What the Yell

Lately it seems like all I do is yell. I have two volumes: silence and yelling. I don’t know if it’s because the kids’ behavior is getting increasingly worse (or should I say difficult rather than worse?) or if my patience is running particularly thin these days, but yelling has become the new normal.

This is me pretty much every day. Yay summer…(credit: Scary Mommy)

I don’t like all the yelling. I would love to be a soft-spoken, yet firm mother who manages to take a deep breath and calmly deliver a redirection or gentle scolding in a very Mary Poppins-esque way only to have her children immediately repent for their ways and behave like angels for the rest of the day. But how does one manage that when their children are trying to finish each other Mortal Kombat style for the 326th time that day?

The problem with yelling is similar to Brian Fantana’s cologne, “Sex Panther,” 60% of the time it works every time. That’s to say that the yelling is not always effective and all it does is make me feel like crap but for the love of god is it that hard to listen when I say it nicely the first time? Or just stop doing shit that you know you’re not supposed to do because we’ve had this conversation literally hundreds of times?

Anchorman is 14 years old and I will still quote it like it’s a new release.

I know it’s not a problem with hearing. Last week Olivia was in the kitchen with me and AJR was two rooms over in the playroom and she said “fruit snacks” in a surprisingly normal tone of voice and he came running into the room so fast that he ended up sliding across the floor “Risky Business” style. “Did someone say fruit snacks?” He asked hopefully. Selective hearing is a real affliction. We need more science around it.

Making sure that rules are enforced, the kids are safe, and they’re learning how to be good human beings is such an important task that I know I have to be vigilant. I call my kids a-holes but no one wants to see these kids grow up into actual a-holes which is why mom has to lay down the law. Like everyone else’s kids they whine, they directly disobey, they test their limits, and push us to the edge.  But for whatever reason, I take my children’s behavior so personally as if it’s a reflection of my parenting abilities – or lack thereof. If I was doing a better job as mom I wouldn’t have to constantly reprimand Olivia for hitting again. If I was trying just a tad bit harder then AJR would whine a little bit less. I’m human, too. My frustrations end up bubbling over from time to time and I hear my voice go to that loud, snarly place.

I don’t like that place. The guilt immediately follows the words I’ve spewed in such sharp, barking tones. It doesn’t feel as if I was always this quick to yell. What’s changed? I feel more tired, that’s for sure. Like Steve Urkel, they’re wearing me down, baby. The older they get the more strong-willed and defiant they become. Skills that will mostly certainly translate into positions as future CEOs, lawyers, etc. but for now is maddening in that all I can do is pray for bedtime to arrive sort of way.

Last week I lost it. The not listening, the whining,  and the fighting amongst each other got to me. Olivia made a complete mess of this 50-count stamp set. Why would you give a 2-year old a 50-count stamp set you ask? Well, the motivation to have a preoccupied toddler is a hell of a thing and desperate people do desperate things. I nicely informed her that since she made the mess it would be up to her to put the caps back on and place them neatly into the box. It turned into an epic showdown with both of us facing off like Wild West gunslingers, hands on hips, neither one of us backing down. I yelled – loud and angry – and told her that if she didn’t pick up the stamps I was going to throw them away. She called my bluff and I shot her the most fiery stare as I began scooping up huge handfuls of stamps and caps and aggressively putting them into the bin. I had had it and she let out a guttural wail and finally had the proper motivation to begin cleaning up the stamps. With an assist from her brother who I finally had to tell to stop cleaning so that she could finish up and learn the lesson.

While I know I had to put my money where my mouth is, I didn’t feel very good about the whole interaction. Why did it have to go to that extreme? Maybe I should have made cleaning-up a fun game for her. Asked her to see how quickly she could pick up all the stamps. Shown a tad more patient. I was also really hungry so maybe my hanger was playing a factor in the whole scenario.

With yelling there’s this odd justification / guilt that pulls at me. Justifying the yelling as a necessary evil to keeping the kids in line. The guilt that maybe I’m doing it too much, it’s not effective, and perhaps increasing the unwanted behaviors. Where is the confirmation that you’re making the right parenting choices? Because that would be great.

I kiss my kids, I make them laugh, I snuggle them close before bed, and I share my favorite part of the day with them, which is always a fun moment involving them. Yet, these moments where my temper flares, provoked by typical toddler/preschooler behavior, seem to be the ones that stick with me once they’re fast asleep. I just hope that’s not what they hold on to as they drift off. I love them and its because of that love they won’t turn into jerks on my watch.  Even if that means yelling from time to time.

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