9/4/08

The Color Red

I want my kids to be angry.

Isn't the color of anger bright red? Yes. Color my children bright red. Color me red while you're at it. Yes. I mean it. When life calls for it, paint my whole family as red as a tomato, or a fire truck.

Sometimes anger is just plain necessary.

We don't give anger enough credit. It rises up in us for a reason, but we try to stop it, prevent it from making us look unstable or out of control. But it isn't our anger that's the problem.

It's what we do with our anger that seems to turn it against us. Because most of us have always had a problem with allowing ourselves or those close to us to be angry. Negative emotions seem to scare us. So when we feel this anger, the most harmless of emotions, we mute it. Silence the rising in our chests. Turn away as if we've seen something ugly. We allow our healthy anger to be stuffed inside, turning to rage; anger's own personal giant.

There are a million valid reasons to feel angry in a person's lifetime. Maybe our anger even lies within, waiting to serve a purpose; to relieve us from pain, to shield us from harm, to signal us that something isn't quite right. But we fight it, and then we lose. We run from the color red to save face, to appear controlled and at peace. And so our anger turns inward, it dissolves into sadness, a term we've coined "depression."

So often the bright red feeling of anger is the most prominent, seeking escape, an outlet, a healthy release. And just as often, we forget that it's okay to be angry. We forget that anger is possibly a protector from harm, a friend that nudges us, telling us not to allow the mistreatment of ourselves or those around us. We ignore it so much, we don't even remember what it feels like.

Yes, I want this protector from harm, a red friend that signals, leading my boys away from mistreatment. I want them to feel that any emotion is allowed. No, not any behavior in response to emotion is acceptable, but any feeling is right and good. Positive or negative, feelings and emotions serve a purpose, speaking to our gut and leading us from dysfunction, carrying us away. I would rather have my kids angry, voicing their fears loudly, than to have them left alone, stifling their feelings and allowing hate and fear to rise above.

So when I hear the forceful screams of the toddler stage; the red of anger with shoes that are difficult to slip on, or the block of towers that won't stand, I try to allow the groans and cries. I step in when the frustration turns toward the brother or the friend, and do my best to prevent outward attacks brought on by this anger. But I also try to put words to the acceptance of this emotion;

"It's okay to be mad, but it's not okay to hurt your brother."

I fail more times than I'd like to admit. But I'm working on it, trying to foster all the feelings that come with being human, with hope that my boys will one day stand up for themselves and others when it matters most. Because of anger, turning them red.


This post is a part of the
Scribbit Write-Away Contest for September.

15 clicked right here to comment:

Peanut said...

So true. I use the exact words with KK, "It's ok to be angry, but it is NOT ok to _____". I tend to be the type to stuff the anger down, mostly because in the moment, I have difficulty finding the words to express myself. But I'm getting a little better with practice.
I'll come back to reread this post a few times... you really explain anger well here.

Melanie J said...

Remember how Holly Golightly used to refer to the mean reds in Breakfast at Tiffany's? I think if you can succeed at teaching your children to find healthy expressions for their anger, you've handed them one of the greatest life tools ever. It was when I finally learned the right way to express mine that I think I became a truly functioning, balanced adult. You're dead right about how important it is to acknowledge it and deal with it instead of ducking it.

MoziEsmé said...

Great post! It's so important to learn how to deal with anger, because it's so much a part of life whether you like it or not.

And great take on the contest theme!

MidnightCafe said...

You're an awesome Mama! This is a fantastic post and a good reminder to all of us.

Kimberly said...

Wow, I've never thought about it like that but you are so right.

happygeek said...

Beautiful.

Eowyn said...

It's true. I love the idea of letting them feel it but learning to control it. I haven't figured that out with my kids though.

And about your previous post--no worries. I love the song!

a Tonggu Momma said...

This is a gorgeous post... an excellent reminder.

charrette said...

You are so right! I especially love the way you describe depression as anger turned inward. Absolutely true. Holding it in is perhaps the most damaging thing we can do to ourselves -- and others.

Scribbit said...

I heard my husband saying something very similar recently--you can be upset but you can't be rude. Or something along those lines.

Kristen said...

Yes, yes, I love it. Feelings are okay, but behavior needs to be appropriate. Such a life lesson for all of us.

Kate said...

oh, such a good reminder. Especially when you are in the trenches of toddlerhood with a newborn and a nine year old and said toddler has given up pooping on the toliet, like, forever maybe. I need these kinds of words in my life, the ones that remind me red in o not a color to banish.

Adam and Kristina said...

OK, so I'm now stalking you and reading past posts. I had to comment because I teach an anger management class to adolescents!

We were just discussing emotions, in class yesterday, and that it's fine to be angry. There's no right or wrong emotion. However, your actions will always have consequences.

Also, anger is generally a secondary emotion, preceded by frustration, disappointment, worry, etc.

Sometimes, I do want to punch the kids in the face, though. Good thing I have my blog to post that on.

Gabrielle said...

I agree! Let them be red! Emotions are ALL healthy, important and serve such purpose, and without them we would never know the difference in joy and sadness, pain, anger, silliness and bliss.......great post!

jubilee said...

well said.

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