When I was growing up, the thing I hated most was my Dad when he yelled. He loves us kids, but we were (still are?) a collective pain in the ass at times, I am sure. Overall good kids without many struggles.
Had my Dad been the parent of my two little dudes, he would have possessed a perpetual lost voice, never speaking again.
I have become Ol’ Yeller in my house. I yell ALL. THE. TIME. Okay – not really, but at times it sure feels that way. My two boys love each other and will occasionally play nicely together, but the majority of the time is one stealing the other’s toy, one smacking the other on the head, or one refusing to share or play with the other. They are boisterous, oh-so-very loud, abundant in energy, and silly. At times I am content to enjoy the madness, letting their exuberant aura fill my soul with delight as I patiently sip my coffee and shrug. But most days, I yell back at them.
While logically I know that yelling at out of control kids does NOTHING to help deliver my message, I feel myself shriek out in a vain effort to control their annoying behavior. Out of my side eye, I catch my husband wince a bit. I am LOUD. Cheerleader in high school, ya’ll. Funny that when Dave yells I also wince, but for different reasons. He is most definitely not a yeller, so to hear him shout at the kids really catches my attention, and I immediately pop out of the woodwork to see if he needs backup.
Dealing with a hyperactive, more difficult first child was compounded when our sweet Ben joined the family. Though Benny Boo Bop was good natured, newborns require so much attention, resulting in us becoming more easily frustrated with our demanding firstborn. They are older now, 6 and almost 3, but still we struggle.
I will occasionally get swept up by waves of guilt when I think about how important it is to lead toddlers and little ones by example in regards to handling big feelings, and conversely I am a yeller by nature. What kid is going to take seriously their mom who one day ago was screaming her head off and today is attempting to discuss why it is important to use your words. Huh?! SO not an easy thing for a little dude to understand. Even harder for a mom to admit to herself that she faces this challenge.
I think examining one’s own flaws is a healthy thing to do, though hard to swallow when you recognize that your flaw is up to you alone to change. Kind of embarrassing to talk to others about as well. After all, were we not the parents who so desperately wanted a baby and should be SO GRATEFUL that we were blessed with two healthy boys? HOW DARE I ADMIT THAT I SOMETIMES SCREAM when I get so completely frustrated with them?!
Will I ever completely stop yelling and suddenly become some yoga-loving, zen type of mom? Ha. Absolutely NOT. I am an ambivert who will always be a bit more Type-A, high strung, and easily agitated. That said, I can try harder. I will never attain perfection, nor can any parent. But as long as I can freely admit my failures and shortcomings to my kids, and be willing to have open discussions about them, they will know that their mom is human. And that she tries. And that she cares. Afterall, we do not expect perfection from our kids, only that they show up with their best effort in most endeavors.
I doubt that my father spent much time self-reflecting on whether he was yelling to much, or the emotional toll it may or may not impact upon his kids. In today’s society, we are wrong no matter which choices we make in rearing our children. Breastfeed vs. bottle. Work outside the home or stay at home parent. Co-sleep or strictly solo. This insanity can cause parents to question every minute choice they make. That is not good, as any choice that works for your family is the best choice for you. Period. However, I think self reflection is generally a good thing. Only when we know better can we do better, and if we evaluate our strengths and weaknesses honestly we can attempt to improve them.
Today I thought about how frequent yelling might impact these little souls that I cherish so deeply. I will still yell, I am loud by nature and these are two crazy boys we are talking about here. However, I will try to pause and choose love before yelling. I will try to remember the hurt in their little faces that was occasionally palpable in my own youth when my Dad raised his voice. I will breathe deeply and remind myself that I have a choice in how I choose to behave. In consciously choosing kindness, I am ultimately teaching compassion and self control to my beautiful boys. And if that puts Ol’ Yeller over here to shame, then so be it.
We can always choose, can’t we?