Truth in parenting.

I will ask of you not to judge me. But I know that I can’t stop you. Your mind will take what I say into a football hold tucked deep into your armpit. You’ll think (I’m assuming) that if you just squeeze my words close enough to your pit stubble and mountain fresh scent that I’ll somehow become more like you, think more like you, and ultimately, become a better parent. Like you.

But that’s really not how change happens. Unless you’re swapping yesterday’s stale undies for a fresh pair, change doesn’t happen overnight. And sometimes, most times, we don’t even know it needs to happen. Unless it IS an underwear issue. And, well, that's not so hard.

I do know though. In this instance, I know that I need to change. Not to be more like you. Or to conform to some ideal I have in my head. Or because I read somewhere that this is how good people act.

There is such a tendency to be one way at work, another way at home. We know this. Or one way in front of our parents, and another when we get in the car and drive away. There are varying degrees, more than just a shift in language from saying “fudge” to saying “fuck”. Or pretending to like Shania Twain to not cause discord in the office. I actually don’t think I have drastically different behaviors from location to location or person to person (though I’ll admit, I do blush if even I let slip a “damn” in front of Mom). More or less, I yam what I yam. Which has bitten me in my yam from time to time.

Ramble ramble ramble skirt the issue get to the goddamn point. I know that I am a different parent to my own two beautiful children in my own home than how I may come across as in person or on social media or in blog posts (with the exception of this one). And with the life changes that have happened in the past couple of years, the happy times have intensified. But so has the frustration, the impatience, and, the crux of all this, the yelling.

I yell. I’m a mom that yells.

I put the kids to bed. I sing them songs. They each get to pick one. I say “Noooo, not Puff the Magic Dragon again …” and sometimes I give in and sing it, sometimes I’m adamant. I. Just. Can’t. Sing it. Again. Friggin sadass dragon. Usually River falls right asleep. But Maggie calls me back in two times, three, seven. Her toe hurts, now her leg, now she’s falling out of bed and can’t get back in it (so very much like Fred Armisen as the feminist bookstore chick that can’t reach the book on the shelf “I can almost touch it but just. Can’t. grab. It.” “It’s right there. I don’t understand.” Stretches fingers. “No, just can’t, it’s just right out of my reach …”). And then I yell. “GO TO SLEEP!” Angrier and angrier. Until finally she’s quiet. No doubt lulled to sleep by the shushing sounds of her primary nurturer yelling impatiently and angrily from across the house because I refuse, refuse! to step into her doorway one more time tonight.

And then I’m mad at myself. I’m not a good mom. Yes I am. We made banana bread together! We blew bubbles in the backyard! We did art! And then I blew it by blowing up. And I go to bed mad at myself.

Likely in the middle of the night Maggie yelled “MOM!” and I yell back, “WHAT?!”with no mind that it’s 2am, her brother is sleeping, that she’s 4 years old and could use a gentler response from the woman who birthed her. And I bring her to my bed. Cause it’s easier than going through it all again. And I’m tired. And honestly, so is she. And I’ll cuddle into her, to make up for the yelling. It doesn’t.
It doesn’t make up for it. Water in a bucket doesn’t make up for the fire that burns a few feet away.

It’s morning. Maggie’s in my bed. River’s slow to rise. I let the alarm clock go back to sleep so that they can sleep a bit more, knowing though, that by doing so our morning will be rushed. I’ll have to push them through breakfast. I’ll break up their chit chat and their giggling. I’ll get their clothes out and insist that they have 2 minutes to finish eating their oatmeal and fruit and then I’m throwing it away. We need to GET MOVING. And I’ll head to my room to get myself dressed and hear them making fart jokes. They’re cracking each other up. They are being awesome siblings to each other. And all I think is “fuuuuuck, they’re not listening! They’re just goofing off!” So I yell from my room, which is all of 10 feet away “EAT YOUR BREAKFAST AND STOP GOOFING OFF!” Then we finally get it together and out the door, within minutes of the same time we leave everyday, and I’m flustered. They seem fine. But I feel like I just pockmarked their souls with my gravel-flinging yelling.

I will not try to justify this behavior. It sucks and I know it. I will not say to myself “I must not be the only one. Other parents yell at their kids, too.” Probably. Definitely, even. So what.

If I yell at my kids, they will yell, too. And I’ve already begun to see it unfold. My kids are not just pieces of their dad and I. They are not just their own selves either. And they are not purely a creation of their environment. But they are a combination of all of those things. And the one thing that I can actively contribute to in that equation is their environment, and even in that, just a small sliver. And I spend that small sliver with loud and angry sounds coming out of my face.

Truth in parenting. Recognition of an area where I cause hurt. And effectively am working to change.

Maggie called me into her room tonight no less than 6 times. I took a deep breath. And I brought her a cold washcloth for her toe that all of a sudden hurt. Then I turned off the music that she all of a sudden didn’t want. Then I brought her an ice pack for her leg that all of a sudden ached. Then I brought her some “itch medicine” for the 4 day old bee sting that all of a sudden itched. Then I sat on her bed, and sang to her “Dream A Little Dream” and told her to dream tonight about funny fish that like to eat chocolate. And she smiled and said “and lollipops! No! I mean Easter candy.” And she smiled again so very sweetly. And I kissed her cheek good night. And then I came out here to the couch and picked up the computer for the sixth time tonight so that I could write this.

Change can happen. And it must. I better fucking believe it.
I don't know what to say. But I know I have to change my tone. Because I love them so very very very much. 


Juliana said…
Thank you so much for putting this truth into words. I too am a mom who yells and have worked at changing my tone. I see myself making slow progress with lots of backsliding. But progress nonetheless. Thanks for sharing that even fantastic moms have their moments.
torrie said…
you are not the only mom who yells. I have yelled at my kids too. The lack of sleep on our part as parents, the lack of being able to satisfy our childrens every need, the back talking that takes place, etc. It all gets to us because we aren't just moms, we are human. Your children will remember the good things you have done for them and not the yelling. If you were to yell every time they asked for something or said mom, you may have an issue. I yelled at my kids. Do they remember or act out? Are they hoodlums or yellers themselves? No. Have faith. You are an excellent mom with a lot on her plate. Breath, have a glass of wine, look at your children and know they love their mama. Even when she yells.
Gretchen Whitmer said…
Thank you, Kel. I do the same thing and have had to go back many times and apologize for yelling. As the kids are getting older I try to explain that I'm not just their mother.....I have SO many other jobs (as I'm sure you do!) and the bottom line is I am a human being and sometimes I fail at having patience. It is something I work on everyday, but I have my set backs. I'm sure you are a wonderful mom and I'm sure your kids think so too. Keep breathing.....:-)

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