Saturday, February 27, 2010

She's Gonna Blow- Real Help for Moms Dealing with Anger

Head in hands, forehead pressed into my palms, I sat hunched over in a chair on the back deck. Despite the sunny, glorious spring weather, my heart fluttered while I fought to gain control of my floundering emotions. The swelling of my pregnant tummy reminded me that in the near future my life would spin even further out of control.

Putting the phone to my ear, I listened for Corbin's reassuring voice. He answered to my choking sobs.
"Corbin, I don't think I can do this."
"Hey, what's going on?"
"I can't do this day. I can't handle these three children. And (voice cracking- sobbing) there's another one coming..."

In his wisdom, he sat silent and let my cries subside.
Then his quiet, calm words came through the earpiece.
"Ton, of course you can't do four. You don't have four yet. We've just got these three, and you do this well. You'll be able to handle four when this little gal comes."

The tension in my shoulders began to ease.
I knew he was right. But the scene right inside the back door scared me. Toys littering the house, bickering toddlers, a fussy baby who had been sick for a week... Did I have what it took to carry the weight of these days with patience and kindness and self control? (All the things I was trying to teach my children?!) I honestly didn't think I could. And what scared me the most was my lack of gentleness with the kids. One minute I felt just fine and genuinely grateful for my growing family, and then all of the sudden - boom! One spill or one fight or one poopy mess and I spewed out (loud!) words of anger towards my children.

Enter Julie Ann Barnhill's book, "She's Gonna Blow - Real Help for Moms Dealing with Anger." The title intrigued me, and I was desperate for encouragement in handling my anger. I needed some practical advice to level my charged emotions, as they were too often explosive and out of control in dealing with my infant and toddler children.
I needed to read that I wasn't the only mom that yelled at her children. That I wasn't the only one who had to retreat outside periodically and take a few deep breaths to keep from exploding over the latest spilled (very full!) gallon of milk that somehow reached from the kitchen counter to the television across the den, splattering the windows and carpet along the way. But I also needed her encouragement that it was possible NOT to erupt even in the midst of stress and fatigue.

"She's Gonna Blow" is chock full of practical ways to recognize and dispel anger before it hurts our children. And us. I related to Barnhill's comparison of explosive mothers under pressure to erupting volcanoes:

A volcano, in essence, is a natural thing that explodes under pressure. And that's exactly what can happen to us when motherhood gets to be just too much for us. In an instant we can change from the peaceful, nourishing women we want to be into Mount Momma - spitting fire and brimstone at all who cross our path. (pg 33)

Barnhill describes four types of volcanoes that align with anger patterns:
1. Strombolian - eruptions and relatively short, happen at predictable times (not terribly destructive, "normal" outbursts)
2. Hawaiian - characterized by lakes and rivers of constantly flowing lava (chronic, simmering anger)
3. Vulcanian - explosion that is loud, scary and dangerous (on-going, willfull and increasingly harder-to-stop behavior)
4. Plinian - an eruption with huge volume and power, able to destroy a vast area (these are the women we see on the evening news)

What I liked about this book -
- It actually helped me control angry outbursts. I credit "She's Gonna Blow" as a stopping point for my "mommy anger" (which, by the way, I didn't even know I had until I was a Mom!). After having prayed about this issue for a couple of years, I still felt out of control periodically in angry responses to my children. Something about Barnhill's message clicked and altered my perception of my little ones. It turned my eyes outward and into their tender hearts (and how my anger could hurt them) rather than looking inward at my own frustration or fatigue.
- Besides providing information for understanding and recognizing anger, Barnhill also includes practical, practical ideas to control and minimize angry reactions. She includes "time out/tamers" (box quotes) throughout the chapters, and then offers some great discussion questions at the end of each chapter - making it ideal for a group study.
- Anger aside, this book is simply a great resource for parenting. Some of my favorite random reminders:
1. Choose laughter. (pg 88)
2. Intentionally forgive children. (pg 95)
3. Children are for our sanctification. (pg. 101) Yikes! So true!
4. Look your child in the eye, hold their hands, and say, "I love you just the way you are." pg. 109

When he was about five, Branson saw this book on our coffee table and asked, "Mom, what in the world is this book?"
I explained that it was helping me to make good choices and not get angry so easily.
"OK, Mom, let's make a deal. Anytime you start to get mad, I'll yell out, 'She's gonna blow!' and remind you not to get angry."
And so he did. "
And so I laughed.
I've found it's impossible to stay frustrated in the face of a five-year-old, blond-headed kid falling backwards and bellowing, "She's gonna blow!"

We recently read this book in my Mom's group. In a circle of a dozen women with varying personalities and stress levels, the only constant is that everyone has young children. And yet everyone related to this book's message in some form or another. Our conversations produced tears and honest confessions, but also revealed hope and deep yearnings to keep our mommy-emotions in control.

Published in '05, "She's Gonna Blow" served as an invaluable resource to me in a season of very young children and significant fatigue. I'm grateful to Barnhill for putting these words into print and getting them into our homes. Definitely made a difference in this one!