A month ago, Zane said or did something that upset another child when they were playing in the bouncy castle. Stuff like that happens hourly between children. Friendships are made, broken, and reformed multiple times an hour among kids. It's how they learn to get along with each other. Whatever happened, the parent got angry about it.
When some people get angry about something, they speak with the person they are angry at. They may take a moment to calm down and organize their thoughts, or they may just erupt like Vesuvius. But they speak up. They talk about it. And we work it out. Problem solved. You always know where you stand with people like that, even if you don't like what they are saying.
I like those people.
This particular parent did not say a word. Plans were even floated for a movie date the next day. She went home, Zane and his father went home. We did not receive the respect of a phone call. We did not receive a visit. We did not receive a memo. This woman was angry, but it was a secret. She was so secretive about her anger that we never had a clue. We have been blissfully unaware, and likely happier for it.
The problem with secret anger? Nobody knows about it. And if nobody knows about it, who can do anything? We, as Zane's parents, are more than willing to dole out consequences when he does something wrong. If we know of a problem, we try to fix it. It's necessary to have these conflict resolution skills in order to navigate the world as an adult, so we try to model them appropriately for Zane. Except what is the point of trying to give a consequence a month or more after the fact? Zane doesn't even remember what he did yesterday, let alone a month ago. With kids, you have to jump on their behavior pretty quick, so the point sinks in.
When I get angry, I speak up in most cases(sometimes, I know that the problem is me, and I take a nap and get over it). I let the person know that they've done something that bothers me, and I try to work it out. But secret anger, or passive aggression, isn't necessarily something you can prepare your kids for. It's Darth Sidious, spreading the web of malcontent that finally overthrew the Jedi. If the Jedi had known that Darth Sidious was feeling so angry, maybe they would have brought balance to the Force by offering him a cookie or something. We'll never know.
Secret anger isn't helpful or productive. The person you're angry at doesn't get to explain, or make amends, or anything. The passive aggressive person gets to hug their anger close, feel morally superior over being wronged, whatever...yet the person they're secretly angry at goes about their business without a clue. There's a feeling of power for the passive aggressive person, but nobody else gets a payoff. How is that productive? How does that improve the world? It doesn't.
The only reason we know about the secret anger is that we made the egregious error of asking about another play date. Snarky text messages led to an angry phone call, and we still aren't exactly sure about anything. Except that we will not be interacting with this person anymore. Our life is already chaotic enough right now between surgeries and other aspects of my cancer journey. I need positive people in my life, people who challenge and encourage me. I don't need to be running around apologizing to everyone, just in case they are secretly angry. If anger is so important to a person that they would rather keep it to themselves, that's fine. I'll go hang out with the happy, positive people, none the wiser.