I Didn’t Plan to Yell at my Kids

After having run on empty for the last couple of weeks, I couldn’t wait to pull into my parent’s driveway and let my ten day “vacation” of doing things with my kiddos that I did when I was a little girl begin. It was just what I needed to fill up; a trip down memory lane of my summers as a child. My summers were filled with family, friends, and fun times; you know, all the good and important stuff and none of the other stuff. I expected my memories and moments of self-reflection to start flooding in when we actually arrived in New Hampshire two days later; I never expected them to start within minutes of coming into my parent’s house, a house I didn’t grow up in and which holds no real emotional attachment. And I certainly never expected the first moment to be so powerful.

Within seconds of pulling into the driveway, before I could even get the baby out of his car seat, my three older sons had run into the house, hugged Grandma, and then thrown open the door to the basement where as always, all my brother’s and my childhood toys awaited them. I unbuckled #4 who ran in after his brothers screeching, “I go! I go! I go!” I of course ran in after him because he is too young to be downstairs by himself at Grandma’s house.

We made it to the bottom of the stairs where the three older boys had already set up the firehouse, Legos and Lincoln Logs. But littlest man had no interest. He walked right over to a section of the basement that normally is all blocked off and starting pointing.

“What that? What that? Why? Why? Mine? My toy? I play?”

He pointed directly to my dollhouse; my beautiful dollhouse that my parents and brother labored over for two months to surprise me at Christmas one year.  A smile crept onto my face as I found myself going back in time (and feeling a little bit like Rose in the movie “Titanic” where she re-tells the story of the time on the ship as she gently runs her hand over her keepsakes!. I ran my hand over the wooden shingles, the one exterior touch I did to finish the dollhouse.  Immediately the smell of the glue, the feeling of the glue on my fingers as I scrubbed it off, the satisfaction I felt after I neatly placed every new shingle and wiped off an excess glue, oh it all came back to me.  I pushed the front door open to see the “wood floor” that I had so carefully chosen and the dining room furniture that so eerily resembled that which I have now.  And then I peaked through the windows into the second and third floors where the kids bedrooms where and I smiled again, this time thinking about how I had it all planned out, my life that was, and how it obviously didn’t turn out as planned. Yes, my dollhouse was what my life would be and as a child I naturally assumed that nothing could change what I planned. Obviously, that isn’t how life goes.

The plan was that I would have twin girls first so the large third floor was the girls. At one point, pink ribbon wallpaper adorned the walls, twin white swindle beds looked lined up under the dormer windows and pictures of horses hung on either end wall. Well, instead of having twin girls first, I had one boy, and then another. And another.

The plan also had my last child being a son. Well that part was accurate. And the nursery in my dollhouse, my dream house, well it is close to what I have. The walls were white with a delicate light blue trim and I swear the chosen crib is a miniature version of the crib all my sons have slept in. And on top of the white dresser was a little sailboat to reflect my love for the ocean. In no surprise, the theme in my son’s nursery is sailboats.

Also no surprise was that the mom I envisioned for my little dream family never yelled at her kids. Never. Ever. She always talked in a sweet loving voice. She always said kind things like, “Good Job” and “I’m proud of you.” and never hollered “Hurry up” or “Enough already!”  I mean, why would I envision a mom to be a mean mom? An impatient mom? A yelling mom? Who would want a mom like that or to be a mom like that? I certainly didn’t want my pretend three children to have a mom like that nor did I want to be a mom like that when I grew up.

And yet, SURPRISE, nineteen years later I was that mom. And SURPRISE, here I am standing in the basement staring at this house, thinking, “Wow, how did it happen? I had such dreams of the mom I would be. Where did I go wrong?”

It was a beautifully harsh moment, beautiful that I had such a fond memory of building and playing with my dream family and dream house, yet harsh that I had such an uncomfortable recollection that there was a time, are times, when I wasn’t the mom I dreamed of.  By now, littlest man had wondered back to play with his brothers so I had a peaceful moment to just think. [pullquote]It was a beautifully harsh moment, beautiful that I had such a fond memory of building and playing with my dream family and dream house, yet harsh that I had such an uncomfortable recollection that there was a time, are times, when I wasn’t the mom I dreamed of.[/pullquote]

Where did I go wrong? Did I go wrong or did life just happen? Is it life, that as kids we have innocent dreams and when adult life happens, reality of stress and being an adult, happens, changing those dreams? Or, where did my parents go right that I was able to create in my mind such a loving household free of yelling? How do I create that in my own house now so that my boys envision themselves to be the kind of parent that I so very much envisioned myself to be when I was a little girl?

How do I inspire my sons to dream and aspire to be a loving parent?
By being a loving parent.

How do I create a home where my kids will walk in the door and stop and look at a certain toy and feel the same joy and gratitude that I felt at that moment?
By creating a loving home.

I continued to feel nostalgic and a total emotional sap as I picked up pieces of furniture from each room. I stopped when I came to the candy dish filled with little Valentine’s cookies and candies. I remember exactly why I picked out that piece with my allowance from the month – because giving a Valentine treat is exactly something my mom would do. She would go out of her way to make the holidays special. She and my dad went out of their way to make my life special and full of meaningful memories. She and my dad went of their way (or so I imagine, maybe they were naturally patient and I just got the wrong genes) to not yell at me.

I have been struggling lately to remain yell free; I have been struggling to yell less and love more because of personal stress of living the “dream” life and owning the “dream house” I envisioned as a child. Being an adult is hard sometimes and not as perfect as I imagined; some things just aren’t going as planned making it challenging. But today, reminiscing over the dollhouse and my childhood full of positive memories (okay, mostly, lets be honest) reminded me just how important having a loving, yell-free home is to me. It reminded me that I want nothing more than to fill my sons’ lives with loving, inspiring memories. I want nothing more than to create a childhood that my children will fondly look back on. I want nothing more than to create a home and a relationship with them that they want to run back to and hug tightly once they have graduated college.

I want nothing more than to continue to yell less and love more no matter how hard it is.

There are a lot of things in life that don’t go as planned, but this, having a yell less and love more type home? This I can plan for. No one or thing can change my plan to have a home with less yelling and more loving except for me. And I have no plans on changing that anytime soon.


YLLM1For a 30-day Guide to make your home more yell free, check out my newly released book: “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” Part parenting guide, part parenting memoir, part journal, “Yell Less, Love More” walks you through the steps I took to stop yelling and includes 100 alternatives to yelling as well as honest stories to inspire you on your own journey. Click here for a partial list of retailers that have the book! 

 

When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Well, once again, this is not the post I intended to write tonight. Nope, not at all.
That seems to be the theme lately: not doing what I expected to be doing.
That was certainly the case last week on vacation.

Did I expect to spend the first three days in the rain? Nope. I mean sure, one day of rain, or some drops here and there, but most certainly not three days of thunderstorms.

Did I expect to find our normally quiet, spacious beach overcrowded because the beach one block over was getting filled in as a result of Hurricane Sandy? Nope. And when I say overcrowded, I mean so much so that if one of my boys even flinched I feared they would get sand on a stranger.

Danger. This mom didn’t expect this and doesn’t like when things don’t go as planned. In fact, in kind of makes her want to scream….

