Anger, Laughter and Grace with Smushed Spanakopita

I’m 6 months away from having 3 teenagers, and boy do I feel it.
Recently, an unnamed child threw a spanakopita triangle across the living room because this child didn’t want to give a sibling a crab Rangoon.  For New Year’s Eve I had copied my sister’s habit of buying up Trader Joe’s frozen appetizers and testing them all.  It was a failed experiment—Trader Joe’s appetizers just don’t stack up against homemade—but the kids were a lot less discriminating.
Anonymous child is not an infant–what’s up with that?
Starting New Years Resolutions 2 days later, including a new diet, meant I couldn’t indulge in all my left over appetizers.  I can’t stand wasting food, so rather than increasing my own waistline, I feed all my delectable tidbits to others (selfishly, I don’t care so much about increasing their waistlines)–hence spanakopita and crab Rangoons for after-school snack.
When I told the child that the consequence of throwing a spanakopita across the room was cleaning it up and not getting any crab Rangoons at all, instead of politely saying, “Yes ma’am,” and taking the punishment, this child took the whole plate of appetizers and squished them between 2 hands—spurting spinach, feta, and crab all over my just-cleaned countertop and floors.
I lost it. 
Not only did this child waste food, this child wasted food on CLEAN SURFACES.  For an hour after my house gets cleaned every 2 weeks I revel in true cleanliness.   This child just cut that hour to minutes.
I sent the child to isolation until a 6 pm class.
“What about piano?” came back the sassy taunt.
Shoot.  Forgot about that 3:45 lesson.  “Fine, until piano!”
20 minutes later, I peeked in on the child, who appeared to be lying on top of the loft bed taking a nap.  In light of all the homework and reading that could have been happening, I lost it again.
“What are you doing in bed when you have all this homework?” I screeched.
“Mom.”  A calm voice emanated from behind the door.  “I’m not in bed.”
I pushed open the door a few inches.  Sure enough, 2 feet away from me, the child sat in chair, reading. 
The child looked at me like I was an idiot, which of course I am.  We stared each other down until the child started laughing, which got me started too. 
So much for being mad forever.
Later, I overheard the child say to siblings, “But then Mom started laughing, and you know when you get her to laugh she can’t be mad anymore.”
Too true, I’m figured out.
I used to feel like this was just another of the huge injustices in my marriage—when Scott got me to laugh, I couldn’t stay angry, while I can’t shake him out of bad feelings.  After I complained about this multiple times, Scott finally said, “Why is that bad?  Isn’t it a grace for our marriage?”
In the moment, it doesn’t feel like grace.  I like being angry.  I feel powerful.  I feel justified.  I feel RIGHT.  Those feelings are so addictive that in the moment I don’t care  that in the long run my anger also leaves me alone.  
So Scott’s right again.  Laughter transforming anger is a grace, a gift from God.  Even when I would rather be angry, justified, and right, God provides a way for those who love me to break through–a mercy that means in the long run I’m not alone.  My wise husband learned that about me early.
Apparently, so have my kids.

About Kathy Tuan-MacLean

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