Step Six Out of Angry: Target Problem Areas
It’s been a good year on the anger front. On speculation, I’d say it has to do with:
a) The Holy Spirit.
b) Having made it through more stressful times of life—e.g. little kids; moving little kids to Africa; living with slightly bigger kids in Africa—so that my endurance is increased (suffering produces character and character, endurance, right?) … via the Holy Spirit.
c) Good habits in anger response forming S-L-O-W-L-Y. I’ve been praying, thinking, and writing about anger for at least two years now.
d) Observation by local Ugandans on a near-constant basis as they help in and around my house.
e) The Holy Spirit.
Buuut, well, there’s still a flabby, ugly, downright nasty moment that slaps me in the face many times a week: Bedtime. (Not mine. If only.)
Maybe you’ve been there. Allow me to paint the scene. Mom has been on duty now for 13-14 hours. When possible, Dad has graciously stepped in to assist after work. But now the end is in sight. Having attempted to maintain patience and gentleness over the exhaustive course of the day, I am now one giant exposed nerve. C’mon, finish line.
Oddly, no matter what time I start getting my children ready for bed, it always extends later than their prescribed bedtime. There are stories to read, prayers to say, teeth to brush, dirty clothes to be discovered and relocated, action figures that must have army-crawled on their little plastic arms into the middle of the floor, since “not me”-times-four got them out. Because three-fourths of my children are boys, “settling down” somehow means suppressing spur-of-the-moment wrestling matches and Nerf-weapon wars in the middle of the hall. Doesn’t brushing teeth remind you of a light-saber war?
Add to this a couple of stepped-on Legos, so even before a midnight encounter with the action figures, I may have to have my foot amputated. I am limping, refereeing, and repeating requests (er, commands). Despite hearing them every night of the year and having them posted complete with clip art, no one feels moved to accomplish.
I am angry at the level of irresponsibility, lack of self-control, and general disobedience. Were these children raised by wolves? My even tone has been replaced by the staccato of commands en forte. And my forbearance flies out the window with each minute of alone time surrendered to my errant children.
Once they are actually “in bed”—however temporary—the kiddos pop out of bed like the Whack-a-Mole from Chuck E. Cheese. My children somehow experience spontaneous dehydration, despite water retrieved five minutes ago. They are arguing, horsing around (last night, I heard a sneeze, then: “I think I’m allergic to passing gas”), hollering questions to me down the hall as if asking their father never crossed their minds. It all feels like a cruel joke: You’re finished, but, ha, just teasing. In my mind, I’m in overtime, getting paid … well, the same thing I wasn’t being paid before.
Yet again, my legitimate desires—e.g. obedient children of character; a peaceful, organized bedtime; rest—have slimily morphed into demands, where I start punishing not because of the violation of God’s kingdom, out of love for my kids’ souls, but out of self-love. My desire has become an idol requiring sacrifices from its trespassers. I am not being like God and laying aside my anger. I am, oh, more like King Kong.
So here are my proposed solutions—some you may recognize. Let’s just say I need some additional reps to tone an indulgent problem area.
- Pray, and ask other people to pray with me. Confess to friends, my husband, my kids, my blog audience. One MomLifeToday commenter had a great Scripture to pray: Galatians 6:1.
- Accept no excuses from myself. Amy Carmichael has said, “If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word, then I know nothing of Calvary love. For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.” My anger problem resides in my heart, which my kids merely expose.
- Seek accountability. I’m making a rule that I won’t raise my voice at bedtime, no matter how necessary it seems to be—and I’d like my husband and kids to make sure I follow it. Maintaining control over my voice is a step toward controlling my emotion and my demands. One MomLifeToday reader commented that she makes a note in her planner (AO for “angry outburst”) when she loses control. Maybe installing my own post-bedtime consequences/rewards would work. Wonder if I could get a lower “score” of outbursts at bedtime this week than I did last week—for the glory of God?
- Ask for help. When I’m losing it, I can calmly ask my husband to step in or take over when possible. That’s a sign of strength rather than weakness.
- Set realistic expectations—and lower entitlement. I can’t see bedtime as the finish line. Honoring God and loving my family well define bedtime’s success—not me getting what I want, when I want it.
- Get practical. There are ways I can make things easier on all of us by:
- getting started on the whole process earlier, and planning that time with my husband, communicating about responsibilities we’ll each take;
- anticipating after-bed demands, and making clear which are unnecessary—consequences included;
- putting on an audiobook after lights-out, which quiets everyone down;
- initiating room clean-up before dinner.