Communicating Anger


At the moment I’m typing this letter to you, I am angry. We just returned from an hour long search of the neighborhood for our dog, Willa. Thankfully it was successful, but now that we’ve found her I find myself barely resisting the urge to tie her, and all of you, to a post in the backyard.

While your purpose in letting the dog out intentionally JUST to see if she’d stick around MAY have been fueled by scientifically-rooted curiosity, I choose to instead view it as a brilliant display of inexcusable dumbassery.

What the hell were you thinking?

I thought about skipping the letter I had pledged to write you today, so as not to permanently capture the bits and pieces of rage and disappointment in each over-aggressive keystroke, but I can’t whitewash the sometimes mercurial nature of our household. This is who we are. As far as our days together go, we’re happy a lot, we’re angry a lot, and the rest of the time, we’re sleeping. Right now, two of you are napping as a result of my anger, which makes me oddly happy to have some peace and quiet.

Still, I feel like a terrible parent when I’m angry. I’m always afraid the frustrations we express to each other in this home will linger, haunting the hallways and unable to escape through an open window. In fact, if I had to use one adjective to describe my childhood home, I’d say it was angry. Terribly, unceasingly angry. I don’t want that for you.

I spend a great deal of time wondering how I can communicate anger and communicate love, and not have one be a weed that seeks to choke the life out of a beautiful flower. I never want the reprimands that come from your inevitable and maddening revelry to obscure the fact that I love you very much.

Recently while digging through some of my old things to find pictures of the legendary Andrew Barnes, I came across a term paper that my mother had written as a junior at the University of Wyoming. I don’t have any writings from her, so this was a pleasant surprise. It was an interpersonal communications paper about how the emotions her parents expressed to her had shaped her as a person, and how she feels like that affected the way she communicates emotions, including anger, toward me. From the stories that people have told me, I was a little bit of a terror, and with her trying to do the single, working, college-student mom thing, my outbursts of shitheadedness likely provided plenty of opportunities for her to be as angry with me as I am with you right now.

She wrote about a time that she disappointed your great-grandfather by biting a neighbor girl:

“He bit me and stuck me on a chair in the corner and explained that I had been bad.”

She describes another time where she jumped into a puddle in her church clothes, infuriating your great-grandmother:

“She scrubbed all that dirt and next year’s dirt off my skin.”

What’s most interesting is that she went on to praise her parents for getting mad at her when she definitely deserved it, and how it made her confident that what she was doing with me at the time would be of value:

“…their emotions helped me to have insight of others’ feelings, have a better self-concept of others, and express impressions of my personality… This is incredibly helpful when it comes to the rearing of my son. I find myself using the same expressions of disgust and anger, and even the use of a chair when he’s naughty.”

She passed away a very short time after writing this paper, so I remember very little of the anger I faced while in her care (though I remember that chair very well). One thing that cannot be argued is that my grandparents fiercely loved her, and that in our short time together, she fiercely loved me. I want the same confidence to exude from you when you look back and examine our time together.

The way she ends the paper expresses the sentiment I want you to take from this much better that I can:

“I hope I can pass my knowledge, patience, love and everything else that grows in me from the seeds my parents planted, on to my son to help him grow as a person also.”

I want this for you, even in my anger.




  1. Powerfully channelled into a poignant expression of love for your sons! As well as a stunning portrayal of your mother and the love she had for you.

  2. My kids FOREVER say….”Dad always has SUCH a tone….” Kids don’t get the grand scheme of things all the time. But your view of it being a “brilliant display of inexcusable dumbassery…” Now THAT was good! Sometimes as parents we forget our moments of “dumbassery” also, but it sounds no doubt like your kids will know your love for them!

  3. Writing is an excellent way to communicate anger. I don’t use it with my boys yet (they don’t read that well) but I have written such letters to my husband (who also makes mistakes). It is not wrong to be angry so long as you put it to good use.

  4. I dig the way you turn a phrase. I’d have copy/paste fatigue, were I to cite examples. I should be so lucky as to have writings from either of my parents.

  5. Great ending/final point. We have to be able to be get angry at our kids – particularly when they do something as dumbassery as your kids did. However, it’s important for them to know that the anger doesn’t mean that they aren’t loved.

  6. I just read this to my son. I’m a single mom with an amazing kid almost 13, who occasionally sends me screaming up the wall and around the crown molding. I do my job when it comes to discipline issues, but it was great to be able to show him these sentiments from a dad perspective too. I didn’t have to ask him what he thought of this letter. When I finished reading, he said, “That was awesome”. I thought so too.

    I also use the word dumbassery!! Thanks for that smile.

    I was very sad to read that you lost your mother so young. I get the feeling though, that she’d be proud of the job you’re doing as a parent.

  7. I was a single parent for many years. I can relate to this letter so much. I only have one child, a son, who I adore more than anything or anyone. I lost my Dad when I was 15 yrs old. My mom is still alive but has been very sick for many years. I started journal writing at the age of 9. My son, who is now 23 yrs old, started to keep a journal.

    Basically, I told him to try it out. I told him it would help release any stress, anger or things that go round and round in our minds and keep us from sleeping. Writing about a wonderful experience or an adventure that he went on or a problem that he’s trying to resolve, would be therapeutic for him. I told him, “When I go back and read old journals, from when I was younger, it brings me joy and comfort. Some journal entries aren’t happy ones but for the most part, they are. Some of the entries are silly, from my younger years and some are very serious, in my older years.

    One day I will be gone from this earth and my son will get all my journals (36 yrs worth). There will be things that I couldn’t say or didn’t say, that he one day will read and if he ever goes on to be a parent himself, he will then be able to pass on his journals, along with mine.

    I would do anything, to have a letter or writing of some sort, from my Dad.
    Thanks for the great read!

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