August 12, 2004

Mr. Grouchy

Tuesday afternoon I was completely fed up with Damianís caterwauling and had tried everything I could think of short of bribery to get it to stop (yes, including yelling myself Ė Iím not proud of that but there it is) and we still had some miles to go between school and swim lesson. So I invented someone. This is so not my style, it goes against my non-cutesy mom persona, but I did it.

Meet Mr. Grouchy. When youíre irritable and snarky and just generally a pain in the butt, itís not your fault. Itís Mr. Grouchy whispering in your ear, goading you. Mr. Grouchy is a very mean person. I described Mr. Grouchy some more, talked about how much I hope that he goes on a vacation real soon. A long vacation in a far away place. Bermuda, maybe. Or Paris. But somewhere most emphatically not here.

Damian loved it. He cheered up and joined the fantasy. He said that it doesnít matter where you send Mr. Grouchy, he always comes back to bother you. You just canít get rid of him.

That was two days ago and we still discuss Mr. Grouchy. And still every time I mention him, Damian instantly gets over his sulks and starts making up new attributes. He sometimes brings him up on his own, too. Mr. Grouchy is a presence, a surprisingly benign one. I donít know how long this will last and I have to be careful not to overuse this improbable ally, but for now heís our personal magical companion.

I believe thereís more to this than the lure of something new or Damianís delight in using his imagination. I think it meets a need for him. He hates being scolded, hates being seen as doing something wrong. Hates feeling bad. Mr. Grouchy allows him to separate himself from that, to lay it off on this uber-irritable creature instead. This makes him very happy. Itís not his fault now, not his lack of control. Itís just Mr. Grouchy up to his evil tricks again. This takes the onus off and allows Damian to let go of an anger that must be partly fueled by his own bad feelings at getting so angry.

I think I love Mr. Grouchy.

Posted by Tamar at August 12, 2004 09:23 PM

I think this is a great concept for everyone! Not that one shouldn't take responsibilty for being in a bad mood, but I think it's good to, as you say, separate yourself from your anger and therefore be able to send it packing rather than thinking of it as something woven into who you are.

Posted by: tracing at August 13, 2004 12:21 PM