4:28 a.m. Is Not a Good Time for a Teachable Moment a.k.a., Mom is Angry Again

Posted on June 13, 2011 by


This is not me. But she sure looks pissed.

Last night my son woke me up three times. 2:10. 3:30. 4:28. I knew it was 4:28 because when I told him it was 4:30 and he needed to get back to sleep, he insisted that I was lying. “It’s actually 4:28 and can’t you just finally get the time right, Mom?” Why am I always lying about what time it is, this is what he wants to know at 4 o’clock in the morning. He is 7 years old. And at 7, you’d think that sleepless nights would dissipate, but not in my case on this night. Granted, he was thirsty, then headachy, and then sleepless (no fever, just having a rough night). But I couldn’t pull it together to grant him some empathy. I was simply too tired and too cranky myself to get anything out of my mouth kind except, “Get your butt back into bed.”

Yikes. Did I really say that to my kid? In the morning, we talked about my response. We didn’t talk about how uncannily Ms. Hannigan I sounded, but I did explain to him, after some wise words from a friend, that anger is perfectly normal because it shows that people are mad.

But there are times in my life I find myself to be inexcusably angry. The middle of the night is one of those times. But there are more. There was the time I cursed out a woman on an airplane. She was giving me the evil eye because Elke, who was about eight months old at the time, was kicking the back of her seat on an early plane flight. “That’s just unnecessary,” she said.

It was like an explosion happened. This woman didn’t realize that I had already been agitated by my own children starting at 4 a.m. having to wake them up to catch our plane. She was one of those unknowing 20-year-olds who thinks children can be contained or leashed, even. I’m unsure. She didn’t expect my wrath, I know this. “Would you like to switch with me? How about you take my children?” I yelled. “You have no idea what it’s like to have kids,” I screamed, and then, as the rise of anger hit a peak, and as my husband, Andy, insisted I get up from my chair now, while I held the baby in my arms, I blurted out, and pointed, no less, “YOU ARE A BITCH!”

Talk about a teachable moment. I found solace in the back of the airplane with a kind stewardess and an adorable gay couple who were bouncing their twins on their knees. “Maybe she was a bitch,” one of the daddies whispered. What a nice guy.

My children have only recently begun to ask me about my anger. Really, it’s Elke, my two-year-old, who says, “Mommy is really angry. Mommy is really mad.” Her explanation of my feelings diffuses me some. But it doesn’t make me feel any better. My father has told me many times that anger is really depression–because he’s sort of like the modern day Freud of New Jersey–and so I wondered more about this and even brought it up to my therapist.

“Do you think I’m depressed? Is that why I’m so angry?”

“I think that parenting overwhelms you,” she said.

“Maybe I need anti-depressants,” I said. And I begged her. I really did.

“You’re not depressed,” she said. “You just have anxiety that manifests.”

She gave me something like Zanax and I took a half a tablet during dinner time when my anxiety that manifests like anger comes up most. This worked. I no longer cared that my children refused to sit in their seats or eat their dinner. Or as my friend Beth said, “It’s not that you don’t care. You just care less.”

I’d hate to say my anger issues really revolve around issues that have to do with my children, but look. This is the brutal reality of kids. As Jennifer Senior brilliantly reported in the New York magazine article, “Why Parents Hate Parenting:

“Children may provide unrivaled moments of joy. But they also provide unrivaled moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak.”

It occurred to me that my anger comes up most when I’m pulling an I-have-to-do-everything stance. For instance, couldn’t I have asked my husband to hold the baby when we were on that airplane if I was feeling agitated? Why did I have to do it all? What about waking up three times with my son. “Why didn’t you tell me,” my husband said the next morning. “I would have gotten up with him once.” But my husband, a teacher, has to work early in the morning and I felt guilty about waking him. I thought I could handle it. Do it all.

“What’s this about the Do-It-All syndrome you have,” my therapist asked me in our next session. “Where did you get this from? Was it your grandmother?”

I thought about my grandmother and how she ran her own business which she started at the age of 40. Most nights she’d make dinner, set the table, took business phone calls and served the dinner she cooked, including serving my grandfather who waited at the end of the table in his throne with fork and knife in hand.

“But my grandmother loved doing everything,” I said. “She never complained.”

“No, that’s an illusion, Hayley. A fallacy,” my therapist told me. “No one likes doing everything.”

I also remember my grandmother screaming at us often. Her  you-kids-are-going-to-give-me-a-heart-attack banshee call was burned into my mind. This was probably after the business calls, after the clean up, after the dinner. Etc. Etc. Etc. But it never erased the moments she cherished us and all of the adventures we had with her.

Hopefully, my kids will be able to edit out my enraged moments too. In the meantime, I better work on asking for help. Angry is a turnoff. But I think martyrdom might be worse.

(Image by cvrcak1)

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