Confessions of a Former Quick-Tempered Mother


Is it frustrating to read a blog such as mine, and hear stories where mothers always seem to be calm, and children appear always helpful? Do you feel like going elsewhere, somewhere more real, where mothers reveal more of the bad as well as the good?

I can imagine I am a very annoying person.

Would it help if I told you I used to be known as the dragon mother? Oh yes! I had a temper that matched my red hair. And I liked to use it, especially when I was tired and life didn’t go to plan, and my kids didn’t behave as I hoped.

When my eldest daughter Felicity was about 2 years old and my second child, Duncan was a baby, I had a real boiling-over day. I can’t remember what the circumstances were. Probably the house was a mess and I was exhausted. Quite possibly Felicity kept insisting on sitting on top of the baby. All I really remember was the pressure cooker feeling that was building up inside me. My head ached. I was hot and bothered. I was going to explode. Would I lose my temper? Shout? Handle my children roughly? I’d done all these before and I didn’t want to do them again. At the last moment, I drew back and burst into tears.

I wondered if there was something physically wrong with me. Perhaps I was anaemic and low on energy. Could this be the reason I never had any patience and why it didn’t take much for me to reach breaking point? I made a doctor’s appointment. The check-up revealed I was a perfectly healthy mother.
cried.

Could it be I wasn’t sick but just an impatient person with a temper I couldn’t control, under trying conditions? I mulled that unpleasant idea over for some time. Maybe I didn’t have what it took to be a mother. The problem was I was
a mother. What was I to do? I knew, that if I wanted to bring up my children with love, I’d have to change. I looked into their beautiful eyes, and realised I didn’t want those eyes to fill with fear every time I came near. No, I had to do something.

Is it possible for a person to change? It certainly is. I look back and see how far I have come – Not much worries me these days. But the journey wasn’t easy…

I made a conscious decision: I wanted to be a gentle mother, a calm mother, a mother visibly full of love and peace. But the chances of me changing into that person seemed low. Our family grew and we began homeschooling, and I wondered how I could possibly be expected to be patient when every day I was given more and more to cope with. I prayed for more patience but nothing happened. One day I realised patience doesn’t arrive like a parcel in the post. It has to be worked at. My children were providing me with many opportunities to practise this virtue. I just had to use these opportunities. With grace, I sometimes succeeded in remaining calm when faced with a difficult situation. Many times I failed. I fell down but I always made myself get up and try again. And gradually I did begin to change.

As I became a calmer and gentler person, I noticed something very interesting. My children became calmer and happier too. A mother’s mood and attitude and example really does set the tone for the family. All round, life was becoming more peaceful.

So am I now perfect? No. Some days I still feel out of sorts and get a bit grouchy. Not very often. Just every now and then. Those occasional slips fill me with horror. I feel so terrible and ashamed – though I guess it’s times like these which prevent me from becoming complacent and proud of myself. But I apologise to my children and they forgive me. Understanding and forgiveness are so important for all members of a family. When life is full of visible love and peace, everyone can safely weather a storm that suddenly flares up and is quickly acknowledged and dealt with.

I love my children so very much. That love makes me want to be the best mother possible. Love certainly has the power to change people. Love and God’s grace transformed me from a hot tempered mother into a calm and peaceful mother, who might seem almost annoyingly perfect.

Except I’m not almost perfect. I still have many faults. Now that the hot temper has been worked on a bit, God and I can move onto the next one…Yes, there is still a lot of work that needs doing.

So you see, I do know all about those difficult times when one doubts one’s ability to parent and homeschool. I know something else too. With Love we can overcome all problems. We can all parent and homeschool gently, with peace and with love, with God’s help.



Do our children remember our parenting failures? Do they hold it against us? Or do they realise just how much we love them and that is all that really matters? I ponder my past life as a dragon mother and how it affected my first born child in the post Memories of an Inexperienced Mother

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Comments

  1. Reply

    Well said, Sue…I have been working on my temper for many years…and I'm not even a red head!

    1. Reply

      Karla,

      I wonder if it's a myth that hot tempers and red hair go together. Did you know that in Australia the nickname Bluey is often given to redheads? I guess anyone can suffer from a fiery temper. It's lovely of you to make me feel less alone. Thank you!

  2. Reply

    Thank you for your honesty … but … what did you actually 'do' on a daily/hourly/minute-by-minute basis when your blood was boiling and nothing was going right and all the kids were agin ya?

    1. Reply

      Marina,

      I tried to reduce the situations that caused me to become short tempered. I used to get anxious because I thought I had to fulfil outside expectations. Anxiety led to anger with my children when I thought they didn't match up. When I let go of these expectations and started unschooling, listening to my children more, things improved immensely. Also I was forever trying to keep up an appearance and wanted to impress others. My children and our home had to look presentable. My children's behaviour had to be impeccable and beyond reproach. One day I decided the kids were more important than the opinions of others, so I relaxed and began putting them first. Appearances no longer seemed so important. I stopped trying to change my children and learnt to accept them. "all the kids were agin ya"? Changing my attitude resulted in us being on the same side, and there was less conflict.

