The Vicious, And I Mean Wicked Vicious, Cycle

421 days of loving more!

Originally posted on July 22, 2012
166 days without yelling, 199 days of loving more to go!

Dear #1,

You and I are caught in a battle that needs to end. We’re both in bad moods and we’re bringing each other down. We are spiraling downwards fast as fast can be and we are starting to affect everyone around us. I am writing this post as my way of reminding myself about my commitment to parent with more warmth and composure, two words that I would not exactly use to describe me lately. Sure, I haven’t been yelling at you. But I have not been the mom I know I can be either, the mom that I know YOU NEED in order to help you out of your bad mood. When I see you today after camp I am going to swoop you up and give you a big hug and tell you I love you a thousand times. I am going to hold you until you feel settled. Until you feel safe that we won’t be in a car accident again. Until you feel secure that you aren’t dying anytime soon. Until you feel comfort knowing that even if the babysitter is leaving, mommy isn’t going anywhere. Until you feel more love than you have felt from me these last few days. Because I love you. And you deserve my love, not my wrath…

big hugs and kisses,
mommy orange rhino

*

It’s a vicious cycle that my son and I get stuck in. When we are BOTH stressed and anxious, sometimes for the same reasons, sometimes not, we quickly get stuck being impatient, rude and quite frankly, annoying towards each other. My son starts acting out: hitting ME more, yelling at ME more, crying more, listening less, smiling less. I start acting out too: snapping more, saying no more, listening less, engaging less, smiling less. In the beginning of the vicious cycle, I try my hardest to stay calm, patient, loving and understanding. I try not to take his actions personally. I try to help him in the ways I have learned how. But the problem is, my stress counteracts all my efforts. Because my stress scares him. It makes him worry even more.

And I can’t hide my stress. According to my husband, I’ve always had a bad poker face. This week has been no different. In fact, it’s been exceptionally bad.

I can’t hide my fear that I too will die and leave my kids without a mom. I can’t hide my anger that I had to fire the babysitter at the worst possible time. I can’t hide my frustration that with everything going on I also have to deal with a car accident AND with three angry and sad kids that daddy went back to work after an extended vacation.

And I can’t hide my frustration with my son that his meltdowns are back, tenfold.

I am trying. I am really, really trying. Trust me, I am. Because I know that all my fears and frustrations are written on my face and THAT is actually making my son feel worse. It is making him more anxious, more stressed. My behavior is making him act out more.

Which of course adds a whole new level of stress to my day. Because when he acts out from stress and fear, it is HARD to stop. The meltdowns are enormous. They are physical. And sometimes they are scary. And when they get this bad, my son needs me to be calm, and patient, and loving. He needs me to be all the things I am incapable of being at that moment because I have my own issues.

And because his behavior is making me feel worse. Because like my behavior is stressing him out, his behavior is stressing me out.

So we play this little game. Who can drive the other person nuts faster? We each keep acting stressed and making each other worse. And worse. And worse. It ain’t pretty.

And it’s a pain in the a*s. Because it is exhausting, physically and mentally. Why can’t he pull it together? Why can’t I pull it together? Darnit, I didn’t sleep again last night. Darnit, he didn’t sleep either. Crap, now we are both tired and even MORE overwhelmed and persnickety.

Last Thursday I FINALLY snapped out of it. I finally put an end to the game.

I was REALLY close to yelling at him. Really really close. I had had it with the screaming and the kicking and the throwing pillows. I had had it with feeling like I was the only parent to have a child act like this. I had had it with feeling embarrassed by his behavior. I had had enough of ALL OF IT. I had had it with my week. With the stress. I had had it with him. I was done being patient. I was done being The Orange Rhino.

I walked away as a toy was thrown at me and went to seek solace in The Orange Rhino facebook page.

I looked at the computer screen. And I saw 44, no 45, no 48, no 60 new people had found my page and started following along. I was immediately reminded of my promise to my boys, to all of you and I stopped dead in my tracks. Seriously.

I looked at him and said, “#1, what is wrong? Why are you so angry? Why are you throwing things at me?”

He burst into tears.

“I am angry that the babysitter is leaving. Why doesn’t she love me?”

I held him in my arms so tight and rocked his almost 6 year old body like a baby. He crumpled into my lap and arms and sat and cried and cried and cried. Those tears kicked me in the ass. Those tears reminded me that when in a vicious cycle with him, he NEEDS ME. I AM THE ONE RESPONSIBLE FOR ENDING the cycle. I am the adult. I am the one who, no matter how hard it is, needs to find the strength and patience to give my son what he needs to “snap out of it.” I am the one who needs to stop and ask, what is going on?

When my son is in a bad mood, rightfully or wrongfully, I need to keep on loving him. When my son is struggling, I need to be an Orange Rhino. I need to find warmth and composure. I need to be patient and calm. I need to be understanding.

When my son and I are in a vicisious cycle of bringing each other down, I have two choices: make it worse or make it better. I finally made it better. It took me days to realize this, it took me days to GROW UP and realize my son needed me. But at least I finally did. And not just because it kept me from yelling, but because it allowed me to love my son more. And really, that is all he needed. To be loved more.

Through Clenched Teeth.