Did I expect to have not one, not two, not three, but four kids all not sleep through the night, every night? Nope. Of course I expected one or two, and I expected early risings, but for all to not sleep through, seriously?

Did I expect to discover our favorite breakfast place would have the same great food and view but awfully mean and hungover college boys instead of sweet and caring college girls who helped with the kids? Nope. I know wait staff changes, but after many a long night I so longed for a little help at breakfast besides the caffeine jolt from my coffee.

Did I expect to call 911 at 4:30 in the morning because I was convinced someone was in the house?

Oh wait, that wasn’t on vacation; that wasn’t last week. That was last night, or I guess this morning. I think I am still shaking and still traumatized by the whole thing. The baby cried out at 4:30. He quickly settled and then I heard footsteps. Then I heard what sounded like toys banging around. I waited in bed, my heart already racing, trying to figure out my next move as my husband was traveling. I decided it must just be #2 up early (he doesn’t sleep well). I waited for the sound to stop. It didn’t. So I grabbed the bat and went out into the hall. I checked all the kids’ rooms. All the lights were off; the rooms were quiet and the beds full. Then…

BANG!

The metal baby get at the bottom of the stairs crashed. I looked downstairs and saw lights on and heard even more noise and even more footsteps. I ran to my bedroom and called 911.

“Hello! Quick, hurry. Send someone to my house. I think someone is downstairs.”

“Hold on ma’am, where are you. Tell me what you hear. Police are on their way.”

“Someone is downstairs. I know it. I know it. Please there are footsteps and noise. Hurry! Hurry!”

I told her everything I could as quietly as I could. I prayed the baby didn’t wake and cry out again. The last thing I wanted was my four boys to wake up and get attention. The last thing I wanted was to be found, so I tried so hard to stay calm and not let my tears of absolute fear be heard. It was near impossible.

“Did you call out downstairs, to see if anyone answered?”

“No, I was too afraid. Please, hurry, hurry. I am so scared!” I sobbed. And I mean sobbed. I have never been so scared in my life. Visions of an intruder ran through my head as the banging continued. The beautiful calm voice came kept reassuring me as I continued to sob hysterically. A mere minute or two into the call, or rather an eternity if you ask me, she said:

“Okay, six officers are at your house and have surrounded the perimeter. Just stay on the line with me. You are going to be okay….Okay, the officers are walking around your house. Stay with me.”

“Please, please, tell them to come in. I can give you the garage code….”

“Ma’am, the officers see someone in your house. Stay calm. Okay, someone with a red shirt is walking around. It is a child. With blonde hair.” She matter-of-factly reported to me.

“THAT’s MY SON!” I bawled.

I threw the phone and ran downstairs.  I saw my sweet oldest standing in pitch black in the kitchen. I dropped to my knees faster than I ever have and let out the biggest sob of my life so far.

“You scared me! You scared me so much! I thought you were someone trying to hurt our family. I am so scared. Do you see how scared I am?” I said calmly-ish. Repeat, I said calmly-ish. I didn’t yell.

Flashlights flickered in every corner of the house. I opened the back door to a policeman and once again started bawling. I finally let out a breath; I don’t think I had really breathed for the last five or so minutes.

“It’s my son sir. My son.”

“What happened little guy?” The policeman asked so very nicely and reassuringly.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry mommy. I woke up and had a bad dream so I snuck downstairs to get something to eat. I think I will go back to bed now.”

“Sweetheart. Oh sweetheart. I am just so glad you are okay. This is why I have told you that we don’t go downstairs without an adult in the morning. This is why we stay in our rooms. Oh #1, you scared me so much.”

And on that note he shook his head quietly with understanding and turned and walked upstairs and went to bed as I apologized to the police officer and the other five of them waiting at the front door. I felt embarrassed to have made such a foolish mistake. I felt embarrassed that I didn’t think to pull back every cover in the kid’s room. I felt embarrassed that I was standing in the ugliest summer (ie. less cloth) pajama’s ever and that I hadn’t even thought to put on a robe to cover up what was hanging out, eh hem.

All six officers reassured me that I did the right thing; that this has happened before and it is better safe than sorry. I knew they were right but still, I feel a little silly today. Kind of.

I also feel a little proud. Just like I felt a little proud on vacation. Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, when something went awry and not as planned, I would get all bent out of shape. Beach closed? I would complain for two days, be a grump and be ripe to yell. Kids not sleeping? I would suggest packing up and going home and in the meanwhile, I would snap at the kids incessantly. Kid scaring the crap out of me? I would scare the crap out of him by screaming in his face.

Yes, before I taught myself to stop yelling, before I realized that I should expect to be triggered to yell big time by things not going as expected, I didn’t handle myself well at all when things went awry. In fact, I would get into such a funk that I either ruined a moment or missed out on an opportunity all together. The Orange Rhino Challenge hasn’t just taught me to yell less and love my kids more, it has helped me to love life more. I loved vacation – despite all the unexpected hiccups because I have taught myself to expect and accept the unexpected. Even my husband noted how calm I was compared to past reactions to similar situations. And last night was no different. I loved my son more than I would have in the past if faced with such a scenario because I have practiced handling the unexpected more gracefully.

My son saw fear in my face last night; not anger. My son felt love in my hug, not aggression. And as a result (or as I like to think) he heard every lesson I needed to teach him loud and clear…all without me getting loud.

I didn’t expect for my son to be the intruder in my house last night, but it taught him several great lessons. And I also didn’t expect The Orange Rhino Challenge to change me so much, to have taught me so many great lessons.

One Truth About Asking For Help

Welcome to all the new Orange Rhinos! I am so happy that you have found this Community! Before you read this post, you might want to read the following posts (hyper-linked by the way): {Sometimes} Marriage Makes Me Want to Yell, Oh Motherhood, Sometimes You Break My Heart, I Got Knocked Down, and Happy Days! While they are not necessary to get the point of this post, they might provide some key background info!

Dear Orange Rhinos,

As you all know, I have had no problem telling you all lots of my big “truths.”
There is the obvious first truth I shared about my yelling problem.
Then there were the truths about my struggles with my boys’ individual challenges.
Then there was the truth about the boulder in my marriage.
And of course along the way, I have shared indirectly about some of my challenges.

I have written about how I struggle with finding patience. I have written about how I struggle to keep my expectations of my boys, and myself, in check. I have written about how I struggle to let things go. I have written about how I struggle with my self-image, both from a weight perspective and an “am I a good enough” mom, wife, friend, person perspective.

I have always felt better after I wrote about my personal struggles, and then felt better yet after I found the courage to post them. Ironically, while writing hides my face and my voice, it has never once hidden my true emotions. Writing somehow always forces me to open up, to dig deeper, to figure out what is going on in my head, good or bad. Writing takes my “insanity” and makes it “clarity” to steal from a current song. Writing keeps me honest. Writing keeps me real. I can’t hide from myself when I write. The truth begs to be released from my mind and into my fingers once I sit down to the computer.

So what do I do when I sit down to write and am filled with fear because I don’t want to admit to the truth? (A) Write about my writing silence and that I am struggling but not be totally upfront. (B) Write that I am trying to get back up and write again. (C) Write that I am no longer knocked down, so to speak.

