Do you know how I know? Last night, I actually heard myself making the follow statement to my daughter:
“I want you to know that when I get mad like that I’m really not mad at you, I just need to yell at whoever’s closest to me. And I hope you know that I really don’t want to move into my own nice clean apartment so the rest of you can stay in the house and live like pigs.”
My daughter just smiled and said, “Um…okay?” I’m not sure if that meant she was already over it or scarred for life. (I’m crossing my fingers for already-over-it.)
What is it with me and my temper? I hate it (hate it…hate it…HATE IT!!!) It’s one of my worst flaws, besides my indecisiveness and, obviously, my cankles. I have struggled with my short fuse since I was a child; I have early memories of raging at my older brother through his closed bedroom door when he stole several of the fat pink peppermint candies I’d bought with my own money at the gas station. In a fit of righteous indignation, I hurled the entire bag of them against the door and screamed, “Fine, have them all!” (It was a pretty big bag of peppermint candies; how many did I need? Apparently gluttony is another of my flaws.) I can also recall, during my young(ish) years, frequently slamming the door and throwing myself on my bed, yelling and weeping over the latest injustice my mother had inflicted on me. She used to blame my temper on my “artistic temperment,” which ticked me off even more. First of all, I wasn’t an artist. And second of all, I…did…not…HAVE…A…BAD…TEMPER!!! (I protested her diagnoses by throwing myself on my bed even harder and yelling even louder.) And I think my flare-ups hit their max on a brutally hot summer day when I was about ten years old. My parents were at work and my younger sister and I were wrapping up another one of our eight-hour fights. I pulled out a butcher knife–a big one, not kidding–from the knife block and held it squarely in my upright hand. I told her that if I wouldn’t get in so much trouble, I’d use it. (It’s not as bad as it sounds, my faithfuls. I was standing way across the kitchen and she just rolled her eyes and said, “Whatever” and walked out, the little brat.) Yeah. I have a temper.
What can I do about my temper? Like any truly immature person, I always feel bad and apologize afterward. I tell my family, “I’m sorry, I’ll work on my temper.” But when I lose it again the next day, my credibility is somewhat shot. It’s in the throes of my frustration, not after, that I need my grown-up-ness. But in the throes of my frustration, my grown-up-ness fizzles like flat pop from a faulty fountain (speaking of frustration…) Now, lest you are worried, you should know that my temper tantrums no longer include butcher knives or peppermint candies. But I can get snippy/snappy/nasty with the kids on pretty short notice, usually when I’m tired or stressed. They are quick to forgive, but I feel terrible for hours, lying awake and wondering how many years will go by before, at a Thanksgiving dinner with their brand-new spouses, they pipe up and say, “Hey Mom, remember when you called us pigs and threatened to move out because someone left a gum wrapper on the mousepad?” How will I explain to them that I threatened to move out because my middle daughter had strep throat and was crying and throwing up and I didn’t know if I should take her to the E.R. tonight or wait until morning to take her to her regular doctor and the printer was broken (again) so I couldn’t print out an important tax document we needed tomorrow and my older daughter couldn’t print her homework for tomorrow and the house was a wreck (again) and I felt like I was coming down with my daughter’s strep throat and I’d just spent the last four hours in the van (again) driving kids everywhere and getting nothing done and the dog was on her fourth diaper of the day which was no picnic for me and nine million other church/school/work/house/friend/things were nagging the back of my mind and somehow it all goes back to being my husband’s fault for being out of town (again) and thus unable to make Adulthood go away for me, which he should know by now is a stipulation of his husbandhood? Will all of that explain why, when I saw that gum wrapper on the mousepad, I just exploded?
I don’t think so. But it really doesn’t matter. Because someday my children will have children of their own, and they’ll finally understand what a gum wrapper on a mousepad can do to a mother on a ledge. And they’ll either laugh at the memories of their Mad Mom or remain scarred for life.
I’m crossing my fingers for the laughing.