334 days without yelling, 31 days of loving more to go!
Dear Crayola Washable Markers,
Nothing says lets get this Friday morning started like turning around and seeing one son’s door covered in bright yellow marker. Nothing says let’s test mom by finding one of her favorite washcloths and trying to wash the marker off. Nothing says “hey mom can you stay cool at 6 in the morning” if we leave the wet wash cloth on the floor AND leave the guilty marker right next to it so when you jump after stepping on the wet wash cloth you fall. Yep, nothing says, good morning like all of the above and yet, I thank you for the “colorful” morning. No really, thanks. You may have really ticked me off but at least you further motivated me to not ever return to yelling at my boys. So for that, I thank you. For the extra work you created? Not so much.
The Orange Rhino
I picked up the marker and approached sons 1 and 2. Lucky for them, I had showered already that morning and was awake, refreshed and relaxed.
“Boys, who drew on the door?” I calmly asked.
“No he did!”
“No really he did, and he drew on my wall, my blinds, my bed, my desk and my toys too!”
I SLOWLY opened the bedroom door. Sigh. The last statement was more than true. The once white, green, and blue room was now white, green, blue and neon yellow. Awesome. Really? Really either a 4 year old or a 6 year old thought that it would be okay to decorate with a marker? I was flabbergasted. I slowly and calmly opened my breath, praying that I didn’t scream. Praying that patience found me.
“Boys. I don’t care who did it, what I care about is the truth. I just want to know the truth. I won’t be angry if you tell me the truth. I’ll be angry if you lie.”
And that was the truth. I didn’t want to scream at either one of them. I just wanted to know the truth so that I could have a meaningful conversation with the artist and reinforce that we don’t draw on walls, that we draw on paper.
There was silence. I looked back and forth between both boys. Eyes watched me.
“Boys, I’m not going to yell. I promise, I am not going to yell. I just want to know the truth.” I reiterated.
A quiet voice spoke.
“I did it. I’m sorry. I just well, I just, I don’t know why I did it.”
“Okay. Listen. That was not acceptable. You know we don’t color on the walls. Lets clean this up together.”
“Okay” he mumbled as he started cleaning with me.
And that was that. I stopped and think. Sh*t. Was I too lax? Should I have been harsher? Did I get my message across? Did my son get the point?
You know what, I believe he did get the point. He got it when he lost 5 minutes out of playtime because he had to clean. He got it just by looking at my face. And he got it when I spoke to him calmly and clearly; he certainly wouldn’t have gotten it if I had yelled. But do you know what really mattered to me more than, did my son get the point, and phew, I didn’t yell? The fact that my son felt safe enough to tell me the truth even though he knew I was beyond angry.
I am not sure I could have said that pre-Orange Rhino Challenge. When I used to yell, I mean really yell, I made my boys scared of me; I made them scared to tell me the truth. But now, 332 days later, my son wasn’t scared that I would yell so he freely fessed up to his artistic endeavor. In all my six years of parenting and pondering what kind of mom I hoped to be, this was the first time I realized just how much I always want my boys to feel safe enough to tell me the truth, no matter how ugly it may be.
If my son hits someone at school because he was bullied…I want him to tell me the truth so I can help him.
If my son “borrows” a candy bar from Target…I want him to tell me the truth so I can teach him.
If my son gets in trouble in high school doing gosh only knows what and is scared…I want him to tell me the truth so that I can comfort him.
There are so many things I want to be able to do for my boys, both in good times and in bad. But the truth is that I can only do those things if we have a trusting and loving relationship. The truth is, as I witnessed this morning, my best chance to do those things is if I keep on not yelling.
Not 10 hours after this incident, two other boys wanted my attention. I was busy. So they took green and blue markers and colored on as many white walls as possible. I was LESS THAN thrilled. In fact, I was PISSED. I started to feel a yell rumble and I thought of this blog post. I thought about creating, and a maintaining, a trusting, safe relationship with my sons and my yell subsided. I hope this post does the same for you!
What kind of parent do you want to be? How does yelling hold you back from that?