Written by Emily
As I wiggled her little body into the pink corduroy pants, her nose wrinkled and she let out a colossal sigh. “I don’t want to wear these! They don’t feel comfortable!” she pouted.
I could feel it. Like an elementary school science experiment, frustration and irritation combined in my insides like vinegar and baking soda to create a bubbly cocktail of anger.
And then I rifled through her drawers to find something else.
Her eyes welled with tears. And mine did, too.
I reeled with guilt because that was her morning, too. If I pull on pants that are uncomfortable, I change them. She wasn’t being particularly unreasonable.
I could tell you it was the time of day that made me lose my cool. I could tell you that my dad sincerely warned my husband about “Emily in the morning” and added vehement head shaking and teeth sucking for emphasis.
But that wouldn’t explain why I had the very same emotional response hours later with Noah. He stormed off in a huff, stomping his feet all the way to his bedroom.
Strike two for mom.
Strike three hit the hardest and burned the most. Chloe sidled up next to Noah and inadvertently bumped into him. He wheeled his head in her direction and hissed something livid in her direction. In an instant a fight erupted.
“Whoa. Whoa. Whoa!” I announced as I got between my two children turned MMA fighters.
Anger mottled their faces, and even separated from one another, they glared.
Suddenly I recalled a horrible marijuana commercial from my childhood: A mustached father confronts his pot-smoking teen who yells, “I learned it from watching you!”
My kids could have turned to me and said the very same thing. “I learned it from watching you!”
The angry display wasn’t mine, but it was mine just the same.
I’ve seen headlines and blog challenges all over the web imploring parents to stop yelling. In my head I thought, “What? We can’t have an emotional response? We’re parents, but we’re still human.”
Then I noticed the effects of my short fuse. I’m embarrassed and more than a little ashamed. I’m ashamed that sometimes my go-to emotion is frustration. I’m ashamed that sometimes the unpredictability (or predictability) of childhood irritates me.
There are moments, sometimes entire days when I feel like I’m struggling to stay afloat; my kids with their novice strokes or enthusiasm for the water step on my head and grab my neck and grope and pull and squeal. I waste what little breath I have by yelling, and we all start to sink.
When Noah lashed out at Chloe, I saw he was focusing on his Legos. I know he wanted to finish what he started without interupption. I know that feeling, and sadly, I understand his response. But I can’t condone it. I won’t.
I’m disappointed that I neglected to show him a better way to handle his feelings to avoid a dam break that leaves the broken remains of people in its path.
So I need to stop. I have to stop yelling.
For 14 days straight I stopped yelling. In 14 days, this is what I learned:
I Need to Prepare
It’s not a matter of just closing my mouth and swallowing my exasperation. Not yelling takes preparation. I don’t yell just because. I yell because we’re running late and you need to wear clothes to school and you need a lunch and shoes that match and let’s review your spelling and where is my coffee and oh great your sister pooped. I can’t control the poop, but I can control the rest of the morning. And while even the thought of setting an alarm and waking one second earlier than I absolutely have to sends me into mild convulsions, I have to do it. I just do–to save my children from the wrath that accompanies my hurry–and to create order before the chaos.
I Need to Prioritize
I’m home to benefit my kids not to reorganize the closet…again. Because I hyper-focus and get frustrated when I can’t finish (see Noah and Legos above), I have to carve out time to reorganize the closet or write or edit when the cherubs are sleeping. I won’t be at my kids’ beck and call, but I have to be attentive.
Kids are Annoying
They just are. In addition to a slew of really fabulous qualities, they’re also needy and whiney and sticky and loud and weird. That’s why they need me. They need me, not angry me.
I Need to try Something Else
I played soccer in high school. After volleying the ball between my noggin and the goalie’s foot about 6 times in a row, my coach quietly said, “maybe try something else.” He saved my gourd that day, so I’m putting it to good use and thinking before I open my mouth and let my emotions fall out. Thanks, coach.
I Will Fail
I yelled after day 14. I’ll try again. And I’ll keep trying.
The truth is, I like myself and my kids a lot more when I don’t lose my cool. I always love them, always, but I really like them, too. Enough to set an alarm.