Is it super lame to begin a piece of writing with…The definition of temper is? Yes? Oh well, I guess I’m lame. I want to write about temper tantrums and surviving them and accepting them as a part of parenting and life and anything involving the human race, and so I decided to look it up. Understanding the words we use to describe problems often make a good place to start to understanding the problems themselves. What I read, though, wasn’t what I expected.
When I think of tempers I think of red faces, snotty noses, feet stomping, little bodies rolling around on the ground, fists flying, voices yelling, tears streaming, and all the usual signs of a good ol’ fashioned tantrum. But this is the primary definition:
Temper – noun
a person’s state of mind seen in terms of their being angry or calm.
The words, “of their being angry or calm” gave me pause.
It’s true. A temper tantrum is the result of someone with a bad temper. Someone with a good temper is calm. So, can I blanket all tempers with my mantra, “Tempers Suck.” Yes. Yes, I can. Why? Because as someone who has a bad temper and suffers through parenting others with bad tempers, those with calm tempers suck for the sole reason that they can’t relate. And since they can’t relate they look at whoever is having a tantrum as a result of a bad temper like they’re crazy. They ask, “What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you keep it together?” And that question, will inevitably, cause the person with the bad temper to react in an even more tantrummy way.
Have you ever been in the middle of an angry rant about someone at work who pissed you off the point of boiling your blood and had someone tell you to, “calm down” or “relax?” Tell me, does it help? Does your bad mood disappear like a camp fire extinguished with a bucket of water? Or, do you feel the flames rage higher and hotter?
So yes, people with good tempers suck just as much as people with bad tempers. Obviously, though, they’re not what inspired me to come up with this mantra. No, it was the classic bad tempers running rampant in my household that inspired today’s post.We battle over waking our kids up. Then we battle over getting them to sleep. When any form of personal hygiene is suggested, it becomes the Civil War – our boys are fighting for their freedom to be disgusting and we’re their slave-drivers fighting to keep them captive. In fact, everything we do to keep them safe and healthy is the equivalent to us keeping them enslaved.
In our house, we battle with our kids over waking up. Then we battle over getting them to sleep. When any form of personal hygiene is suggested, it becomes the Civil War – our boys are fighting for their freedom to be disgusting and we’re their slave-drivers fighting to keep them enslaved. In fact, everything we do to keep them safe and healthy is considered encroaching upon their personal freedoms.
We tell them to eat dinner, not chips and candy, we’re torturing them.
We ask them to text us and let us know where they are, we’re dictators.
We expect them to attend every class in the day and complete (gasp!) their school work, and we’re tyrants.
The number one battle to end all wars is when we dare to say the dreaded, most-hated word in any child’s vocabulary. We all know the word. No.
Our 16-year-old doesn’t throw tantrums, per se. His rage manifests as a quiet ember burning always inside him. When we say no to him, he repays us with solemn discreet disobedience. He responds in-kind, I guess I could say. Since we didn’t do something for him, he’s not going to do anything for us.
Our 14 and 5-year-olds throw fits. All-out toddler-tantrums. The 14-year-old begins his chorus of why performed at a whine a degree above a cat’s dying call. And the 5-year-old shouts every insult in the book at us, “You’re stupid,” “You’re disgusting,” then tells us he hates us before running to his room where he slams the door as hard as he can. From the other side, we can hear every toy, book, and shoe he can grab being pelted at the closed door.
Their tempers aren’t the only sucky part of tempers, though. Learning to restrain yourself from reacting is the second knife wound delivered with a tantrum.
But, the suckiest part of tempers, at least in my house, is mine. Having a bad temper as a parent sucks. It makes ignoring their tantrums damn near impossible.
Learning to control my temper is like learning to wrestle a bear. It’s me against the bear who’s twice my size. I never know what the bear’s going to do. Sometimes the bear sleeps. Sometimes I pin the bear and I win the fight. Sometimes the bear loses her shit and mauls me and everyone around and I have no strength to stop her.
Then to add one more layer of suckiness, I’m trying to teach my children how to harness their tempers, but I still lose mine from time to time. When this happens, all the good work feels undone and the memories of times when I held it together vanish. And that sucks.
I’ve tried meditation, yoga, getting more sleep, eating right, drinking less coffee, drinking less alcohol, exercising, taking breaks, essential oils, reading books about self-love and forgiveness, eliminating chemicals, birth control, Himalayan salt rocks for counteracting electromagnetic waves, and therapy. I still lose my shit.
I wish there was a personality eraser. I want to be able to take a cloth and wipe away my bad temper. I want to stay calm. But sometimes, I just can’t. (And my husband is one of those calm tempered people who chime in with “relax” and “calm down” at the worst possible moments. This does not help.)
I feel like whenever I’m trying to control the bear, all I do is keep her calm for a little while until she breaks free and then attacks one hundred more people than she would’ve if I hadn’t been restraining her for so long. When I stop and I let her out for little breaks on a regular basis, she gets overactive and won’t go to sleep. And if I hear one more person tell me it’s about finding the balance between control and release, my bear is going to eat their head.
What does that even mean, find the balance? Am I supposed to wander the streets searching for a balance beam? And when I find it, should I install it in my living room and practice doing stunts without falling?
If someone can give me some solid advice that doesn’t involve some abstract double-talk non-answer, I’d appreciate it. Because this is one zen mama who doesn’t always find her zen. For now, the only thing I know to do is tell myself these things like, parenting is hard because tempers suck. And try to find a way to forgive myself when I don’t hold it together.