Several weeks ago, my son became very angry with me. It was a slow Saturday morning, and a bit cool outside. I was attempting to find some indoor activities that would keep the “wheels” on for a little while. We have a large roll of butcher paper in a closet that was purchased precisely for these types of days. So, I got the roll out cut a piece about my son’s height and asked if he wanted me to trace him. He said yes and things were looking up.
I completed tracing his body and right away I knew something was wrong. I noticed a certain tone in his voice when he said, “daaaaad.” I checked in to see what the problem was and he said, “you did it wrong!” I could see the emotion beginning to overwhelm him. His face was a little red, his eyes were filling with tears and I am pretty sure a crayon flew by my head. “What did I do wrong?” I asked. “You traced my hand wrong!” he yelled.
The next few seconds consisted of me trying to understand what had upset him and he yelling through tears, pacing around the room. The intensity and speed with which he felt this anger surprised me. What he did next was also quite a surprise. He sat down next to the outline of his body and began to furiously scribble over the entire thing. At first it seemed he was doing this to upset me. He looked at me as he scribbled waiting to see if I would react. When I did not react however he just kept scribbling and scribbling and scribbling. As he scribbled he seemed to gradually be getting calmer and calmer. He changed colors several times until he had filled up the entire sheet of paper with ANGER.
In this moment I was a little angry myself. I had attempted to create a nice memory and it turned into something quite uncomfortable. As I have reflected on what happened however, I have become thankful for the experience. I have learned several valuable lessons about my son that I hope to never forget.
My son experiences his emotions quickly and intensely. No matter what he feels, he feels it to the full. When he is happy, excited, sad, angry, or frustrated his cup is one or two drops away from over flowing. This truth will be a great strength for him, he is passionate, hardworking, physically active, engaging, and fun to be around. This truth may also be a challenge for him; he can by hyper, impulsive, rough, and reckless. Most importantly I learned that when he is allowed to express his emotions he will be OK.
As he scribbled I could see the anger pouring out of him, I could feel his upset as he glared in my direction hoping to get a reaction. But the longer he scribbled the less intensely he felt this anger. Children need parents that are not afraid of their intense feelings. They need parents who can “contain” them even when they cannot contain themselves. When their cups are over flowing with anger, sadness, energy, or excitement they need parents to accept their expressions of these feelings and to help contain the overflow.
I am not perfect at this, my son is not perfect at this, but I think we are learning more and more about it every time he is overwhelmed. Each experience of these intense emotions is another opportunity to practice the ANGRY ART.