I do my most charming and calm parenting in public. Don’t we all? We feel others eyes on us, so we make choices to be calm, to take a breath, to use the tricks that we learned teaching or babysitting. We let go when we’re home, we’re done, we’re tired, and damn that pile of laundry is just getting bigger and angrier, and why won’t they just get off of you?
I can still remember some of childhood, looking out at the world through those eyes that are at everyone’s knee level. I can remember getting yelled at and thinking that everything was my fault. Even if it wasn’t. Even if it had nothing to do with me. Now that I realize that I often yell at my children when it isn’t their fault and I worry a bit about what messages that I am sending them. I have worried about that from the beginning, the words that I would watch so carefully to craft to save them from harm, then there would be that one slip, that one false utterance would drop from my lips and crush her self image.
When I think about those moments in the pew on Sunday I was sincere in my desire not to yell at my daughter. When I look at my week I lost resolve pretty quickly. It is always in those moments of not paying attention where I lose my bearings and say un-nice things. I think I use yelling in an effort to control the situation. Or when I’ve run out of mental resources. This week made me a lot more mindful in stressful moments and when Emma is having a temper tantrum. To dig back and find my triggers, my moments of personal panic, to see when I am foisting something on her that is not her fault.
I keep thinking about what my grandmother and her generation would think about these ‘no yell’ challenges. If they would wish we had something like that or if they would think we were silly. Maybe a bit of both? Kids are frustrating, they do frustrating things, they try your patience, and very few of us are made of the stuff of preschool teachers. Of course you yell at your children, everyone yells at their children. Have we gotten carried away on the bandwagon of political correctness? Has the fear of saying anything hurtful grown so great that we won’t even say what’s true or do what’s natural?
Maybe that’s just growing up, you start with this myopic view that you are the center of the world and slowly, very slowly you begin to realize that is not the truth and look outside of yourself. You take everything personally until you know that it’s not about you. As a parent this is a bit damning, but what can you do. At least I can try to not take things out on her that aren’t her fault or walk away from an ‘incident’ with feeling like I treated her with kindness and acted my best.
I hope that this past week has taught me to be more mindful in my speech and in the way that I deal with Emma's temper tantrums. A reminder that calmer usually works better, and maybe just an understanding with myself that I am not perfect.