      Of course there were, and still are, times when I feel angry. I usually walk away and cool down in my bedroom. It's better than saying words I will regret. I also learnt if nothing is going right, then a change of activity or scene often helps. On bad homeschooling days, we'd pack up a picnic and leave the house and problems behind. This helped me remember what was important… enjoying my children.

      Finally and most importantly, I pray. Praying together as a family is good too. And being gentle on myself when I fall. Apologising and starting again is better than wallowing in self-recrimination.

      I also look at my children differently these days. They deserve respect and aren't mine to control and treat as I want. I keep coming back to such thoughts to keep myself on track.

      daily/hourly/minute by minute? … Pray. Reduce stress by getting rid of any attitude or situation (like worrying about the opinions and expectations of others) if it's harming my relationship with my children. Recognise danger signals such as tiredness and be gentle on myself. Pray. Abandon a situation that might lead to me boiling over. Don't overload myself. Make sure to plan plenty of special times when we can all enjoy being together. Life shouldn't be all work. Be honest and tell others if I'm not coping. Pray. Have time to myself. Walk off if I'm tempted to react. Pray. Go to confession and know I am always forgiven. Try again.

  3. Reply

    I am sorry but I keep laughing at the "Quite possibly Felicity kept insisting on sitting on top of the baby". You do know how to "spin a yarn" girl … love it!

    I used to (well still do probably) go the other way … repressed anger … then it all get's too much and I explode or collapse or get sick (yukky belly or hedaches). A Dr suggested I try doing that "when you do this or that it makes me feel … " and so I did. I ended up in a fit of the giggles … hopless cause.

    1. Reply

      Lisa,

      I'll make you laugh even more. Would you believe I asked the early childhood nurse if it was okay if my toddler sat on the baby? She was horrified! (What a hopeless mother I was!) Actually Duncan didn't seem any the worse for wear. He survived quite nicely!

      "when you do this or that it makes me feel … " Yes, I've read similar advice. Well maybe the outcome wasn't the one intended but a good laugh helps any stressful situation! A good sense of humour is essential for the well being of any mother, I'm sure. Everything looks so much better after a good giggle. It really relieves the tension!

  4. Reply

    I was just telling a friend today that I could positively SLAP myself for all the times I got angry with my children when they were little. I have felt so guilty. My friend said "oh, but your children knew (and know) you truly love them. They knew you cherished them." It was like a light went on. Yes, that was and is the case. Through everything, they really did know I cherished them. That, my friend said, is what makes a loving family… that steady underlying sense the children have that they are loved.

    It is easy to see that your children have that!

    With age (and hopefully some spiritual growth!) I have more gentleness. And today I was sent 2 friends to help me drop old guilt. Thank you, Sue, for being one of them.

    (and I'm glad to know that Felicity started babysitting early. So sorry; couldn't resist 🙂 )

    1. Reply

      Nancy,

      Sounds like you want to get angry with yourself to make up for getting angry with your children. Our mothers' hearts ache so much when we think of the possible hurt we have caused our children. But they don't seem to hold grudges. Yes, I agree they know we love them and that's what matters the most. I also think it's good for our kids to see us struggle with such things. Just think if we were perfect, they'd have so much to live up to. They wouldn't be able to confess their own struggles. Instead we can all understand and help each other.

      Nancy, we'll both drop the guilt together. I have another story about mothering which I don't know if you have read. It's the story of how I worried I wasn't a good enough mother to my first children, then Felicity phoned and told me not only how much she loved me, but how she had always wanted to be just like me. Anyway, maybe I will post the story here tomorrow.

      Thank you for making me laugh with the babysitting joke. As I said to Lisa, we all need a good laugh to keep us going!

  5. Reply

    I love this. Thank you so much for writing it. It is just exactly the encouragement I needed. I was a dragon mother yesterday. I asked each of my children to forgive me, even the two year old, and it is adorable, I think he understood.

    1. Reply

      Elisa,

      I think everyone has dragon mother days. As long as we don't get discouraged, we'll get there. Children are always so generous and loving, ready to forget our faults. Yes, there is always forgiveness. We all need it, children and parents.

      Thank you for reading my post!

  6. Reply

    Oh my goodness…love your honesty as you tell of your struggles in the early years and your style as you describe Felicity wanting to sit on the baby, etc….

    So honest and so helpful. I needed this!
    Love you

    1. Reply

      Chris,

      So glad you shared my story. It's sometimes hard to be so honest but everyone is kind and doesn't judge. I am blessed in my friends. Thank you for your support. God bless. Love to you too!

  7. I saw your link on a comment over at Written by the Hand of God. I'm glad I stopped by because I really enjoyed this post! In fact, I put a link of it in on own blog post today. 🙂

    Thanks so much for sharing what you've learned! God bless.

    1. Reply

      Bobbi,

      Thank you for, not only reading my post, but linking to it. That is so nice of you! It is lovely to see you on my blog. I remember you visiting my Sue Elvis Write blog a while ago, and I am happy to chat once again.

