Two days ago my kids sneaked off with a box of strawberry cake batter mix from our pantry. They ran to their room and opened it with the intention of eating the mix. Not surprisingly, when they opened the bag some of the mix began to spill on the floor. This became a game for them. They took turns taking handfuls of this powdered sugar mix and flinging it into the air like confetti watching it rain down on top of everything in their room. That’s when my wife discovered them. They had been left alone for about 90 seconds, and they had covered their room with cake mix.
She came and got me. Their mess was too good to keep to herself. When I saw the mess, I was momentarily amused and then distraught. The reality of cleaning up the equivalent of a half-pound of sugar sprayed all over their cloths, toys, and beds was disheartening. Mary and I both have so much else to do that I just became angry. This was an interruption I could not accept.
So I sternly chastised them and told them they needed to clean it up and I closed the door. My rationale was that a part of their punishment would be to keep them in their room with the mess until they became annoyed by the mess themselves. I thought if they were kept in their long enough they would naturally become remorseful for the mess they made. I was wrong.
Over the next fifteen minutes or so, Mary and I heard squeals of delight coming from their room — always a bad sign. I decided to go and see what was happening. They had removed every article of clothing from each of their bureaus and created a mound of clothing more than a foot tall and a few feet in diameter in the middle of their room. Mixed into the pile was the cake mix. They had exponentially increased the mess by adding to the number of soiled items that would need to be cleaned.
What I’m coming to see is that their motivation for this behavior is rooted in their desire for attention, and part of my response of anger is rooted in my inability to give it. I don’t have time to be with them as much as they want, so they created a mess that necessitated I make the time, which just made me angry. My anger is rooted in my desire to control life. My kids revolt against this. They won’t be put off or ignored for any extended period of time. When they feel neglected, they throw a tantrum or they toss cake mix.
I can’t stop them from acting this way, but I can change my response. My anger did not spring up because of my frustration with what they did. I can easily imagine how throwing cake mix into the air would actually be a lot of fun. I’m not inherently against cake mix tossing. They weren’t acting maliciously, just messily. My anger happened because I wanted to control things — people, time, and my productivity. I do this because I need to accomplish stuff to feel good about myself. The source of my anger is in my own sense of worthlessness that I’m desperately trying to overcome in my busy working. This cake mix incident has been yet another challenge from my kids for me to become a healthier person. If I can become more secure in God’s depth of love for me, I will better be able to love my kids and anyone else who interrupts me. And hopefully, I will continue to erase my response of anger from my life.