Occasionally I like to think about the kind of mom I want to be and the kind of mother I actually am. Am I calm and compassionate? Overprotective? Who do my boys see?
Last week when I asked myself this question it was at the end of a very long day. I was tired from spending hours at the park, then coming home to a house that needed cleaning and followed around by two little boys who wanted me to entertain them but were soon content to entertain themselves by messing up whatever I’d just cleaned. The day ended with both boys refusing to eat what I’d made them for dinner. A momentary food fight ensued and I yelled at them to stop it. At bath time they splashed and shrieked and the headache that had been holding itself at bay throughout the day burst into my temples around the time that the oldest pushed the youngest down and they both started to cry. At bedtime they wanted to read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The irony was not lost on me. I put them to bed and they got up six times until standing over dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, I yelled for them to lay down and go to sleep.
Somewhere between the last dish and cleaning up the living room for the fourth time that day I realized what it was that I needed to change. I have become a mother who yells to get her point across. Throughout the day, at the park when someone wouldn’t come when it was time to go, or at home when someone didn’t want to eat, I asked them nicely to stop, to listen, then I inevitably hit my limit and was finished. I no longer cared why they didn’t want to do something, I wanted them to do it my way and stop whining about it. End of story. I stopped seeing the 4-year-old who was trying to figure life out and needed a little guidance, and only saw that I was tired and annoyed.
I hated when my mom yelled at me when I was younger. It sent shivers up my spine and made me cower in fear of what was to come. What always came was more yelling. Then, as the years progressed, sprinkled in with the yelling was name calling and insulting. I hated to make her mad because I hated to release what followed her anger and I told myself that I would never be like her in that way. I wanted to be more like my dad, who I’m not sure I’ve ever heard yell. To get his point across all Dad ever had to do was look at me and sometimes sit me down for a softly spoken lecture of biblical length. My father always quietly demanded respect and expected that we would obey him. With him, I only feared the boredom that came with lectures that I wasn’t interested in hearing. I was scared of my mother’s anger and couldn’t have respected her less.
Yelling is easy. I can yell while I’m stirring the soup for dinner or putting shoes on my 2- year-old. “Just stop it!” I’m tired and sometimes when I yell something it’s effective in the moment. Sometimes my 4-year-old will listen when I yell. I’ve never thought about why or what it felt like to me when my mother did it.
I’ve never insulted or screamed, I’ve never name called or cussed, but neither did my mom when I was 4. Anger is a slippery slope and parenting is hard. Yelling is lazy parenting at its best and not the kind of parent I want to be, so I’ve decided to stop.
I’m not so delusional that I think I can just snap my fingers and give up on something that’s been a crutch, so I’m embarking on a one year challenge. I’m calling it my “Year to No Yelling.” At the end of every day I’ll journal about my success and failures from that day and occasionally I’ll blog updates. My hope is that at the end of the year I will have developed new parenting strategies that will take yelling’s place, that I will be a better mother and a woman that’s more at ease when the little ones in my life are uncooperative, as all little ones should occasionally be.