Anger at a Parent

anger dudeParent-teacher conferences the other night. When you go to parent-teacher conferences as a parent, it is supposed to be about your child. Not about you, the parent, or about how you felt as a child. But that does have a tendency to creep in.

We are meeting with our 10th teacher of the night (we have three children in one school, and the two in the upper grades have a lot of teachers). This teacher is a rabbi, who teaches both my sons at the current time. I made some remark about my eldest son getting “mad” (my mistake, I really meant angry, but colloquially one often says mad) because I took out his broken, falling apart folder and replaced it with a new, sturdier one. Now, all my son did was make one of those faces when I told him I had done this. No drama, no yelling. Just a facial expression. But I didn’t say any of this to this rabbi, his teacher.

The teacher said in response: “And you told him he’s not allowed to get mad at his parent, right?” I mumbled ‘no’. And that was basically the end of this part of the discussion. For the life of me, I can’t remember what he said next. But for the rest of the evening and part of the morning, I was thinking about what I might have said, what I would have wanted to say. And I want to write about why this whole thing bothered me. Why can’t I just let it go?

Perhaps I would have wanted sources (Jewish halachic sources) that say one is not allowed to get angry at a parent. But I’m sure they exist. That’s not going to help me.

So I now I go back to an earlier post, the first I wrote about anger. Anger as an emotion just is. So naturally one is sometimes going to get angry at people who live in your house, be they your children, parents or spouse. It’s what you do with the anger that can be problematic. And all my son did was make a face. A perfectly good way to deal with his anger, in my book. But the differentiation of anger vs. how one reacts to anger is not at all in this teacher’s head. Now, he happens to be a good teacher and has a good sense of how to handle kids. But I’m not going to be the one to educate him on emotions. Maybe part of me wishes I could do that, in a way he could hear. But maybe what I am really looking for is to undo my own childhood hurts, and once and for all be allowed to be angry at some of the adults around me! Even the caring, loving ones.

A big danger in not expressing anger is one can get sick from internalized anger. Coming soon: a look at Virginia Woolf and her father…did internalized anger contribute to her illness? She eventually killed herself. If one sees her illness as all biological, then the anti-depressants of today might have saved her. But if one sees her illness as internalized anger, perhaps some externalizing of her anger may have helped her.

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