I scream, you scream, we all scream…

The baby is just on the edge of 18 months old. The toddler is several months into three. I am living in a sea of words and phrases I do not quite understand.

“MAMA, MER EES EN BABY! EEEEEEEE OH SNACK. NO! NO! NO! NO! EEEEEEE OH!”

Well, when you put it that way.

The 5 and 7 year old are thinking in run-on sentences and speaking with moderate ease.

“InIndianaJonesinlevelonedoesheloveMarionoraretheyinafightbecausesheishidingthemedallionfromthebadguys?”

Say what?

We are all talking. To and around each other all day. Everyone has important things to say even if we don’t entirely understand what those words mean.

There is a mother in the same house, just shy of 34 and sometimes, she talks too.

“You guys are driving me completely insane!”

“I am done. DONE! NO more parenting for the day!”

“Why must everything always be a fight?”

And, I wonder what they are hearing when the words are already out, in our small universe. Pulsating and moving around their heads and hearts as they continue to spin and spin in the living room.

Do they hear the, “I love you!” behind the words? I think yes and then jump to, just perhaps and sadly, not always.

Yesterday, my son was in his well worn space on the stairs, thinking about his behavior and my eldest said, “Even when mommy and daddy are really mad at you, they still love you.”

Why didn’t I say that?

My 7 year old, in her infinite wisdom and speaking from her old soul, found the perpetual context of parenthood. “Even when…mommy and daddy still love you.”

But, in this grand display of understanding, where I should have found comfort, I found another feeling. Shame.

I have a neighbor; a former educator. My children flock to him. They trespass on his property. The baby stomps through their garden. They hang wildly from the bows of their still new red leaf maple. They makes themselves at home. He is eternally patient and kind.

We once spoke about his daughters. “You know, I don’t think we ever shouted at them. We just loved them so much.”

Ouch. Shame burns.

Cue internal dialogue wearing devil red, “I shout. I don’t love my children enough.”

And, I do shout. I shout because the soft words leaving my body fall on pieces of furniture and have no impact. I shout because there are four strong voices to my one and I shout because I don’t know how not to shout. My mother shouted. So do I.

It is like an undercurrent in our day. Every morning I say, “Today, I do it differently. Today, I make a different choice. I will not yell. I will not scream. I will use my softer words.”

And then, someone hits someone with a truck and someone hands their sister a steak knife and someone says, “You NEVER let me do ANYTHING!” and then the mother is swept away by the current of the loud words that roll like waves and then retreat like the tide.

In the quiet of the evenings, I reflect. I make promises I don’t know how to keep and I say, “Tomorrow, I will do it differently. I will make a different choice. I will not yell. I will not scream. I will use my softer words.”

That day is today. That day is everyday. Wish me patience and understanding.

Ancora Imparo (I am still learning.) – Michelangelo (age 87)





Comments

  1. I think the fact that your child was able to articulate, “Mommy loves you even when…” speaks volumes. I’m there with you on this post. I think a lot of us are. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Shelley says:

    I live this too. I don’t remember my mom shouting but I was an only child. I have 4 kids. All 8 years old. Yes. They are. But my mom doesn’t understand my yelling. I too make promises to myself that are broken daily. The worst is the shame I feel when I manage to not yell because people are watching. I am waiting for the child accusations for the difference in the at home yells and the grocery store intense whispers. I try to balance the yells with extra hugs in the morning, before the fighting and tattling, and pestering start. There are extra hugs at night after most of the yelling is done. Balance is key? I hope.

  3. ISPTC-LE says:

    I, too, struggle w/ this DAILY, add the husband to the mix, plus 6 pets, 2 full time jobs on different shifts, ADD & ADHD, depression, anxiety, bills, etc etc etc.. Sigh.. But when it’s how you were raised & all you have ever known how do you break the cycle.. My mother told me recently to stop yelling so much, I said something like “it’s how I was raised, it’s all I know”, she paused & said “so break the cycle”..

  4. I do, too. And I wish that I didn’t. Like you, I think, ‘Ok, today will be different.” And some days it is. So, I wanted to say that. Me too.

    And also, I know you’ll probably get a metric ton of advice and suggestions and whatnot. But, let me add to that! Because I tried this: http://theorangerhino.com/30-days-to-yelling-less-round-3/ this past month, and while it didn’t “work” (i.e., I have still had a lot of bad days, including yesterday, and the day before, and . . .) it also did “work” because I’ve had fewer bad days over the past 3 weeks than for the 6 months before that. So, that’s something. And, I had, over the past month, about 8 actual days with no yelling (from me), no irritated comments at my kids, no eye rolls (where they could see them), no “mommy can’t take this!” moments. 8 days with none. And that is flipping amazing. So, I think it’s working for me.

    Big hug. (You’re not alone. Really, really, really.)

