Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Thing I'm Most Guilty Of As A Parent

There was never much question in my mind that I'd be an amazing mother.  From early childhood, I clearly recall this intense desire for children.  It was the one thing that I knew I was meant for.  That I'd be perfect for.

Fast forward thirty years, and it's almost laughable how little I knew about motherhood.  It's nearly 4 o'clock and here I am: sucking down a huge cup of iced coffee, downing a spoonful of chocolate almond butter, and reeling from this afternoons "witching hour".  Each day it's the same thing.  Wake up feeling grateful for the chance to be home with my little loves, to spend the day together.  Somewhere between five and fifteen minutes after breakfast, they are at each others throats, fighting over legos or whose turn it is to pick a show on Netflix, or screaming at me because it is "so not fair" that I make them actually brush their hair and teeth most days.  

Then it's playtime, which sometimes means they are so quiet I begin to wonder if they've actually harmed each other, but I don't dare go upstairs to check on them because... well... they are quiet!  And I smile, pull out the computer to get some words in or head to the garage to get in my daily sweat, and they are there, under my feet or at my fingertips, and I'm back in the world of bickering and whining and wondering why in the hell I didn't get my butt in gear sooner, why I wasted quiet time actually enjoying the quiet when I should have spent it getting stuff done.

Then we play.  I take them outside, distract them with the popcorn game on the trampoline {where they are the popcorn and I am the popper - bouncing them as high as I can to their squealing delight}.  And I look down at them, laughing so hard with squinted eyes and holding each other as their limbs cross and their heads bounce up and down and I think, This moment.  This one right here.  This is the stuff of life.  And as I'm reveling in them and all the glory they have brought to my world, one gets her hair pulled and it's wailing and shrieking and we're right back where we were.  Wondering how I have screwed up so completely that they only way they can communicate is through yelling?

I distract them again with lunch, which of course will bring it's own discord.  Each wanting their favorite thing, or nothing at all, or crying because they are hungry but they just can't figure out what they want.  Then picking at food, leaving most of it on their plates and running off to play again.  And I'm clearing dishes and just as I load the last of them in the dishwasher, someone comes back in complaining that she's "starving," and I'm back putting more food on plates just to put up again later.  That's usually the first moment I feel it.  The build up of the day catching up with me; and me, a volcano rumbling inside, trying my hardest to hold it all in, but the smoke is already billowing out, and I know it's only time that keeps me from erupting.  

Three o'clock.  My family's witching hour.  By that time the day has usually had it's way with me.  I'm behind on the things I'd hoped to do, and pretty much feeling like a loser that the only decent part of the day was the half hour we spent together on the trampoline.  The rest of it was just me, living the life of a referee, and trying to somehow figure out how to fit in a few minutes of writing amongst the important stuff of life, and all the while trying not to explode.  I should've just gotten up earlier.  I know it, but these days the late nights are all I've got.  The only time I have to read or write or even think, and as much as I know I should head to bed at ten, the book draws me in and I let it, settling into the solace.  But it's no good the next day, when I'm late getting up and cranky and the little annoyances of the day build up to a massive storm of angry clouds in my mind.

I never used to be a yeller.  Before kids, I mean.  Sure, I got angry occasionally, but I wasn't that girl that screamed at her parents or boyfriend or anyone very much.  I was peaceful and calm and pleasing, more than anything I was a pleaser.  So it's ironic now that the people I want to please the most, my kids and myself and my husband, are the ones who are at the receiving end of the daily build-up of stuff.  It's not fair; not to them and not to me.

I don't want to be a mom who yells.  I want, more than anything, a life of peace.  I read a quote that said simply, "Parents who yell raise kids who yell."  It struck me hard.  Is this why my children fight so much, bicker and complain and shout and yell and whine when I tell them repeatedly to use their words?  Is it because I don't use my words?  I don't need anyone else to tell me.  I know it is so.

Once you come to this place, to the realization that the negative behaviors of your children are, in truth, magnifications of your own short-comings, how do you move forward?  I don't have all the answers, but I know that shouting won't help me figure anything out.  The temporary release I feel when I yell is so fleeting that it's almost unnoticeable, but the negative effects of that behavior last much longer.  I'm raising them to be like me, and if I'm a person who loses control, that's what I can expect from them.

I told them today that we were done with the shouting.  When we're angry or upset or feeling like we can't put whatever it is into words, we take a break.  We remove ourselves from the situation, either of our own accord or by time out, if necessary.  Even me.  I'm not above taking a time out in my room if it means I won't say something I'll regret or use a tone I wouldn't use in front of others.  Not that I'm foolish enough to believe we'll never yell at one another again, but I don't want it in our lives, not the way it has been lately.

We all have that thing, the thing we feel most guilty of as parents.  Mine is yelling.  I hope that, by putting it out there, and by working through it in my mind, I can learn better ways to deal with my stress; ways that don't involve exploding in a fit of shouts.

'til next time...

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