Mama Hulk

It’s 5:30pm, and I can feel it starting to happen. Dinner is late, the baby screams unless I hold her, the boys are fighting over every. Little. THING. The “witching hours” have started, and I wasn’t prepared. Again. The feeling starts in my chest and slowly begins to work it’s way out. My muscles tense, my mind stops being able to form complete thoughts. Stir the food, don’t drop the pot. The baby tugs at my pants, crying at the top of her little lungs. I pick her up to make it stop. Only one hand. Now what? I’m being called in to referee who is at fault in a wrestling match. Do my best to affirm yet discipline. My tongue won’t stop getting twisted. It’s spreading to my face now. My teeth clench, and my breathing starts to escalate. Put baby down, serve up food while she protests my perceived negligence. This son didn’t want the yellow plate, he wanted the green one to match his brother. That son wants to know why I made that “gross thing” again. My eyes start to hurt, my hands start to shake. Baby wants up in her chair, I oblige while trying unsuccessfully to get her brothers to stop hitting each other and sit down. Barely restrained now. I try one more time to wrangle my fighting bears, and as one stomps to the table, and throws himself down, he knocks his full water cup over. I can’t fight it off anymore, and it takes over me. Mama Hulk. Words come pouring out of my mouth unchecked, my volume is shrill. There is no filter, no thought…no mercy…

The Mama Hulk started when our oldest son was old enough to actually get in trouble. I vividly remember the first time I truly realized I struggled with anger. It was at a time of life when I was hurting, we couldn’t seem to get pregnant, and it felt like everyone around me was announcing their big news. That is not an excuse, but rather context. The day had been tense, although I’ve long since forgotten why. I do however perfectly remember the moment I decimated my son. He was in the living room playing, and I came out of the kitchen just in time to see him spill an entire chocolate meal replacement drink down himself and all over our WHITE armchair. What came next was nothing short of shameful. It pains me to even admit it. I yelled, I screamed, and with finger pointing, I accused without mercy. He was two at the time. He bravely faced me for as long as he could, and then he couldn’t hold it in anymore. His face crumpled in devastation, and he recoiled from me in fear…fear. Every ounce of anger I had left me, and I was hit with remorse unlike any I have ever experienced before. I was afraid of myself in that moment.

As he cried, I dropped to my knees and gathered him into my arms. He sobbed into my shoulder, his little body shaking from emotion. To add just a little bit more to my shame, I realized the window had been open, and our neighbor was now standing outside of it peering in. Coming to check on my son. It had been a long day, I told them. It was true, but the problem wasn’t with the day, it was with me. Recognizing you have a problem, and knowing how to deal with it are two different things. I tried for many years to just learn to be a patient person, to not let things bother me. Eventually though, all that pent up frustration would burst out in ways I couldn’t control. We added more kids, and that didn’t do much to help the rage that simmered just below the surface at times. Not all the time, but during times of stress. When I didn’t know how to handle a stressful situation, I got angry. Fast. My tempers are usually short lived, and I feel terrible afterwards, but that doesn’t do much to erase what happens in between times.

I will say that in the last few years, the patience I so desperately craved did indeed come. Of course I still have Mama Hulk moments, but they have become few and far between. Awhile back, I stumbled across a verse that completely changed the way I view a lot of things, but especially my anger. It’s written on index cards, taped tackily on my cupboard door in the kitchen where I will see it often.

“The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

In the split second before I can feel myself losing control, I have learned to ask myself “do you really want to steal, kill and destroy? Or do you want to give life in this moment?” I still yell, because, well I’m human and for crying out loud they don’t always like to listen! But that one question has calmed many a fight brewing in my soul, and I can excuse myself to the other room and take a “mommy time out.” They have learned to let me. That I need it as much for their sake as mine.

The other night I had a reminder of how far I had come. Our oldest once again was the culprit, this time with a milkshake all over our couch in the living room. It has been a long time since I saw my son melt down like he did in that moment. “Please don’t be mad at me! Please don’t yell at me!” he sobbed. Before either my husband or I could respond, he ran from the room and barricaded himself in the bathroom. To my surprise, and secret delight, I didn’t even feel the faintest stirrings of anger. Probably because I was feeling guilty all over again, that sour memory unrelenting in fading away. As I called him out of the bathroom, reassuring him that it wasn’t a big deal, I had a moment of redemption when he finally came out and threw his arms around me. “I love you mom,” he mumbled into my shoulder. It was like we were reliving that day, and I was getting a second chance at my response.

Once again. It’s 5:30pm, and I can feel it starting to happen. Dinner is late, the baby screams unless I hold her, the boys are fighting over every. Little. THING. The “witching hours” have started, and I’m not prepared. Again. The feeling starts in my chest and slowly begins to work it’s way out. My muscles tense, my mind stops being able to form complete thoughts. Stir the food, don’t drop the pot. The baby tugs at my pants, crying at the top of her little lungs. I pick her up to make it stop. Only one hand. Now what? I’m being called in to referee who is at fault in a wrestling match. Do my best to affirm yet discipline. My tongue won’t stop getting twisted. It’s spreading to my face now. My teeth clench, and my breathing starts to escalate. Put baby down, serve up food while she protests my perceived negligence. This son didn’t want the yellow plate, he wanted the green one to match his brother. That son wants to know why I made that “gross thing” again. My eyes start to hurt, my hands start to shake. Baby wants up in her chair, I oblige while trying unsuccessfully to get her brothers to stop hitting each other and sit down. Barely restrained now. I try one more time to wrangle my fighting bears, and as one stomps to the table, and throws himself down, he knocks his full water cup over. I can’t fight it off anymore—wait. Deep breathe, close your eyes. They all gasp, three sets of eyes lock onto me, waiting to see what will happen. Open my eyes, make myself relax the muscles that are vibrating with tension. It’s alright, I say. Go get the towel buddy, I’ll help you clean it up. They exhale, they smile. I won this time, Mama Hulk didn’t. She might win a couple times this week, but I’ll keep fighting for patience. To be a life giver. It’s worth the war.

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