Answer? A, B, and C. I wrote about all of the above in two posts, Am I Good Enough? and Happy Days. I have to say, I have struggled with writing ever since the Happy Days post. I wrote that post to try and feel better. I wrote that post because I didn’t want anyone to think that I was still down. I wrote that post because I didn’t want to believe that I was still down. I wrote that post in hopes that it would make my insanity, clarity.

While that post was true, it also felt like a lie. Because I left so much out. Which I know is okay, but still, because my writing is my place where I am real, I felt like I was lying to me and well even to you. And I don’t like lying. It doesn’t feel good. And I especially don’t like lying to myself; that is perhaps even harder and more uncomfortable than telling the truth because the lie just festers and doesn’t stand a chance to be resolved.

I have learned many things during my journey to not yell; a big one has been that the more honest I am with myself about any personal struggles, the easier it is for me to take charge of them, instead of them taking charge of me and pushing me to yell.

But lately, the honesty hasn’t been so pretty and it has been taking charge of me.

I have been hiding from my struggles by not writing. I have been making sure that just about no one knew how I was really doing, myself included! All this hiding and not being totally honest with myself is simply creating a sense of stress that is unbearable; a sense of stress that makes it hard to be the mom, the person I want to be; a sense of stress that makes it so much more tempting to yell! When I have done the 30-days to yelling less challenge, I have asked people to own up, like really own up to the hard personal stuff so that it can be addressed and improved and not act as a catalyst for yelling. Perhaps I should take my own advice?

Um, yes, most definitely.

So tonight I will do just that. I promise that the next paragraphs will be hard, uncomfortable, embarrassing and risky. I guarantee that I will hit “post” and worry that I have again written a post that turns people off because I came across too negative and too down, but I need to share my truths because I can no longer sit with the personal lie. I need to embrace the truths that I am struggling with so that I can struggle less with staying calm with my beautiful boys.

The truth is, I have been having panic attacks for a few weeks now. This is new to me. I have never felt them before. A few times I have thought I was having a heart attack. One was so bad that I actually had my husband note what time it started. I didn’t realize what it was at the time; I thought I was just out of shape. I was wrong. I don’t like having panic attacks; I don’t like that my stress is so that I am having them either.

The truth is, I am constantly feeling overwhelmed and under pressure. Some of it is self-afflicted; some of it is the reality of my life right now. I am working on embracing the latter half, accepting that it is okay and normal to feel a wee bit overwhelmed as a mom at times and that it is normal to feel overwhelmed by the current big stressors in my life. I am also working on not being so hard on myself for feeling overwhelmed!

The truth is, I am exhausted. I am not just exhausted from my literal insomnia, but exhausted from working so hard in all three major pillars of my life at the same time: parenthood, marriage, and me-hood. I know many people will think, “well shoot, life isn’t supposed to be so hard, you are doing something wrong.” And I know many people will say, “well shoot, of course life can be hard, that is when the good stuff happens, you are doing something right.” And I am guessing that the answer lies somewhere in the middle. And I am also guessing that the answer will come in due time, that I just need to be patient.

The truth is, there are only so many days in a row that I feel comfortable saying, “Mommy is having a really hard day,” or “Mommy is really tired that’s why she is grumpy” or “Mommy is sorry that she is so cranky today.” I don’t want my boys growing up telling tales of a yelling mommy…and I also don’t want them growing up telling tales of a mommy who had a hard day, every day. 

The truth is, I love my boys.

I love my four little orange rhinos in the making…

The truth is, I love my boys so much that…I asked for help. Which really was NOT an easy thing for me to do. In fact, it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do short of going through what I am right now. I like to believe, no wanted to believe, that I could handle all this stress on my own. I wanted to believe that if I did everything I have learned about keeping myself calm over the last 450+ days that I could get out of this funk. But it wasn’t working; NOT because what I learned was wrong, but because sometimes, I need to ask for help.

Two weeks ago I went to see a doctor to help with my newfound anxiety and insomnia. I am pleased to report that I am happily sleeping again and am starting to feel better.

Which I guess brings me to three other really important lessons I learned in my journey to yell less: I can’t do everything on my own, trying to do so will just stress me out and push me to yell, and most importantly, asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. 

 

*If you liked this post, you might also like…Truth or Dare 

Oh, Motherhood, Sometimes You Break My Heart

Originally posted April 17, 2013 when I was on Day 435 of not yelling

Motherhood, motherhood, motherhood. You challenge me, you scare me, you delight me, you raise me, you please me, you displease me. Oh motherhood, you make me feel so many emotions. It is a rare a day goes by that I don’t feel elated one moment and deflated the next; only to feel elated a moment later.

Today was no different.

Around three o’clock today I received some thoughts about one of my sons that were disheartening.

Cue emotions: Sadness and Guilt.

It doesn’t matter which son it was about or what was said. It was neither bad nor good; it was just hard to hear. No, it was heart wrenching to hear. Absolutely heart wrenching. The “news” broke my heart. Even though I know it will all work out and that I know he will be fine, I will be fine, we will be fine, it still hurts to know that one of my sons is struggling. Upon hearing the news I immediately started in with the:

“It’s my fault. I am a bad mom. I am not present enough. I don’t play too much. I expect too much. I don’t expect enough. I don’t do enough. This is my entire fault. And if it isn’t my fault for acting wrong, it is my fault for sharing my DNA.”

Oh yes, I played the “I suck as a mom” card over and over and over in my head this afternoon. I was so down that I couldn’t even cry. I was past crying.  I went through the motions of dinner calmly and lovingly. We all went peacefully up to bed and I kept my fingers crossed for a nice, dry bath time!

Tip23Cue next emotions: Joy and Laughter.

Bath time was a sh*tshow, but I loved every minute of it. You see, the bathroom joins two of my boys’ bedrooms, creating a grand total of 4 doors, or better yet, 4 ways to escape. I was doing my best to coral my munchkins into the bathroom, but tonight, oh tonight they had me beat. I would close one door only to have my mischievous 21 month old start running to open the next door; he of course was two steps behind his older brother who had opened another door. Doors slammed and laughter erupted as four little boys literally ran circles around me. I did all I could do: laugh. It was hysterical, I mean here I am a somewhat fit thirty-five year old woman unable to catch four kids and get them into a bath. Not infuriating at all; nope not tonight. I took major delight in the laughter, in the happiness, as it was such a welcomed treat compared to hours before.

My joy continued in the bathtub. Tonight’s bath was overflowing with bubbles. #2 decided he wanted a mustache and dipped his entire face in the soapsuds. He came up looking like Santa Claus instead.

SantaOf course #3 and #4 followed suit. Seeing three faces covered in white soapsuds with just sparkling eyes peeping out was priceless. Of course #4 then decided to taste the soap and went diving in with his mouth wide open, just like a duck looking for a fish. He came up with a mouthful of soap and then blew it all out in my face while laughing hysterically. Tonight, at bath time, I was so grateful to be relaxed and calm and present. I think my sadness earlier made me more in touch with my love for my boys tonight and that allowed me to focus and stay connected. And well, not yelling totally helped too!

