ramming it over a bump, until she realized that the reason it wouldn’t go forward was her child’s leg was caught against a fence. Yeah, that sucked for her, I did feel bad.

And the people who STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD or, in the middle of an exhibit without pulling over to the side. What is with that? You are not the only person in the zoo today.

But the zoo was fun for the kids. It was a bit chilly off and on, about 6 degrees celsius. Even I needed a nap when I came home.

But the judgy feeling was still there.

I was watching a show, one of those reality shows where contestants try to lose weight. (It’s called X-Weighted, I tried out for it once, but was rejected because there wasn’t enough conflict in my life!) This woman is stressing about going back to work after her maternity leave (which in Canada is one year).

She’s crying and saying “I don’t know how people do it! I don’t want to leave my baby!” Which translates to me as “all you other women must be heartless”. Which, let’s face it, probably wasn’t what she meant.

But my inner judge said “suck it up princess”.

Which I find really sad! I find it sad that when I’m in uber-PMS, judgy mode because it means that my capacity to love anything and anyone is compromised. And my capacity to receive love is compromised.

So this is what I do:

I clear my mind and pray, asking that the spirit of strife leave me.

I imagine the person I’m judging is sitting in a room with me and it’s just them and me… then I try to imagine the words I’m thinking actually coming out of my mouth. I imagine what their face would look like if they heard those words.

I ask forgiveness in my heart for thinking those things. (There but by the grace of God go I.)

I receive the forgiveness (crucial step!!) and I move on.

It can be hard to stop being judgy. I think I mentioned earlier that I was diagnosed with Premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD a few months ago. I take a daily dose of vitamins. Or, rather, I am supposed to. But sometimes I forget. Luckily I have a job that has the side benefit of just enough stress to remind me each day to take my Happy Pills.

But more than a physical reason, being judgmental (well, I call it judgy because it sounds nicer!) can be a habit. And I don’t want it to be MY habit any more. The first step is stopping the words from coming out of my mouth. The second step is stopping them from forming in my brain.

I’m a work in progress.

One more time. Nice and Slow

I’m going to type nice and slow so that the people who don’t get it might finally understand.

As writers, we MUST respect the copyright of other writers.

That means:

1) No posting articles anywhere in any forum, online anywhere, photocopied for your whole class to read, or used in any public forum at all. Yes, that even includes Yahoo Groups.

2) Just because the article is helpful and good and inspiring and wonderful… doesn’t mean you get to give it away for free without the RIGHT to do so. Only the author has that right. (Oh and by the way, just because you like a picture doesn’t give you the right to repost it either… go find a free photo site… see that pic up above? Free photo site.)

3) All those wonderful stories that you forward on, beautiful poems and essays.. they were actually written by someone. Take the time to either ensure that you have the RIGHT to forward it on or that the author has allowed it to be forwarded at will by people who can’t come up with something that briliant. Oh and pegging “anonymous” on the end does not absolve you of the responsibility of respecting another writer’s copyright. I can forgive Uncle Larry and Sister Sue and Papa Fred for forwarding something on… they aren’t writers. It’s like if you hear of someone forging cheques… how much WORSE is it if that person also works at a bank? (Now, forwarding jokes is another matter… see below… but you have to ask yourself, is this a funny essay that someone deserves payment for, or is this a joke. Here’s the test: can you memorize it and retell it at the water cooler? No? Then it’s an essay.)

4) Learn the proper definition of PUBLIC DOMAIN. It does not mean “out there in the world”. It means “Material that is uncopyrighted, whose copyright has expired, or is uncopyrightable” this includes government publications, many jokes. Here’s a refresher for you.

5) Know the different between copyright and assigning rights. When you create a work, you always have the copyright, UNLESS you are an employee and creating that work for your employer. If you are not an employee, then the copyright is yours to ASSIGN THE RIGHT TO COPY. That’s where we get into first rights, all rights (which isn’t giving away your copyright, you’ve just given them the right to do what they want with the work, but the copyright is still yours… think of it this way: You own the cow, but you’ve sold all the milk), web rights, archive rights… and while we’re at it… that copyright only passes to the purchaser (the publication) when they PAY YOU.

6) Plaigiarism = BAD WRITER. It is defined as taking anything that you didn’t write YOURSELF and claiming that you did write it.

Ok. I’m done my rant. I was just set off once again today by seeing yet another writer copy and paste an entire article in an email and send it to a list of writers.

WTH People?!?!