When I was young, I wondered if I had an anger problem.
My temper could be quick to flare and would burn so hot, so fast. It was a visceral reaction and would catch me by surprise. I attributed it to being picked on rather mercilessly by a cousin, from a very young age and on an almost daily basis. I would just explode in those moments, and later in life, I would realize that it came from frustration and shame that he could get to me like that and, most importantly, that I could not make it stop, no matter what I did.
Then I grew up, became a parent, and found out that the anger I’d felt was nothing, NOTHING compared to the anger I would feel when someone or something hurt or threatened my child.
I’m sitting here now with what I call “rage tears,” a phenomenon that occurs in me when I get so angry that a malevolent violence seeps from my pores, surrounding me in a cloud of wounded hostility. If someone could see my aura right now, I would feel so sorry for them because I simply cannot imagine that it would not cause them physical anguish to look upon it. It feels as if venomous barbs are escaping my body through my skin, each one dragging a piece of me away as they push through – stealing my blood, my soul. This is what brings the rage tears — anger that causes me physical trauma which brings about tears that simply fall because there is no room left for them inside of me. They are my compassion, and they are forced out.
What’s happening to my son right now isn’t horrible. Another child at school is messing with him, bullying him. When I was young, we thought of the bully as the kid who acted out physically on other kids, maybe shoved a kid in a locker, knocked his books out of his hands, smeared something in another girl’s hair, etc. We recognize bullying now for what it is, with or without the physical components: a power struggle within the bully only, usually a wounded child who feels they must wound someone else because they feel powerless themselves in another situation. My bully was the same. I am able to feel compassion for these people because no child (or adult) should ever be made to feel powerless and out of control. My son had a bullying situation a few years ago that was, so far, considerably worse than this. But we were in a smaller school, dealing with a more known quantity in both our bully as well as his parents, the counselors, and the rest of the faculty. We knew these people well. We addressed it and got immediate action. Our bully knew us as parents. He was in severe pain. He was unskilled and way overstepped himself very early on, and when he had to face us, he cried tears of terrible shame and I was able to put my arms around him and tell him that he was so much better than the kids who had done this very thing to him and to not let them pull him down to their level. We were able to offer him our forgiveness. We were all able to heal and move on.
But this is high school, and this bully has apparently never been called on the carpet to face a parent, to cry in shame, to be offered forgiveness and the chance to change. He is nuanced. He is smart. He is much better at what he does. He is dangerous. He is triggering a PTSD reaction in our home.
I am seeing shadows of the son who wasn’t quite as confident, who didn’t want to go to school to deal with whatever today’s bullshit would be, who walked in the door at night and hit me with a barrage of the rotten thing(s) that happened today instead of how great things were at school today. It is not a return, but there are shadows. And, of course, as I try to advise him, he offers apologies because he is “messing up” how he is dealing with this kid — because he continues to be human toward him, to offer him the benefit of the doubt, to respond kindly instead of going off on him, to which I have to explain that he has nothing to apologize for — that my frustration is that he, we, have been put in this position by this bully and that I have to explain to him as a parent that this child does not deserve his kindness and that, against who he is as a person, he MUST assume a protective posture at all times and never give him the benefit of the doubt again.
This bully is coming after my son’s innocence, but I am the one who actually has to take it. I’ve been through many things in my life, but there has been nothing else that breaks me like that, because of the frustration and shame and, most importantly, the fact that I cannot make it stop.