The circus continued well into story time. I was moving slow tonight, savoring every minute of bedtime. Such a gift to take bedtime slow without yelling. Such. A. Gift. #1 and #2 snuggled next to me for story time and #3 plopped down on my lap. OH BOY. That left nowhere for #4 who now considers himself, you know 4 even though he is yet to be two! He started pulling hair and trying to move everyone. He gave up. He literally straddled #3 and plopped down right on top of him so that he was in the center of it all, staring right at me.

His green eyes sparkled with pride and we all burst out laughing. It was a beautiful family moment that again, I savored because I wasn’t rushing it or yelling. Every child then scampered off to their rooms, their loveys in hand and hopefully their hearts full. I made my rounds of hugs and kisses and “I love you because….”

Then I got to the room of my son who I had received the thoughts about earlier.

Cue new emotions.

Cue: sadness, frustration, fear, empathy, concern, confusion, hope, guilt, pain and love, endless, endless love.

I had saved his room for last intentionally. Tonight, tonight I wanted to snuggle a little longer, talk a little longer, love a little bit more. I wanted to make sure that he knew he was a good kid. That I knew he was smart, talented, loving, likeable and more. You see, he doesn’t see that in himself. My sweet young child already is insecure more than the average child and it breaks me in two. No child should feel what he feels. No child should struggle as he does. And especially not my child.

“Okay munchkin, time for bed.”

“How about a book?” he asked.

“I was thinking tonight, instead of reading we could snuggle longer and talk more.”

“Okay I guess. As long as it is longer than the time we spend reading.”

“Absolutely. Twice as long, I promise. And I will sing you the lullabies I sang to you when you were a baby.”

He jumped into bed all excited.

“Here, come closer for a really big snuggle. I want you to feel all the love in my heart that I have for you.”

He snuggled up, a big sh*t eating grin on his face. The next part I wish I was creative enough to write and dream up. That is not the case. This actually happened.

“Do you feel my love? Do you know how much I love you?” I asked.

“Yes. I feel it all the way down to my toes. I feel it between my toes. And I feel it to my fingers and between my fingers. See here mommy, see the kind of V between my fingers? It’s like the bottom of a heart. Between every finger there is an imaginary heart where I feel your love for me.”

Tears STREAMING down my face, I said:

“Well good. Then if you can see those hearts in your hand, you will know that I am always with you and that I will always love you.”

“Okay, can you start singing now?”

I sang and then if on queue, another emotion arrived: the challenge of letting go.

“Mommy, you can stop hugging me now. I like to fall asleep alone.”

“Oh, okay. I love you though, with all my heart.”

“I know.”

Oh my dear son, I know you “know” but I truly hope you really “know” how deep and strong my love is for you. I am here for you dear son, I will fight for you and with you my dear son. I will help you, I will help me, my dear son. We will get through this.

Cue new emotion: Determination.

Yes Motherhood is one heck of a roller coaster of emotions, many of which I have never experienced in such depth. And yet, I wouldn’t trade it in for the world because at the core of all these conflicting emotions is one very clear and unwavering one that is driving them all: my deep love for my boys, my four sweet beautiful boys.

* * * * *

I share more of my heartbreaking motherhood stories, as well as steps to stop yelling, tips to prevent yelling, and fun, not heartbreaking stories,  in my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” You can pre-order it by clicking here.

I am Angry, But I Will Not Yell

4 days of Year 2, yelling less and loving more 

Today was a beautiful afternoon.

For the first time in what feels like ages, I was at peace. I was completely present with my sons, smiling and laughing as they ran up and down the driveway jumping high to pop the bubbles I blew between my own laughs. I was completely present as I listened to #4 say “Bub” “Bub” over and over as each iridescent bubble floated into the sky. I was completely present as all four ran together, TOGETHER, not fighting or arguing, and completely happy as a brotherhood.

And then I wasn’t present.
Just like that.

We came in for dinner and I picked up my phone to see texts stating: “we’re okay.” “I’m okay.” “Are your parents okay?” I opened Facebook to see my feed streaming with statements of safety and I was no longer present. My mind drifted to memories of 9/11 and the same sense of panic that ensued as I made sure all my friends that worked downtown were safe. I was again lost in a state of panic as I called my parents and asked: “what the heck happened? Is everyone we know safe?” I so desperately wanted to turn the news on but more desperately wanted to protect my children from images I knew they would never forget and not even come close to understanding.

So I stood frozen. Paralyzed with sadness and devastation. And yet knowing that the meatloaf was burning, the kids were screaming to eat, and that at that moment, life had to go on. That at that moment, my kids needed me. That at that moment even though I wanted to scream, “SHUT…UP mommy wants some peace to read her newsfeed and to call friends,” that wasn’t an option.

Because that response would have been something they would never forget and would not come close to understanding. Why is mommy acting so mean? So vengeful? So rageful? Why is mommy scaring us so?

The answer is obvious to me – because mommy was (is) scared and angry. Yet, I didn’t want to unleash that on my children because they did not deserve it. So I did what I have taught myself to do when I have ugly feelings and want to yell: I told them how I felt.

Did I yell? No.
Did I bottle up my emotions? No.
Did I share my emotions? YES.

I clapped my hands hard. CLAP! CLAP!

“Boys. BOYS. Mommy is very sad right now. Mommy is feeling angry, not at you but at something she heard. Mommy is very frustrated. I need your help. Please, can we be a little quieter and eat our dinner peacefully? Please. I need you to help me so that I don’t yell at you unnecessarily.”

I am not sure what happened next to be honest. I was still in a bit of a haze, trying to get meatloaf on plates and milk in sippy cups. They may or may not have been quieter; I couldn’t tell, as my mind was loud and louder by the minute. My thoughts were screaming at me “How is this possible?” and “Stay calm for the boys. Shelter them for this event. Shelter them from your anger.”

It was a fight and I am not talking about the disagreement over what was being served. No the fight was an internal fight to keep myself from losing my cool on my kiddos just because I was in a mood. Were they being bad? No. They were acting pretty gosh darn normal. I just had no patience. I had nothing in the tank accept ugly feelings and those ugly feelings well, they wanted to get out. They were racing to get out and they had nowhere to go but at my precious children. But I would not let that happen. They did nothing wrong.

So I just kept sharing my feelings, showing them in a loving way, that it’s okay to have ugly feelings way. And I just kept teaching them how I have learned to handle my mean emotions in a way other than yelling: by talking and sharing about them. When I say my feelings out loud, when I hear myself say the strong, ugly emotions, it is like a waving a orange flag in front of my eyes that reads: You are upset, remember to stay calmish. It sounds silly, but it works.

A few weeks back my “10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling Post” was shared on a site where someone decided it necessary to blast it. The commenter wrote something along the lines of “Yeah, great advice. Close your mouth, show no emotion, don’t show your kids anger or disappointment, just stay calm and pretend everything is okay.”

At first I was pissed. Really, really pissed. How dare he insult me when I am trying to do something full of love? How dare he throw hate at me? And then, today I was finally grateful. Because he made me realize that I am doing the exact opposite of what he wrote. I am not pretending everything is okay all the time. Nope. Not at all. I am still sharing my emotions – all of them, good and bad and let me assure, I have had my fair share of bad ones this past year – I am just sharing them in a constructive way. I am no longer using them to hurt my kids. I am sharing them in a loving way – even when I feel crappy.

