My daughter's temper tantrums are explosive. There's all the basic elements, like tears and yelling and kicking. But there are usually extra flourishes like writhing on the floor and pounding her fists, usually about grave injustices like not getting to eat pudding for dinner. When she really gets going, it's like something out of Shakespeare.
I watch her emote, and I can't believe something so beautiful, passionate and angry grew from cells inside of me. I can hardly believe I am raising this little being who can do that.
On the day she was born, I whispered a very simple promise in her ear: "I will support your emotions, especially anger, every day of my life. All of you is welcome with me."
Each one of her meltdowns is a miracle. Each is proof that she is having a different childhood than I did. And each is proof that I am amazing.
I know I am not supposed to say that, right? It's trendy, almost compulsory, for mothers to beat themselves up for failures, both real and imagined. Motherhood has become the great measuring stick that is impossibly long for all of us.
It's true: my daughter has an amazing mother. But how could I make such an audacious claim? If I ever had the courage to say it, I'm sure I'd end up talking about rage and how I welcome it in my daughter.
And because I am an over-explainer, I would probably go on to to explain what I did with my rage when I was a little girl. I denied it, and the price I paid was years of bulimia and of over-achievement and self-hate. My long-stowed-away rage was tucked way, way down below my belly and other vital organs. I had stuffed that rage below my knee caps, past my shins and beyond my heels. It lived in my tippy toes and propelled me forward in a crooked line for decades.
My story would end up sounding like the plot of an ABC after-school special, except it was my life.
But, if I slipped and accidentally told someone what a great mother my daughter has, I couldn't just share the mess. Messes don't produce great moms. I would have to talk about how I got into recovery, and I would have to mention therapy. Years, and years, and YEARS of therapy.
I'd end up talking about how lucky it was that as a adult, I found places where I could let out my anger.
I eventually learned that if I deny my anger, it will make me sick. I learned that my anger is beautiful. It is part of me. I cherish it.
The message that anger is bad for girls was deeply engrained in me, but I heal with each of my daughter's meltdowns. I watch my daughter flail with fury like a wounded animal and I admit that my emotions are mixed. Certainly, there is a part of me that is annoyed and wants her to sit up and eat her damn quesadilla like a good girl.
But there is also pride. I am proud of her for having a full emotional experience, and I am proud of myself for making room for her anger and not giving in to the temptation to make her stuff it away, out of my sight.
Today, when my daughter expresses rage, she is not sent to her room. I stay with her as she thrashes, and affirm that I love her and her anger.
I want my daughter to understand that fits of anger are as valuable as laughing in hysterics or squeals of pure joy. Because they are. Her anger -- and my anger -- are a vital part of our life force, and our anger deserves to be supported just like joy or gratitude or generosity.
All of her is welcome with me.