But yesterday... well, it blew all my theories away. Why? Because I felt, for the first time, that my daughter was really working hard at not letting go of her anger. When I suggested that maybe we just get out of the house and head to the park she insisted that she was going to be angry all the way there. What?!? Really?!? And that’s when I felt as though she was really testing to see what the boundaries are.
So, instead of heading to the park I took her upstairs and told her that she would have to stay upstairs until she could calm herself down. For those of you who don’t know me, this is not my usual response to emotional distress. I’m a fan of staying connected, even if she needs to cry it out on her own. But I was at my wits end. I really needed a break for myself. So she stayed upstairs (with the old baby gate closed) and I came downstairs to listen to her scream from a distance. As I left I told her that I was waiting to give her a hug when she was able to calm herself down.
After what seemed like forever, she finally began to calm down. But I waited. I waited until she was really and truly over the fit. And then I went upstairs and gave her a hug. And she asked me to read her a book. And then we played a game together. And then we went downstairs and it was over.
But we revisited what had happened before bed. I asked her what she had done to calm herself down. I’m not sure that she really knows, but we also talked about wanting to stay angry. About choosing to stay angry.
Today she was mad at me again. I told her it’s okay to be angry. Everyone gets angry. For me the bigger question, the long term question, is what do you do when you get angry? How angry do you get and how long do you stay angry? Having a mindfulness practice allows me to be more aware of the answers even in the midst of emotion. Stay tuned for more theory on how to handle strong emotions.