Even though I no longer yell, I am most certainly not pretending everything is okay (in life or with unacceptable behavior.) I am most definitely showing my emotions, but again, in a loving manner, not a condemning, beyond hurtful manner.

After #4’s 1st, and 2nd, and 3rd and 4th (the worst) seizure, I cried in front of my boys and told them how scared I was, yet positive it would all be okay…and that I loved them.

After we received my father-in-law’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, I cried in front of my boys when #1 said ever so calmly to #2, “Grandpa is still here, he just doesn’t remember things like he used to. But he still loves us you know.” I told them how sad I was…but that I loved them.

After Newtown, Connecticut happened, my husband’s hometown, I cried in front of my boys and said I was angry that someone would hurt someone else…and that I loved them.

And when #1, #2, and #3 pulled #4 out of his crib to the floor, I said that I was angry and scared because that wasn’t safe…and that I loved them.

And when the boulder in my marriage tried to pin me down, I cried in front of my boys and said that I was frustrated and discouraged…and that I loved them.

And today, at dinner, at bath time, at bedtime, I cried in front of my boys and said: “I am scared, and sad, and angry, and frustrated…but I love you and I will not yell at you even though I am feeling all those ugly feelings.”

My boys definitely understood that my feelings weren’t pretty ones tonight. They could see in my eyes, my smile (or lack thereof) and they could hear it in my short answers. But they also knew that I loved them. Pre Orange Rhino Challenge, I would have let all my ugly emotions, whether a result of their behavior or my own life situations, free onto them. They wouldn’t have felt love, but anger, pure anger and it would have stung and brought tears. I can say now, without a doubt, that I can show emotions without yelling. I can model to my children how to feel angry without letting it hurt people unnecessarily. I am okay with feeling angry, I am okay with telling my kids I am angry at them or at something else, or sad. I am just not okay with letting it be hurtful.

While I am distraught from today’s events, I am grateful to finally be able to let go of this one man’s negative comment. And I am grateful to have been able to show my emotions constructively to my boys instead of yelling because really, even though I thought I “wanted” to yell, what I really wanted to do more than anything in the world tonight was to love my boys and hold them tight, not push them away.

* I feel the need for disclaimers tonight. (I guess I haven’t completely let go of his comment.) I do think yelling out ARGHHHHHHH when angry is okay, just so long as I don’t do it at my kiddos. I also think that if the stress of today got to you, to give yourself a hug instead of hardtime. It’s a lot to take in. 

{sometimes} Marriage Makes Me Want To Yell

412 days of loving more!

Dearest Orange Rhinos. I share this post for two reasons. 1, so that you know that while I have gone a year without yelling everyday I am still taking the Challenge right along with you, especially now and 2, to share about a real personal trigger of mine that I imagine many people can relate to.

January 21, 2012: My handyman busted me yelling at my four boys and I decided to stop being a yelling mom and effective immediately start teaching myself to yell less and love more. I then spent an entire year working hard at my new goal of not yelling for 365 days straight. As I neared my end date of February 6th, 2013 (I had a few re-starts) people asked me, what’s next? What’s next? Will you do another type of challenge? Will you re-commit to another year of not yelling? Tell us, tell us! I didn’t know the answer. As I hemmed and hawed for direction, the answer unfortunately (fortunately?) became crystal clear. I needed to do The Orange Rhino Challenge for another year more than ever because on…

January 18th, 2013, my husband and I hit a bump in the marriage road. It wasn’t a pebble in the road, not even a rock; it was more like a wicked good-sized boulder that two people on their own can’t move. And to be clear, it wasn’t like Fred and Wilma Flintstone just dropped this boulder in our path out of the blue. Oh no. We’ve been looking at it together for years and have done a phenomenal job driving around it. Actually, such a beautiful job that we should be Nascar drivers. But there is only so long that you can avoid a huge boulder like this; it is only so long before you drive smack into it and your car comes to a crashing halt and the only thing you can do is finally admit that you have temporarily broken down and that it is time to address the problem.

So my husband and I, well, we are addressing the problem. We are finally talking about the big boulder in our marriage that we have tip toed around for ages. And let me tell you. It isn’t fun. It isn’t easy. It isn’t, well, it isn’t anything but really REALLY hard and sometimes really, really sad.

Every day since January 18th I wake up with a slight hole in my heart. I can feel it. I can feel the hole in my heart when I look in the mirror and see bags under my eyes from sleepless nights and crusty remainders of dried tears. I can feel the hole in my heart when my boys run into my room to say hi and I dig deep for energy and enthusiasm and find some, but not as much as I wish. I can feel the hole in my heart when my boys innocently try to help me by pouring (spilling) milk and my first inclination is to yell instead of respond peacefully like I had naturally begun to do for months on end. I can feel the hole in my heart when I go to bed and think “I did it, I didn’t yell today, but gosh was I closer than I had been for months and I am proud of myself, but still, I wish it was a smoother day.”

And I can feel the hole in my heart as I “try” to fall asleep after having just passed a wedding picture of hubby and I on my way to bed, and I can’t help but think, “How did we go from there…to here?” When I think, “I knew the path of marriage would be smooth and bumpy and that it would have beautiful views and some less than beautiful views, but I still didn’t think it would ever feel like this. I still didn’t ever think that we would get here.”

I didn’t think that my heart would break into a thousand pieces; that it would shatter like I imagine a windshield would in a high impact crash. But it did. And with that shattered heart has come anger and love and confusion and fear and hope and disappointment and immense utter sadness. Because I love my husband so; I love our family so; I love our life so. And with all of that, well, with all of those wonderfully strong emotions, has come a wonderfully strong desire to yell at my kids for no reason.

During my first year of The Orange Rhino Challenge I learned with clarity that most of the time the saying “it’s not you, it’s me” really is true when it comes to yelling at my kids. And right now, it is truer than ever.

On days when hubby and I talk about that status of things, I find myself wanting to yell at my boys for breathing too loud, for laughing too much, for asking too much.

On days when hubby and I don’t talk about the status of things and my mind wanders all over thinking and wondering and questioning, I find myself wanting to yell at my boys for being too rough, for being too messy, for being too whiny.

And on days when hubby and I talk but don’t talk about the status of things and instead hang and try to be normal, I find myself wanting to yell at my boys for not behaving perfectly, for not playing nicely, for not listening and ruining the family moment.

Yes lately, just about every day since January 18th has been a gigantic trial to not yell, a gigantic trial to stay calm and to not just remember, but to also live out all the beautiful lessons I learned during my Orange Rhino Challenge. And today, well today was no different except that another boulder got thrown in our path (I guess it is a good thing we have always enjoyed long car rides together, eh?)

And as I sat in my mini-van this morning, face in my hands sobbing my broken heart out wondering when the path will become smoother again, all I could think of was my boys. My beautiful, beautiful boys. The four pieces that make my heart whole even in the most difficult times. The four boys whom I love with all my heart and yet to whom I haven’t fully expressed it to recently because I have been so pre-occupied with my marital situation. The four boys who right now sense the stress in the house and more than ever need me, I mean really really NEED ME to show them love and not frustration.