      God bless!

  8. Reply

    I find your blog very encouraging! Thanks so much for telling all your stories, the struggles and the sunshine!

    1. Reply

      Wndy,

      I have told a lot of sunshine stories recently. I was thinking everyone might assume I have never had to struggle, that my stories are only for those who have had a smooth path through life. (I don't suppose anyone really does have a smooth parenting experience!) I am so glad to hear you find my blog encouraging. Your comment is encouraging for me!

  9. Reply

    There is something about babies+sleep deprivation+ a toddler or two that can be pretty hard to bear. I understand what you have written and I have certainly felt the same, and yes, I'm still working on my temper too. Two things have helped me quite a bit:
    1. Praying to Mother Theresa, what a great friend she is to me!
    2. Identifying the times that my worst moods are most likely to occur and try to plan ahead for extra rest, relaxation, sleep, whatever helps the most.

    Great post Sue, thank you for sharing with us honestly, i'm sure it's a great help to others as it is to me.

    1. Reply

      Kelly,

      You are so kind to admit you have had difficult hot tempered moments too. Yes, being a mother of little ones isn't easy at all.

      Mother Theresa? Yes, I'm getting to know her better. She had such a great devotion to Our Lady and I am learning so much from her. I think a devotion to Mary helps too. She understands.

      I love your suggestions for coping. Very sensible!

  10. Reply

    I struggle with anger and short-temperedness. It is something I really dislike about myself. I am so encouraged by the fax that you've been able to move past it. There is hope for this dragon mother yet! (Pray for me, okay?)

    Visiting via Bobbi's place. God bless you!

    1. Reply

      Micaela,

      I WILL pray for you! I guess I wrote this story to show that if I can change, anyone can, because I was a hopeless case. Of course, it is God who changes us. All I had to do was keep trying. I'm still far from perfect but I don't think that matters. We all struggle, parents and children. As long as we love.

      Thank you so much for visiting my blog! I've enjoyed chatting with you. God bless you too!

  11. Reply

    Thank you very much Sue for this post. Your reply to Marina is especially helpfull too.

    1. Reply

      Bernice,

      I am glad you found something helpful in my words. I find it very encouraging when we can all share and swap experiences and support each other. Motherhood can be very difficult at times!

      It is so lovely to chat with you once again. Thank you for taking the time to stop and say hello!

  12. Reply

    Oh yes, Dragon Mom is so familiar to me as well!! I have put it down as another link in the long chain of hormonal tyranny! It has been a struggle as well as the guilt of not being a perfect Mom. In my sleep deprived state, years ago, I remember being upset I wasn't like Little Bear's mom–so calm, calm in all situations, until a friend of mine pointed out she was a cartoon! I ask my kids forgiveness when I fail, then tell them they have to have something to talk to their therapist about someday! I have come a long way with the Lord's help in forgiving myself and laying down my temper. Thank you for your wonderful post and the honesty of mothering. Also, the babysitting antics! God Bless and prayers your way for mothering….

    1. Reply

      Cynthia,

      Oh I like that story about Little Bear and his calm mother!

      I have been rereading a book about St Therese and her teachings. I think it is so consoling to know that if we say something like, "Lord, you know I am so imperfect and weak. I am in need of grace so much you cannot refuse me when I beg for it." Our faults work to our advantage. Have I got that right, do you think?

      Yes, I am sure our children have forgiven us long before we have forgiven ourselves.

      Maybe we all hide our faults for fear of being judged, when most of us find ourselves in similar situations. Thank you for making me feel less alone by confessing that Dragon Mom is familiar to you as well!

      Thank you so much for stopping by and for your prayers. I appreciate your comment very much! God bless you too!

  13. Reply

    Leta,

    Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving your kind words. I appreciate it! I enjoyed visiting your blog and meeting your family. I see you plan to unschool! I hope you will visit again some time.

  14. Reply

    I really needed this today. I'm glad God saw fit to point me in this direction via Google!

  15. Reply

    Just happened on this. THESE kinds of posts give me so much hope. Please don't ever take them away.

    I really do think you are perfect. Reading this does not change my mind one bit..just proves it! xoxoxoxoxox

    1. Reply

      Virginia Sue,

      I'm sorry I took so long replying to your beautiful comment! I always think that if there's hope for me, then there's certainly hope for everyone else. God has had to work a lot on my hard heart so it is open to His grace. Perfect? Oh far from it! But maybe perfection isn't as important as openness and the willingness to try. I shall keep trying!

      After all the very supportive comments recently about my posts, I feel encouraged to leave them online. It is kind of you to read them. Thank you so much! xxx

  16. Reply

    Thank you! I've bookmarked to read and re-read over x

    1. Reply

      Emma,

      It's kind of you to stop by with your comment. Thank you!

  17. Reply

    I have been a homeschooler for as far back as ten years, and amid that time I have utilized a ton of self-teaching educational modules and seen considerably more than I have utilized. I have done many things to the extent instructing our children, yet self-teaching has by a wide margin been my top pick. Ill-tempered

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