  5. Your friend, Dawn says:

    I think he just doesn’t remember. I have been trying to remind Jacks of how much I love him, “even when”. It has been much harder to be a good mom with a 4 yo and a baby. I feel like a terrible mom when I yell, but I will feel like a worse mom if my kid grows up to be an ill-behaved monster.

  6. Mom Woman Person says:

    Not having to scream at your kids has less to do with your amount of love for them and much more to do with how well they respond. My parents rarely had to raise their voice to me. My sister on the other hand… Plus, when I’ve told my kids in my pleasant voice three or four times that they need to clean up their toys, at that point something needs to escalate. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather raise my voice to them than my hand.

    I have the book “The World According To Mr. Rogers”, and his words on this always make me feel better. He recalls a letter he got from a woman who said she screamed at her kids and wanted to know how she could be more patient like him. His response: “…it takes time for parents to understand that being always patient, quiet, even-tempered, and respectful isn’t necessarily what ‘good’ parents are. In fact, parents help children by expressing a wide range of feelings – including appropriate anger. All children need to see that the adults in their lives can feel anger and not hurt themselves or anyone else when they feel that way.”

  7. Meredith A says:

    Wow!! I am about in tears. This is my nightly promise to myself and the kids. I want SO bad to be patient and kind always but it is so hard when everyone around you is loud, boisterous and sometimes downright mean!!! I’m struggling with my 6yr old. He screams, cries and throws insults at me and sometimes I have to leave because I scare myself at how angry I feel!! Instead of ALWAYS yelling, I’ve started grounding him from everything he loves and I’m starting to see some improvement. Being a mom is so much harder than I ever imagined!! Thanks for this!!

  8. Oh my gosh, I could have written this exact same thing, right down to the reasons why I shout and the promises for the next day. It’s really hard having little kids, and having lots of them. Like, really really hard. But you know that kids only repeat back to each other what they see and hear, which means that’s what your oldest daughter sees and hears from you — that you guys truly love them. At least, that’s what I tell myself when I’m stress-eating the rest of the Easter candy after they go to bed.

  9. Oh my girl!

    Hugs to you.

    You are too hard on yourself.

    I am also a yeller. When my son was about five, he went on a play date with a friend. When he returned home, he remarked in awe, “Mom, do you know there are moms out there that DO NOT YELL?”

    My response?

    “Yes. I know that. God didn’t give you one of those moms!.”

    Embrace it.

    They know you love them!

  10. I am so you! I am trying super hard. It really hurts when my son says I love daddy best. (He is one of those mellow guys who never raises his voice.) Have you seen this blog? http://theorangerhino.com/ She tried to no yell for 365 days…..

  11. Charmel says:

    Sounds familiar! I am reading the book “Screamfree Parenting” by Hal Runkel and it is wonderful. Also, for great daily support check out The Orange Rhino on facebook. She started a support group for parents who are trying to scream less. It’s possible our parents screamed less as they had more support. We spent a great deal of time at my grandparents’ house and they at ours babysitting. Not everything was centered around kids back then. My parents went out on the weekends and we had babysitters. It’s easier to stay calm when you have support and time to yourself.

  12. I think kids naturally calibrate to their parents voices and decibels. Some people are loud and some people are quiet. Don’t let the quiet parents give you any superiority crap.

  13. I feel you!!!! I am the same age as you with four children 8 and under, and I have tried to be the calm rainbows flying out my arsss parent who says, “now sweetie, you really shouldn’t jump off the deck then help your 2 year old sister up onto the rail so she can plummet to her demise. Let’s go eat fresh baked cookies.” I try every day to be calmer and by the grace of God, I have my good days. In the end, my kids know I love them and would do anything for them. We do the best we can, no one is perfect. Big Mommy hugs!!! You are doing better than you think.

  14. This post just reminded me how I used to tell mine ALL. THE. TIME. “You wear me out!” To the point where he could just look at me and say, “Mommy? Am I wearing you out?” And I was a yeller – and I only had one. But you know what? Despite the yelling, he knew how much I loved him – as yours so obviously knows. Don’t beat yourself up too badly – none of us are perfect parents despite what some might tell you. Yes, the neighbor may not have yelled – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other actions that they regret. Do the best you can and do it with love – you can’t go wrong with that formula.

  15. RachelG says:

    YES! and YES to this: “Cue internal dialogue wearing devil red, “I shout. I don’t love my children enough.” Always with the guilt.
    And my parents didn’t yell. But I do. This post made me tear up a little. I’m right there.

  16. Woman, your 7-year-old said words normally reserved for parents and, especially, grandparents, who, in hindsight, understand the complexities and anxieties of parenting. She didn’t get that from Caillou, yaknowwhatI’msayin’?