MY four boys, who along side their mother, need The Orange Rhino Challenge more than anything in the world right now. We all need the extra calm, the extra focused attention, the extra security, the extra love that not yelling brings. Every day when I wake up and all I want to do is cry or hide or scream about the truth that is my life right now, I look at my orange toe nails, I look at my Orange Rhino signs, I think of the growing Orange Rhino community and I remember that of all things I want to do right now, there are some big things I don’t want to do. I don’t want to make my kids cry; I love them. I don’t want to hide from my kids; I love them. And I don’t want to scream at them unnecessarily because you guessed it – I love them. I might be angry at the situation in my life, but I will not let it impact how I love my kids. I will not let my anger and sadness drive me to yell at my kids. They simply do not deserve to be on the receiving end of any of my personal strife, I love them too much for that to happen.

And I will not let the anger and sadness from the situation drive my husband and I into a sinkhole that we can’t get out of.  Because I also love my husband with all my heart. We’re not done and we won’t be. Although I know some days ahead will feel like a rock slide is happening and I that I am getting hit left and right with tough emotions, I know that we will dig out and one day this boulder will be in our rear view mirror.

Life can be difficult sometimes. Kids can be difficult sometimes. And well, marriage can be really difficult sometimes too and any of these things can push me to yell. I know all of that. What I also know though? Adding unnecessary yelling to the mix just makes it all that much more difficult.

My Name is The Orange Rhino and I will not yell at my kids (or my husband) even when things get tough. I will continue to yell less and love more with all my might and all my heart.

Lesson from a Lost Lovey

401.5 days of loving more!

Well, crap, I lost one of my son’s loveys AGAIN. You would think I would have learned the first time…and the second time…and the third time…and the fourth time that no matter what “friends” stay in beds and cribs all day. But clearly, based on my digging through trash, and drawers, and cabinets and taking apart toys and furniture (again), I haven’t learned my lesson.  UGH. Why am I writing? I smell! I need to take a shower, then ice my knees from crawling all over the floor all night, and then ice my finger that I dropped not one, but two dresser drawers on as I hastily pulled them out in search of Mr. Bunny.

But, oh, oh the things we do for lost loveys!
And, oh, oh the agonizing heartfelt pain of losing a lovey.

Why is that by the way? Yesterday when Mr. Bunny was missing, my 19 month old didn’t care. He had his back up one so all was well with the world and yet I spent at least one hour looking for the lost lovey. One hour that I could have spent taking advantage of having Grandma here to help and actually checked off a few things on the to-do list. But no, I insisted on looking for Mr. Bunny. I just HAD to find him. Why?? Why am I more attached to my kid’s loveys than they are? Seriously?!

While they have cried over lost friends (loveys) in the past, eventually they move on and choose another friend as a best friend to snuggle with at night whereas I continue to dwell on how I lost track of such a sentimental friend; how I failed my kiddo. I know, sounds a bit extreme, but it just feels so awful because losing a lovey isn’t just losing a stuffed animal, it’s losing something so much more, it’s losing something that I would never, ever want to lose, that I promised myself I would never ever lose because of it’s importance…to my son and to me.

My son’s lovey is an extension of me when I am not there. It’s a guaranteed source of comfort for him when everything around him is falling apart. It’s a friend to hold in the emergency room when mommy has to use two hands to help keep the breathing mask on. It’s a friend to snuggle when I am out of the house and he misses me. And well, my son’s “lovey” isn’t just my son’s security item; I’m realizing that as I write this that it is also mine! Knowing that when all my efforts to soothe my son’s tears don’t work, that Mr. Bunny can magically make them stop, well, that gives me security. Knowing that my son has a friend that is soft and gentle and cuddly, a friend that can’t hurt him, that gives me security. And yes, knowing that my son still needs and wants a lovie gives me security that he is still indeed a child, that my baby isn’t all entirely grown up…yet.

Yes, I think I am most devastated about Mr. Bunny missing because I am just not ready to lose a symbol of my last son’s childhood. I know he and all my boys will grow up, but oh, even though these days can be hard and long, I am in no rush for my boys to grow up. And even though it was a big pain to have spent hours today looking for Mr. Bunny, I am glad that there are still loveys in my house to be lost and hopefully found! Childhood goes by faster than all the experienced moms told me and I am just so not ready to lose Mr. Bunny, the first lovey #4 ever received and one of the last threads to having a “young” child in the house.

My son’s lovey is something ever so special to both of us, something that I always want him to have when he needs, and let’s face it, it is something I always want to have around, whether in his crib, his hands, or in his memory box, because it reminds me so very much of his precious infancy, of his childhood. Mr. Bunny simply is NOT allowed to be lost. I will put him away in a safe place when my son and I are both ready to do so (okay, when I am ready to do so.) But tonight is not the night. Even though I conceded earlier tonight with a very heavy heart that Mr. Bunny was indeed lost, I will look again once more tomorrow. I am not just holding on tight to any symbol of the precious moments in my son’s childhood, but I am also holding on tight to the hope that I will find him!

Mr. Bunny where are you? WE miss you and love you!!!

*

I wrote the above after I called off the search party. Taking a break from looking cleared my mind. When I closed the computer to go to sleep, I had a new idea pop into my head. It donned on me that #4 has been on his tippy toes more and more lately, that he has been reaching his little fingers higher and higher, that he has been bound and determined to get into drawers that he can’t reach.  I ran to the one room full of drawers galore and like a child on Christmas morning and tore open the drawers with excitement and anticipation. Voila! Mr. Bunny wasn’t in the bottom two drawers but in the 3rd drawer…the drawer I thought he couldn’t reach! I grabbed Mr. Bunny and ran to my mother…

“See! See! I knew it! I knew he was in the house!”

I jumped up and down like a child. I was as happy as my son probably was when he finally got that difficult drawer open.

Which got me thinking.

When something really matters to the heart, remain patient, persevere and get on your tippy toes to reach higher. My son was determined to open that higher drawer. He didn’t quit when he couldn’t, when it got hard. His mind was on it and he kept at it. I have no doubt that he pushed himself up on those tippy toes, stretched his chubby little fingers out and then shoved Mr. Bunny in with all his might. I had this same attitude when I started The Orange Rhino Challenge but have sometimes lost my determination. I am going to embrace and remember this attitude whenever I want to quit. If #4 had quit, he wouldn’t have opened that drawer he couldn’t reach. Yes, then I wouldn’t have heartbreak yesterday but I also wouldn’t have been reminded to keep pushing myself when the going gets tough. If my 19-month-old son can push himself to reach higher, so can I.

Managing My Anger.

393 days of loving more!

This is a hard post to write.
You know, sometimes it is just really hard to share the truth.
And not because it is that horrifically awful but because I don’t want to hear myself speak the truth. Because I don’t want to relive the truth. I don’t want to feel the frustration and disappointment all over again.

And that is what I feel right now.

Yesterday wasn’t a good day. I simply wasn’t the mom I hope to be, I wasn’t the mom I know I can be but more so, I simply was NOT the mom that my oldest needs me to be. I wasn’t there for him yesterday. I wasn’t there for him. And that just breaks my heart into a thousand pieces. He is so young and trying so hard to navigate his social anxiety and he needed me to help and instead of being as patient and empathetic as I know I can be, I was snappy and irritable.

Did I yell at him? No. (Phew. Then I would really be feeling dreadful.)
But did I pick him up less gently than I would have liked when I put him in time out? Yes.

