The rage stage
When one of the children gets angry and a bit snarky and starts raising his or her voice, you can guarantee that there’s a sibling on hand to say, in their best mocking tone, ‘ooh watch out ‘so ‘n so’ is getting the rage.’ We all exchange furtive glances and smirks and it’s a bit of a joke for everyone but the person experiencing the rage. For this person it’s real and meaningful, an unwelcome symptom of growing up. As boy H says, ‘everyone goes through the rage stage.’ As the eldest, he can say this with some authority; he’s been through it and has come out the other side. The other ones are either in it, or heading full steam ahead into it!
I remember my own rage stage very clearly. I was eleven when I decided to pack a bag with all my favourite things and run away from home. I slipped out the back door and with a strut in my stride and fury in my belly, I walked to the end of the road and parked myself under a big old chestnut tree to ruminate in the hatred of my parents. When darkness drew in and my fury turned to hunger, I concluded that my parents had been sufficiently punished and raced back down the street feeling pretty confident that my unexplained absence would have struck such a fear and panic in my mother that she would be begging for my mercy. As it turned out, she didn’t even know I was gone. It quickly transpired that I was only out of the house for 40 minutes. Apparently my fury is no match for my appetite.
Anyway, I digress. Topics that bring on the rage in our house include: teasing about the opposite sex; questioning one’s honesty; threatening to embarrass one in front of one’s girlfriend; deriding one’s athleticism; mocking one’s sartorial choices … the list grows on a daily basis. There’s definitely a fine line between participating in some innocent family banter and totally destroying one’s sense of self-worth. One minute we’re sitting around the dinner table enjoying a bit of circle time (that’s what the kids like to call our ‘old-school’ method of getting them to engage in conversation – we go round the table and each one, in turn and without interruption, gets a chance to tell us something they did or learnt at school that day), and the next a child is rising, shunting his or her chair away from the table on the verge of transforming from mild-mannered Bruce Banner into the Hulk. After some gentle persuasion, the situation is diffused eventually and circle time continues, everyone’s eyes down and smirks semi-constrained. The way P and I see it, if this is the worst it gets with our teens, then we’re the luckiest parents alive. Somehow, though, we can’t help but think that with 5 children there’s bound to be a big, green, mutated monster lurking on our horizon. (1986)