Monday, February 15, 2010

Hate vs. Anger

I was awoken this morning by my youngest child climbing into bed with me.  His shoulders were stiff and held tightly inward.  When I asked him what was wrong, he told me, "Teddy hates me."  I hugged him, and after a moment, asked him if his brother had told him that.  "No, I can just tell."

After probing a bit more, I confirmed my suspicion that the two had gotten into a familiar cycle of one child bugging the other, perhaps even accidentally at first, but then with greater and greater glee.  This had of course escalated until things got physical, and a wrestling match on the couch had ensued.

Once Barley decided the snuggle had lasted long enough, he left to go soothe his nerves with video games.  I went downstairs to have a conversation with my older child.

"Hey, Mom"
"Hey.  So...what happened this morning?"
"We got mad at each other."
"I see.  I need to ask you an important question, Teddy."
Expectant look
"Do you hate your brother?"
low mumble, head down, "Yes"
"Think about that, sweetie.  Hate is permanent, and that's a really strong word.  You can be angry, and that is perfectly understandable.  But I think this morning's anger will pass.  You two love each other, and there are times you really get along well. Do you really think you 'hate' your brother in a permanent way?"
low mumble, head down still, "Yes"
"I see.  Well, in that case, we should really separate your rooms.  We could work on clearing out the toy room today, so that you don't have to share a room with someone you 'hate'"
Teddy looked up, and said, "No!  I don't hate him at bedtime!  Just during the day when he makes me mad!"
"Well, if it is not permanent, it's not really hate, is it?"
Grudging admission, "I guess not."

After giving him a minute to let that soak in, I then asked him to go up to let his brother know that he did not hate him.  He was free to tell him that he was still angry, but that it wasn't hate.

I shadowed him as he did this, staying out of Barley's sight.  I heard Teddy use my same words to explain to his brother that while he was extremely angry about what had gone on before, it wasn't hate 'cuz it wasn't permanent.  Barley listened, and at some point, Teddy reached over with a toy and started walking it up Barley's back.  (Our marriage counselor would call that a repair attempt)  Barley giggled and the tension was broken.

Ten minutes later, and I can hear them still playing legos together.  Peace again for the moment.


  1. Coretta King is credited with saying "Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.” Let my little cousin know that he did a good thing by repairing the bond and not moving out...Jack is my closest friend and confidant...and he totally understands how crazy my family is.

  2. Love your words. I shall have to use them myself. Next time.


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