Did I keep piling on expectation after expectation on him when I knew he couldn’t handle them, or anything at the moment and just needed me to help him calm down? Yes.

Did I start to get all exasperated with the situation instead of crawling under the dining room table with him and just holding him, and loving him, and telling him how much I love him and that it will be okay? Yes.

Like I said, yesterday wasn’t such a good day.

My son hid under the table because he was struggling. He was overwhelmed and angry with me for saying “no” to something and didn’t know what else to do. It was actually quite brilliant – he made a fort out of the chairs so no one would bother him and so he wouldn’t bother anyone and get in trouble. He built a fort to protect himself…because I didn’t offer him the safety that he sought.

My son barricaded me out. And while it is wonderful that he demonstrated how to handle his emotions on his own, it still was a hurtful reminder that I wasn’t there for him. That I saw his S.O.S. signs and ignored them because I was frustrated at the moment. That I sensed my OWN S.O.S. signs that I was losing it and ignored them because I was tired and embarrassed by his behavior in front of our guests.

I don’t like any of the definitions of Anger so a while back I created my own. I try to keep myself in the G and under range otherwise yelling becomes more and more tempting!

Yes, I sensed that I was Annoyed and I let it grow to Negative feelings. I started thinking, oh he is acting so awful, instead of thinking, oh he is acting so overwhelmed and wanting help. And I let that negativity push me into an awful state of Grumpiness where all I did was be short and snappy with him instead of patient and loving. (By the way, short and snappy? Not really helpful in situations like this!)

I would love to lie and say that when I sensed I was heading past the grumpy stage, when I sensed that I was headed towards Exasperation (and potentially yelling) that I walked away and listened to all the advice that I share with you on my blog – like having a hug-of-love instead of a tug-of-war, like stomping my feet like a Rhino to stomp out my frustration, like “snapping” out of it – and that helped me keep my growing anger tame and helped me be more loving, but I didn’t.

And I would love to lie and say that even when I knew I was being overly snappy, even when I knew I wasn’t reaching my hands forward to pull the chairs back to go under the table with him but rather abruptly putting them on my hips in pure exasperation, that I finally heeded my S.O.S. signs and walked away for a breather so I could squelch my growing anger.  But I didn’t.

Oh and I would love to lie and say that I finally sat patiently on the floor near him and waited for him to come out of hiding instead of leaving the room, but I can’t. I can’t lie.

But what I can do? What I did yesterday. After feeling disappointed in myself that I let myself get past level “G” of anger, after feeling disappointed that I let myself get all exasperated instead of using one of my tips to get to a place where I could be empathetic, after feeling disappointed that I didn’t do what I know I needed to do in that situation, I finally said to myself the one thing I say to many of you all when you feel frustrated from yelling:

“Forgive yourself. You are only human. You are not perfect and you don’t need to be. Pick up and move on to the next moment.”

Yes, I am only human. I am not perfect. And that’s okay. Yes, I don’t yell but yes I do still have moments where I wish I parented a little better, a little softer, a little more lovingly. Yes, yesterday was one of those days. GOSH how I wish I tore back the chairs and grabbed my son in my arms and held him like a baby and told him “I love you. I know it is hard and I know you are frustrated with yourself and with me. But we can get through this, okay? Just let me hold you and love you. We both need it.”

GOSH how I wish I did that because then I wouldn’t have felt all frustrated, sad and annoyed with myself later that day for not staying as cool as I like. But again, I didn’t pull the chairs back and I did get more frustrated than I like but dwelling on it longer than I did would not make matters better. Dwelling on it yesterday, and even today, will just bring me down and keep me from being able to try my best in the next challenging moment. And dwelling on it, well I learned early on that dwelling, especially when I feel like I “failed” is a big ‘ole trigger. Yes, it is pretty hard to keep my emotions in check, it is very hard to keep them G rated or below, when I am dwelling on something.

So yesterday I forgave myself, I loved myself and celebrated that I didn’t yell and eventually when I did all that, well I was able to love my son how he deserved and how I wanted to. It was a little late, but better late than never….

*

I wrote this post Tuesday. Today we had another hard moment. But today, I immediately dropped to my knees and went under the table with my son. I can honestly say that if I was still dwelling on Monday’s episode (which by the way, the old me would have been), I wouldn’t have been able to go under that table today because I would have been in a huge twit still, completely incapable of remaining calm and loving. Yes, I would have been stuck feeling even more exasperated. So yeah, not dwelling feels way better.

 

 

Rumor Has It.

386 days of loving more! 

I’ve written a lot about my oldest son and his emotional struggles.
I’ve written a lot about my third son and his speech delay.
And I’ve obviously written a lot about my fourth son and his seizure activity.

But I haven’t written a lot about sweet #2. I am not sure why. It certainly isn’t because there is nothing to write. There is plenty of good, and plenty of not-so-good. If I had to guess I haven’t written about him because of all four boys, he is the one that I have figured out the least. I “know” generally speaking how to help my first, third and fourth sons with their issues because I understand their issues. Although there is no perfect clarity, I at least have a roadmap and a group of people to support and help me with their distinct challenges.

But #2, sweet #2, well, I am still working to understand how to help him. He struggles to fit in and has been picked on and excluded more than a four year old should be, which is perhaps why I don’t write about it. It is outright too bloody painful to admit and share. He struggles with impulse control more so than typical for his age group, which is perhaps why I don’t write about it because I feel judgment and labels will come flying. And he struggles with always feeling not good enough and well, sometimes I feel I contribute to that.

But you know what else, he gives the greatest hugs in the world. He rubs my back sometimes…just because. He tells me he loves me first thing in the morning right after he asks me “how did you sleep mommy?” And he has a zest for life that is absolutely, positively 110% inspirational.

Rumor has it that despite his struggles, which can be a turn off to me at times, and to his classmates and his teachers, he is an awesome kid. Wait, that’s not a rumor. It’s true. My second son is awesome. Like all of us in this world, he is just trying to find his way and as his mom, I am just trying to find my way to support him because the last thing that I want to be is another reason he feels picked on or not good enough. Not the rumor, but the truth, is that I just want to love him as much as I can. And sometimes that means letting him be right. Because sometimes, being right doesn’t really matter.

We were driving in the car last week and the song “Rumor Has It” by Adele came on. #1 started singing.

“Rumor has it. Rumor has it.”

Then #2 felt the need to sing too.

Puma has it. Ooooo Ooooo Puma has it.”

“That’s wrong! It’s Rumor has it. R-U-M-O-R!” said #1.

“No, it’s PUMA. I swear.” #2 insisted with such a passion that I almost thought he was right. I felt the need to intervene and correct him, why I don’t know. Maybe because he is also in speech therapy and is working on his R’s?

“Actually #2, it is rumor. Rrrr-umor.” I said sweetly and patiently.

“NO Mommy. It’s not. I heard it with my very own ears. I’m pretty smart you know. Really smart actually. Trust me, it’s Puma has it.”

“Sweetie, is sure does sound like Puma but it is Rumor.” I said again. And again, why? Why was I making such a big deal of this? Fingers crossed the song would be off the radio soon and it wouldn’t matter anyway. For the record I can’t stand this song. Can’t. Stand. It.

