Last night I sat on your bed as you whirled yourself to sleep the way you always do. A hand here, a leg thrown out from under the covers, then back under, then out again. Pillow flipped from side to side as you nestled deeper, trying to find that sweet spot of the cool and the comfortable.
I watched your eyes close, slowly fading into the darkness of slumber and I asked myself,
“Who will teach you how to be angry if I am pulled under?”
I am angry and I am drowning in it. I know you can sense it in all the ways only children can tune into their parents emotions. You hear the short sentences, the clipped, curt commands. You notice the mess, the untidy piles and the dishes gone a few days too long. You wonder where I am when I disappear to my bed for “just a few minutes” while you watch another episode of whatever’s on PBS Kids, and you come up only when the TV threatens to turn off or you need a snack.
You watch with a slight air of disinterest as I silently flail because you see but you don’t comprehend. Mama is angry. Not at you, my sweet child, but at life. At a world where she feels silenced and powerless. At a world that has taught her to fear her anger…to remain quiet and small.
You lie there, quiet and small in your cozy bed and I realize that someday you will be angry. The small angers you know now, of not getting a cookie or your sibling taking your toy, will grow, unbidden, bolstered by the anger of thousands of generations of silent complicity. Someday something will come up on the news or you’ll read a comment on Facebook if that’s still a thing, and you will feel that righteous rage bubble up and you too will start to sink into its depths.
Unless something changes. Unless I pull myself up and out and start to teach you, not through words, but through action, that anger is not the end of the world but the beginning of a new one. That anger can change you for the good if you let it.
When I shut down my anger it pulls me under. When I pretend it doesn’t exist and refuse to speak the authentic truth of my anger it drags me into despair. And you watch all this, learning that anger is to be feared. Anger is to be stuffed down silently, politely, to be avoided at all costs. I am passing on a legacy of denial, silence, and fear that the tiny sponge of your brain can’t help but absorb.
So I will speak my authenticity. I will speak my anger out loud for the world to hear and more importantly I will use my anger for good. I will allow it to mobilize me to action until my anger becomes a buoy instead of dead weight.
I will teach you how to be angry, dear child, and I will not let the anger pull us under.