I’ve never read any of the other blogs out there about what happens to moms when they stop yelling at their kids. I’ve seen them, friends have shared them on my news feed plenty. I’ve just never been the sort of person who likes to be told what to do, or why something is so great for someone and how I ought to try it too. I do not seek advice often.
Same goes for diet trends, exercise fads, Pinterest craft suggestions and for parenting.
I am stubborn. I am willful. And I like to make my own mistakes and fumble my own way through things until I either crumble under my need for grace and mercy, or am by some stroke of miraculous luck – victorious at the end and can claim to have done it all by myself.
All. By. Myself.
Yes, I am apparently a two year old at heart.
And, much like my two year old daughter, up until about two weeks ago, I was yelling, daily. I was yelling over backtalk, I was shouting over dawdling, I was seething and screeching over all the spilled things, all the messy things. I was barking at life, at all the neediness of children, who simply could not seem to give me five minutes to do anything for myself.
To be honest, deciding to stop had very little to do with fears that I was damaging fragile psyches or that they would never learn self-control if they never saw it at home (though, of course, I know that what children see carries more weight than weight they are instructed.)
No, I simply decided that I did not like myself when I was yelling. I didn’t like how it made me feel tired. How I could feel my blood pressure rising, my teeth rattling. How it was making me look like, well, a two year old, incapable of expressing myself and throwing a tantrum in the middle of the kitchen over an overflowing hamper and three children who have ignored my every plea for help.
Ceasing to yell had very little to do with my children at all, and everything to do with myself.
It was just exhausting.
And in this season of short winter days, of fleeting sunlight through the clouds and a general, undefinable sadness creeping over the hours, it was just something I decided I no longer have time to do, or the energy to give into.
This gift of quiet, I gave to myself. This gift of just taking a breath and letting things happen, it’s my mid-winter saving grace.
For the first week, to anyone peeking in on our home life, with me in yoga pants (because saying yoga pants makes it at least sound a little better than sweats, right?) and rumpled sweaters, just staring down at my seven year old on the kitchen floor, harrumphing and scowling at me, yelling at me – I probably just looked defeated. Complacent. A pushover in her own home, beaten down and taking orders from that child who would. not. move.
But, the truth was, just as I have told my kids for the past seven or eight years, we don’t need to whine or yell to get what we want.
And actually living out that, day in and day out, letting my children cycle through their own rough emotions, while I held back, let hurt and stress pass through me, while I just breathed and waited…it worked.
Lila pushed back the hardest. She tested me at every request. She spent hours in time out. Hours, in her bed, while she worked through her own need to be heard. Loudly.
But, then this past week, almost as though through her week of pushing and pushing me, she actually trusted me at my word: I’m not going to yell, we’re just going to talk. She and I came to the table together.
This past week, we worked together.
Last night, at the end of a long day, with the house a mess, with children in various stages of sickness, I slipped. Not a guttural, tooth rattling bark, but a yell nonetheless. Over nothing. Over, me with my crashing blood sugar and a weekend with plans to see dear friends, that I could sense, were about to be ruined by vomit.
And in that moment, I heard myself. Two weeks of quiet and suddenly my raised voice seemed so, so sharp. I stopped after just one short Alexander!
And I breathed.
They went to their bedroom to clean, and did not. They dawdled. They shoved things in messy piles in (still visible) corners. They spun around their room, arguing over who was cleaning more, and who always made more of a mess.
I stayed in the kitchen, chopping vegetables and stirring dinner on the stove.
If they wanted to watch the movie as a family, they needed to clean their room.
If I want a family that works together, I need to be willing to work with them. To give them space, to dawdle, to clean their own messes (or not) and to make mistakes without fear of the irrational rantings of their lunatic mother.
They will learn better, to work toward what they want because they want it, not because their mother will badger them to no end.
And, hopefully, they will finally really understand that when I say, we don’t need to whine or yell to get what we want…I mean it.
Because, apparently, it’s true.