“NO MOMMY! YOU ARE WRONG AND I AM RIGHT!” He said to me ever so loudly and this time with tears in his eyes. He wasn’t crying…yet. The tears were just caught in the corner of his eyes, waiting to fall out as they always do. As they always do.

Hugging my number 2. Gosh, just looking at this makes me cry. Oh how I love him so!

#2 cries a lot. He cries when he gets picked on (understood.) He cries when no one sits next to him at birthday parties (the crying understood. The not sitting next to him? Not so much. He is awesome and funny and has a heart of gold.) And he cries when he tries so hard to say something right, when he tries so hard to be liked, to be a part of something.

Those small tears were the best gift ever to me. They reminded me that sometimes, being right really doesn’t matter. That sometimes, letting things go and moving on is not only okay, but necessary. This was one of those cases.

“Okay #2, you might very well be right. You do have good hearing ears, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do.”

The refrain played again.

“See mommy, Puma has it, I told you so. I am SOOOOO smart.”

And I was sooooo smart for letting go and accepting that it really is a rumor that it’s necessary as a parent to always be right. Because letting go, letting my son be right over such a small thing to me, but a huge thing to him, well, it gave him a moment of self confidence that he so desperately seeks…and needs.

*

So often I yelled because I wanted things my way because my way was *obviously* right, ie. how to clean up and organize the basement. As soon as I learned to let go a bit and pick my battles more carefully, yelling less became infinitely easier. 

Choosing Perfectly Imperfect Moments

380 days of loving more!

A few weeks before my wedding I got some of the best advice from a friend who had just been a Bridesmaid. She said, “whatever happens, choose to smile and laugh, don’t be a b*tch.” I kid you not. At the moment, I thought this was peculiar advice. Of course I wouldn’t be a b*tch on my wedding day! I would be oozing love and joy and all things magical and wonderful of course!

And then during my cocktail hour, a friend and I went to hug and in our exuberance misjudged our arm placements. We collectively knocked his glass of red wine down the front of my dress. My beautiful, white, wedding dress. What’s a Bride to do?

I laughed, of course!

And then, as my mother and friends tried to rush me to the bathroom to save my dress, I joyfully said, “It’s all good! Really! Let me eat some h’orsdeuvres!” They looked at me in disbelief. Who was this Bride and where was the real person they knew who flipped out over the smallest things??? And then in the bathroom, as they all tried to clean my dress, I continued laughing and said, “Just give me some more wine, I’ll pour it on my dress in other spots and make a polka dot dress!” I was not kidding, not one bit.

All that is missing from this picture is my smile and my mother’s face with her draw dropped open, expressing her thought “The dress, the dress! The wine is on the beading and the front!”

Was I drunk? Nope. I just remembered the advice from my friend and CHOSE to not let the great red wine incident of January 3, 2004 ruin my Wedding Day. See, when my friend was a bridesmaid a few weeks prior to my wedding, she witnessed the Bride go ballistic on a fellow bridesmaid after she accidentally spilled wine all over her. My friend explained to me how the Bride singlehandedly ruined both her own wedding and one of her friendships with her terse words and screaming, hissy fit. As she shared this story with me she said, “Whatever you do, if something goes wrong at your wedding, because it probably will, don’t be that Bride. Choose to enjoy everything else around you.”

Choose.

Such a key word. I am so glad that I chose on my wedding day to let the red wine incident go. In fact, short of getting married, it is one of my favorite memories of that day. Oddly enough though, despite that wonderful experience and knowing that I can always make the choice to focus on the positive and not the negative, when I became a mom I completely forgot this lesson! Before this challenge, I did a truly phenomenal job of letting small or big annoying things bring me down and ruin special days. Blech.

I remember my first birthday as a mom. I remember my son crying all day and my just wanting to have fun and celebrate. I let it get to me instead of enjoying all the phone calls and cards and flowers that arrived that day; I let the crying ruin my mood, my day.

I remember my first Thanksgiving with two kids and trying to get a family picture for a Christmas Card. I remember the tears from all three of us because no one was cooperating and I just wanted the perfect card. I let my disappointment get to me; I let it ruin my mood, my Thanksgiving day.

I remember our first family vacation to the beach with three kids in tow. I remember being so frustrated that it wasn’t a real vacation, that no child was sleeping, that I couldn’t sit back and read a book. I let my annoyances get to me; I let them ruin my first three vacation days.

On day 4, I finally woke up and remembered something. I had a choice. I could choose to complain and whine or choose to embrace the beach, crying babies and all. I chose to embrace all that was around me and ignore the few things getting me down. The rest of the vacation was great. Not perfect, but great nonetheless.

On my 365th day of my challenge when my son had his seizure I felt anger; and I have felt it for the last few weeks. BUT I made a choice that day. I would NOT let that seizure ruin my day, and I didn’t.  I had my angry moment and then I focused on how grateful I was that my husband was home to help. I focused on how grateful I was that even though the emergency medicine didn’t work, he still came out of the seizure okay. I focused on how excited my boys were to release balloons and eat celebratory cake. I focused on how lucky I was to have such a supportive Orange Rhino Community. And you know what else I did that day? After I cried, and re-focused on all the good things? I laughed.

I laughed because I knew in my heart of hearts that #4 would have a seizure that day. I just knew it, so much so I almost wrote it down on paper and hid it to show my husband later. If there is one thing I have learned as a mom it’s that chances are that on the days and times that I really, really want to be totally awesome and perfect and special, as long as I have young children, something will probably go wrong. Whether it be one child doesn’t nap and is cranky, one child gets a fever, one child falls, or one child just knows I want the day to be easy and therefore refuses to let it be as such, the chance is something will not meet my expectations.

And I have finally accepted that and it is OKAY with me and thankfully stopped yelling at those moments. My kids are just kids; they don’t need to be perfect. And I don’t need perfect moments. I just need happy moments and I can choose to make imperfect moments, happy. I can choose to be a little more laid back with more realistic expectations because that does help the moment go smoother (and keeps me from yelling.) And I can choose to focus on the good even when things happen beyond my control because they are going to, time and time again.

That certainly was the case two weeks ago. But thank gosh for The Orange Rhino Challenge because it is a daily reminder that just like on my wedding day, I have a choice every moment. I can let things get to me when my expectations for a special “perfect” day aren’t met and I can be a yelling, hissy fit b*tch, or I can be a loving mom who goes with the flow and appreciates the perfectly imperfect moments!

I am going with the flow a lot more now and I have got to tell you, it makes for a lot more beautiful, yell-free memories. This is entirely new territory for me – not letting unmet expectations ruin special moments or days – and I still struggle at times to remember to make the choice to focus on the positive. But when I do, oh does it truly feel better. It feels great not fretting and fighting over Christmas pictures, not complaining and crying over restless vacations, and not yelling and yipping over my kids behavior when they are just being kids and are trying their best to please me (because they are you know….)

At the end of the day, my kids are not perfect; I am not perfect. Together we will not always have perfect moments. But, we can have lots of happily imperfect ones that are perfect because we are together…and because I choose to focus on the positive, not the negative.

* Note: Emphasis on the I am not perfect. I am not, truly. I believe everything I have written here but will sometimes forget it. But I will still try to embrace and remember all of it because again, when I do, it is awesome.