An Unguided Roar Becomes Rage
by Vicki Hoefle
I let out my first roar of protest after they anesthetized my mother during my birth. Seconds later, as my mother lay unconscious and I fought my way from birth canal to the beyond, I made a life decision– keep your roar close at hand and use it whenever ……. whenever what? Whenever your life is in jeopardy? Whenever you BELIEVE you life is in jeopardy? This is my struggle. I never gave that roar good instructions or direction or guidance and so it was left to raise itself and me.
I listened to the roar before I listened to anyone else, including my parents.
I was what you might call a problem child. To my parents I was like a nagging headache. I would flare up unexpectedly one moment and and then retreat into the background the next. But I was always THERE. I knew it was the roar inside of me that had no guidance that was causing me trouble, but I was unable to do anything about it. It was as raw and volatile and unshakable as any untamed thing in nature and yet so dependable that I came to rely on it unconditionally and unquestioning.
Although my roars seemed random and unprovoked and mysterious to everyone else, I could already sense a theme emerging. I roared at unfairness and injustice, selfishness and cruelty, and I roared when I was afraid that the adults in my life might be “checking out.” I suppose that had anyone known what was going on in my head, they could easily have convinced me to use the roar sparingly and with great consideration, but no one understood what was happening any more than I did. What I knew was that when I roared, even a small inconsequential roar, I could get things to happen. My roar and I were a force to be reckoned with. I let that roar go unchecked and, as is often the case, my roar began to destroy my life.
My unsupervised roar got me booted out of Bluebirds and religious education classes. It got me politely evicted from dance classes and sleepovers. And in most cases, I heard people tell my parents: “She has something, something big and strong and fierce… but it doesn’t work here.” They were mystified by me and in their confusion and embarrassment, they named my roar rage. The roar I believed saved my life and got me from the birth canal to the world was now referred to as my “rage.”
By the time I was a teen, my roar had taken over my life.
It was unchecked and unapologetic and completely justified in what it did. I was miserable and I made everyone around me miserable. My grandmother was the love of my life and she was my salvation. One afternoon in the kitchen, while she was making cinnamon rolls she put her rolling pin down, she wiped the flour off of her hands and the sweat off her brow and she looked at me until I was quiet. Really quiet. Quiet on the inside–until the roar was behind me instead of in front of me and she looked at me with her steady stare and said, “I am not afraid of you but everyone else in this house is. You will lose the people you love most if you do not learn to understand and make peace with this rage you feel inside. Today you decide. Today you decide if you will remain miserable and make those around you miserable or whether you will try a new way. If you decide to let your rage run your life, I will be the first to say goodbye.”
My grandmother never made threats. Never. I loved her more than the roar that had turned to rage. For two months I was silent. I went to war with that roar. Not to destroy it, but to understand it, to learn to work with it so that we could do something other than hurt and destroy. No one but my grandmother understood what was happening and she assured everyone that I was fine, that I was battling, and that I would come out sooner or later stronger and clearer and happier. And she was right. Those two months marked the beginning of my journey of understanding of making peace with my roar, of calming and consoling and listening and guiding that roar.
To say that my life was in a constant state of unrest is an understatement. I might have made the decision to tame my roar, to use it for good rather than evil, but I didn’t have many skills and it was a long and arduous process learning how to work with my roar.
The year after I graduated from high school, my life came into laser focus and with it, my roar. At 19, I gave birth and was forced to make the hardest decision of my life. I roared till the rafters shook when I watched the nurses walk out of the OR with my child and… I roared with love. I had found my direction and in one wildly uncensored, soul-crushing roar, I was reborn. My life began again. I roared this beloved child of mine into the arms of parents who were ready for him. My roar had a name and a focus.
For the last 30 some years, I have been committed to one cause and my roar has one purpose and that purpose is to inspire parents to risk everything in order to deepen the relationship they have with their kids each and every day. I use my roar to entertain and educate audiences full of nervous parents who believe they will be judged harshly and instead find humor and acceptance and forgiveness in my storytelling. I use my roar to support parents as they find the courage to change the way they interact with their kids and develop their own true north that will guide their parenting decisions. I use my roar to clear a path for parents and their children as they learn to reconnect, forgive, and rebuild their relationships.
Today, I use my roar to build rather than break. This is my purpose, this is my calling and my roar lights the way.
Vicki Hoefle is a professional parent educator, national speaker, family coach, and author of the best sellers Duct Tape Parenting and The Straight Talk on Parenting. She is a mother who has raised five children into young adulthood and lives in Burlington, Vermont.
Vicki is committed to supporting parents as they create an approach to parenting that works with their family, their values and their unique perspectives. Visit her at www.vickihoefle.com.