Day 3 of my “Staycation”, day 419 of my “Yellcation”

Dear Orange Rhinos,

In my absence this week, I am fortunate to have several guest posts from fellow Orange Rhinos. Each post is beautifully honest and beautifully inspiring and very relatable. Very. I have yelled through clenched teeth in the past. I have wondered if my kids were as miserable as I. And I have most certainly felt that I have failed at a parent. Read this wonderful guest post tonight by Dana S. and know that you are not alone.

Best and Thank You Dana for having the courage to share,
The Orange Rhino

*

It was my husband’s birthday weekend and his wish was to spend Saturday at the track so I was home with the kiddos. The last several weeks had seen bad weather and more bad weather, creating an atmosphere of cabin fever that would drive Daniel Boone to the Fontainebleau.  Tempers had therefore been short and fuses had been growing shorter by the minute so we decided to surprise Daddy and take him lunch at the track.

I had been yelling at the kids since 7am and already had a headache, just from being angry.

Our good-deed-outing unfortunately deteriorated and only served to create more havoc. Once we arrived at the track, I was in such a bad mood that despite the fact that the kids behaved fairly well there was just no snapping me out of it. I strapped the kids into the stroller and rolled out the front door toward the parking lot.  As soon as I got out the door, I heard yelling, cussing and crying.  I looked up to find a young dad beating his little boy’s butt while his young son cried for him to stop and his dad continued to hit him while chastising him because the little boy apparently laughed out of turn.  He then stopped and almost threw him into his car seat while mom sat in the front seat silently and another sibling also sat silently in the back seat.  Dad looked up at me coming out the front door pushing my two young kids and I don’t believe he could have cared less that I witnessed his downright brutal punishment of that 5ish year old boy.

I pushed my stroller across the parking lot to my SUV in silent shock. As I fished out my keys, both my kids began to jump out of the stroller in a busy parking lot—an obvious no-no.  All the emotions and chaos of the day boiled over in me and before they completely cleared the stroller, I bent down and got in both their faces.

I began yelling through clenched teeth for them to get back into the stroller immediately—yes, safety first, I know—but it didn’t stop there.  All my frustrations rolled out as I yelled, my teeth remaining clenched, red in the face, standing between the cars out in that busy parking lot. 

And you know I was waving my finger in the air.  Finally I had said my piece and stood up, just in time to make eye contact with a couple in their mid-fifties who had emerged from their car and had watched me deliver the conclusion of my yell-fest.  There was no way they could hear what I said, but we all know that body language often speaks louder than words.  The realization of an audience made my heart stop and I swear I felt the blood drain out of my face.  They kept moving and probably had never even noticed me there, but the damage was done.  The kids fell asleep on the car ride home and I used the drive to reconsider myself as a parent: comparing myself to the dad who appeared so angry at his son for laughing, realizing I hadn’t enjoyed my kids for 5 full minutes that day nor laughed with them, and realized how miserable it made me feel—and I had tears rolling down my face when the realization dawned on me that my kids could potentially be as miserable with me.

Something had to change.

I came home and put my sleeping beauties to bed and fired up the laptop.  I started on Pinterest and low and behold, someone had pinned a rather innocuous description: “Don’t yell at your kids for 365 days”. I spent the rest of naptime combing the entire Orange Rhino site from front to back and top to bottom.  Hubby got home from the track and I went right back to T.O.R. site.  Not only was the premise exactly what I needed after my failed parenting day but the author was Real. Normal. Relatable. And there were other real, normal, relatable parents on the site and on Facebook who were doing this.  If they could do this, so could I.

I started the very next day.  The first day, I found it remarkably easy to “behave” myself and keep an even keel by having a goal, a purpose if you will: not to yell.  The second day wasn’t as easy, although I remained a success.  I had to make an effort to think before I spoke so that I wouldn’t lose control of my emotions nor my volume.  The next couple days, admittedly I stayed around Level 4 but I counted it a success because I kept The Orange Rhino Challenge in the forefront of my mind and continued to think before I spoke and didn’t yell. And I saw a change in my household.

My kids were calmer; they listened better; they were somewhat…slightly…a little bit quieter.  My husband had seen me on T.O.R. site every night and finally researched it himself, and even though he had never been a yeller, he also began to make a conscious effort to control his tone and began reminding me of The Orange Rhino Challenge if either of us began to get frustrated with a kid.

That’s not to say it’s been smooth sailing the entire way.  We’ve had to restart the challenge quite a few times.  I yelled and when I did, I gasped and realized what I had done, saw the look of shock on my kid’s face because she knew Mama had been making an effort, and immediately felt like crap about myself.  I’m always transported back to the parking lot that day when that dad was beating his little boy’s butt and cussing him out for laughing.

I have struggled—struggled—with this challenge, and I realize our family has unique circumstances that classify us as uber stressed, but that’s all the more reason to work even harder to make this challenge a success.  I am writing this at 10pm on March 27 and I yelled at my kids approximately 3 hours ago.  I am going to take the next 3 days to regroup, reread The Orange Rhino website and print some resources and reminders, and begin a new challenge on April 1. My husband and I are going to begin this new challenge together and take it one week at a time.  I’ve signed up to be a part of the next 30 Day Challenge so I hope that by then I’ll have my methods figured out and at least several consecutive, successful weeks under my belt. As The Orange Rhino herself has said, just the fact that you’re making an effort to do something is to be celebrated!

Note: These thoughts are all Dana’s. I didn’t not ask her to say anything specific about me or The Challenge! And today is your day Dana. April 1st: it’s no joke…I believe you can do this!