6/26/08

What's left unsaid.

Dear Zoe,

The other day, it was 90-some-odd degrees at 9 am and we were in a rush. I wanted to stop at the bank machine and then head to the playground/farmer's market before it got too hot. I drove to the bank, walked with you to the ATM, waited in line and then realized that I forgot my ATM card at home. Not that big a deal, one would think, as we were maybe 10 minutes from home and there was nowhere we HAD to be at any certain time. But it was hot and we were running later than I wanted and it was getting hotter by the minute and I was PMSing and you were wanting to do everything "by SELF" and IT WAS ALREADY REALLY HOT.

And.

And I have an issue. A frustration issue.

As I closed my wallet and headed back to the car, I could feel my jaw clench (the first sign). I could feel my heart beating faster, my heart moving blood faster through my veins just in case I needed to ..... run? fight? (the second sign). Tears of frustration and self-loathing were welling up in my eyes. (This all seems so silly now. Tears? Over a little speed bump in my plans?)

I could feel my hands hold you, lift you, buckle you into your car seat a little tighter, maybe even a little rougher, than I needed to. (The very worst sign, the one I fight hardest to control, the one I am the most ashamed of.)

We got in the car and I started to take deep breaths. I told you that "Mommy's very frustrated right now because she forgot her card and we're running later than she wanted. She's just going to take some deep breaths to try to calm down." After speaking of myself in the third person (never a good thing), I took more deep breaths and drove home. On the way, you declared "Mommy frustrated. Take deep breaths.". I looked back at you in the rear view mirror, looking for signs of the permanent damage I must be doing to you, and agreed "yes, Mommy is taking deep breaths to calm down."

I ran in the house, grabbed my bank card and got back in the car. As we pulled out of the driveway, my jaw still slightly clenched, my blood still boiling, you asked hopefully: "Mommy happy now?".

What I wanted to say in response: "Not really. I struggle too often with a demon I'm still learning how to control. I'm scared of how it'll be when you get older and learn where all my buttons are and exactly how to push them. I'm embarrassed that I get so frustrated and despondent over something so transient and trivial as forgetting my ATM card. I'm sorry you had to see it today and probably many times in the future. This easy spark to frustration, this downward spiral to all-hope-is-lost-land, is, I'm so sorry to say, one of our family inheritances. It's been passed down, through genes or modeling or some combination of both, from my father's father to him and my father to me. And probably me to you. I want you to know that it's gotten better with each generation (take home message: therapy is a good thing) and maybe you will be the very first generation to totally be free of it. I hope that you never fear me. I hope that when you are a teenager you will not vow to never to get angry because it's such an ugly, out-of-control emotion and you want no part of it. I hope you never realize in your twenties that you have the same short fuse that you abhorred and feared. Instead, I hope you see your father and me model how to deal with frustration in reasonable ways, ways that you can learn from and be proud of. Or at least, not be embarrassed by. I want you to know that anger and frustration are normal, natural things and there are ways to manage them and express them so that they don't feel like they are taking over your very soul and pulling you down in a hopeless spiral. I want you to know that I fight this problem of mine, this low threshold to TOTAL SYSTEM MELTDOWN, on a daily basis, for myself, for our family, and mostly, ALWAYS, for you."

What I said was: "Yes, Zoe, Mommy's happy now."

love,

your Clueless But Hopeful Mama

2 comments:

Sas. said...

Bless our dear fathers and their fuses... Boy, I can see this exact diatribe/explanation happening in my head when we have little ones. At least we're aware of the spiral, right?? And at least we can make the little ones aware of their emotions - a privelege I don't think even our generation had growing up.

Joanna said...

This was so honest and true. I have been thinking about it for a few days now. When I get frustrated, I always try to act like everything is just fine and then explode at something random. So much better to be open about things and demonstrate, hopefully in a healthy way, how to deal with anger/disappointment.

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