    I agree with the idea of committing oneself to constant improvement, especially when it comes to something as important as parenting. That said, there ain’t no such thing as perfect and shouting can have its place, in my humble opinion. There are children all over God’s green earth who long for a mom who is as active and as present as YOU are in your kids’ lives, so don’t beat yourself up too badly. xo

  17. Oh lordy, why are you in my head? This must have been tough to hit the “publish” button on, huh? WOW, this strikes right to the core of me. I hate when I yell, HATE. And the raised voice when I have already said it 10 times is not so bad…that’s parenting, it’s the devil screech, eyes bulged, fists clenched, teeth gritted together, voice unrecognizable yell that bothers me so bad. I have gotten better….I saw a graphic on facebook that said something like “I can’t change the wind but I can adjust my sails”. So for the past couple of weeks when I feel flustered towards my kids I try to, under my breath, say “Adjust the sails, Devan….” It has worked a few times actually. We will get there little momma…we will, they obviously know you love them. Thank you for being so open with this, it helps us regular mommas SOOOOO much. And this is why I love you!! <3 Devan

  18. You are soooooooo not alone with this. I hate being a screamer. HATE. I know that my kids know that I adore the ground that they walk on, but I have those moments in which I’m scared that they don’t. Love you so much for having the lady balls to write this. To say the words that so many of us are afraid to. xoxo

  19. Now that I’m out of the very small children phase, I don’t have to yell as much. (We’ll revisit this comment in 9 months when my daughter turns 13.) But, when they were little, yeah – I yelled. A lot. I yelled when they hit each other, I yelled when they didn’t listen to me the first 137 times I told them to do (or not to do) something, and I yelled when they were doing things that were without a doubt going land us in the emergency room. You know why? Because that got their attention. I understand not wanting to be the parent that yells constantly, about everything, where even THAT voice is no longer heard. But, somehow I doubt that’s the parent you are. Don’t beat yourself up. And ignore comments like the one your neighbor made. (I’m not slamming your neighbor – he sounds like a nice man.) Parenting styles are different and that’s okay. He loved his kids so much that he never yelled. You love your kids so much that sometimes you do. It’s that simple.

  20. I’ve been meaning to comment on this post since yesterday, I just haven’t had the right words.

    It’s so true. It’s so much work being a parent, and sometimes we raise our voices. We don’t want to. We hate when we hear ourselves do it, but we do it. And you know what? It’s okay because it happens to the best of us. For sure. As long as we know how it makes us feel, how the kids feel, and how we want to do things differently and how to try – I think that is all that matters the most. (hugs) to you and thanks for sharing and reminding so many of us we’re not alone in this parenting thing.

  21. I grew up with one of each parent , a quiet one, who got the duty of spanking us if we were out if line, and a loud one who would yell at us if we were out if line, I am pretty sure I took both their patience and rolled it all up and kept it for myself, because I won’t yell at my kids (or step kids) and I don’t spank them either, my “patience” if you want to call it that, has made me a person who represses it all, so now I have a hard time expressing how I really feel about things, BUT, both my children and step children (7 in total) are well behaved and well mannered (most of the time. lol) which I am grateful for.

  22. Gor-ge-ous. Just perfect. I love your words.

    As for the practical matter of screaming. I tried that whisper and they stop to listen bullshit and I’m pretty sure even the dog laughed at me.

    Let chaos reign. I believe a man we all know, nearly as famous as Michelangelo, had it right. “The sinners are much more fun.” -Billy Joel, ugliest man to marry a super model, hands down, and modern day balladeer.

  23. Oh, me too, Sister. Meeeeeeee toooooooooo……

    When I think of the vitriol that comes from my mouth sometimes (often), I am ashamed. I also think that I should do better. But then I remember that I am human, and fallible, and, well, human. I am trying to be a better Mom (read: a less yelly one), and to this end, I am making a SUPREME effort to not yell once a day. Just once. It ain’t easy.

    But then I remember something that a comedian said (thank you for your parenting advice, Sirius XM Comedy Central station): Referring to his kid, “He has only had his brain for 8 years!” My kids have only had their brains for 3 and 5 years respectively. I try to remember that when they are making me a nut bag.

  24. Some families are loud and some are soft. The amount of love in a home is not determined by the volume. When I feel guilty about yelling at my kids it’s when my emotions behind my volume are ugly, and when I am not liking my kids in that moment. Not when I have to yell to match the volume of the little rioters in my care.

    Things run more smoothly around here with less yelling, but what came first, the calmer household or the minimized yelling?

  25. I don’t yell often, but when I do it is WAY effective. I think yelling to make yourself heard and yelling as a way to direct a child is different. My family is EXTREMELY loud, but “yelling” to me means more either there is some safety issue or you’ve just done lost your patience, which is all too understandable when little munchkins are running wildly out of control, if you are trying to get out of the house and no one is cooperating, you’re trying to get dinner on the table or you are just trying to BE.
    If yelling is the go to for directing your kids, I find it loses it’s “oomph”. When I yell it is “omg I better get my act together or ELSE”. Or they cry. which isn’t always a bad thing either. Sweets will say to me, “when you yelled at me that made me cry” and I will respond,”well, when you do not listen to mommy and daddy that makes me sad {and want to rip the hair right out of my head}”.

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