Stepping Back

“Please stop. Please stop. Please take a step back.” I tell myself.

I am alone with my young daughter. She refuses to finish her bowl of cereal.

I am enraged, ready to break things, like I broke her bedroom door two years ago. But three years of therapy on top of a decade and a half of adult life speaks to me in this moment. I recognize rage. All that training reminds me it is only destructive.

I stomp away and fold some clean clothes. Review what has happened, what we said and did. It occurs to me, in the mild way of simple thoughts, that what I believe transpired is only one view.

My enraged ego strikes back: YOU WOULD BE A FOOL TO SUCCUMB TO A CHILD’S VERSION OF THIS EVENT. SHOW HER WHO IS BOSS. I turn around to the kitchen and wash dishes in the sink, and do not break any of them.

My daughter is in her room, keeping quiet. When I think about her, rage chokes me. I run out the back door and pace around the yard. Trees soak up radiation. Grass grips its soil. Bugs hum and flit around my garden, some pollinating it, some destroying it, some destroying other bugs.

I remember angry adult faces, furious blue eyes looming over me, rage-filled voices shaking me. I remember cold silences, doors shut, television drowning out my questions. I remember tiptoeing thru the house to avoid reminding anyone of my existence.

Rage vibrates its way out of my skin and evaporates. I am myself again.

I put my hand over my stomach and ask my daughter if she can tell me what she remembers happening. When she begins to speak, it is my heart that clenches. I move my hand to cover it instead.

She was not hungry enough to eat all that I had given her. “But you were hungry!” I insist. “Yes, but you gave me enough for you to eat if you were hungry. I am smaller than you.” “How am I supposed to know how much you want to eat?” I yell, angry again in spite of myself. “You don’t know, Mama. And that is OK.”

And there it is. I made a small mistake, giving too much food. Wasting it. I am terrified of the repercussions of this small mistake. In my terror, I got enraged, ready to protect myself. I was angry to protect myself from screaming echoes that were a quarter of a century old.

We are fortunate. We have plenty of food. It will be all right if a little goes to waste. I pour her uneaten breakfast onto the compost pile. Why did I not remember that we have a compost pile, instead of getting angry? The anger arrived first, that is all. Anger is fast and urgent.

We sit down together to watch a movie. She interrupts the movie with questions and stories. I listen and answer her as best I can.