Learning to “Hold” a Yell

When I loaded the boys into the mini-van for our four-hour drive north last month, I assumed that no one would sleep and that we would need to stop every hour for someone to go pee. I mean assuming anything else was just setting myself up to be frustrated and annoyed, right?! So I mentally prepared myself for a long trek with lots of noise and lots of stops. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t try to make a peaceful, quick trip happen though! Yep, I had everyone try to pee twice before we left and I timed our departure with naptime for #3 and #4.

Well wouldn’t you know it. Within fifteen minutes of driving, not one, not two, not three, but ALL FOUR of my boys were sleeping! And wouldn’t you know it, an hour and a half later they were all still sleeping! Which is great, right? Miraculous even. Well yes, and no.

No because I had drunk a cup coffee to stay awake and had forgotten to try and pee twice myself! Yes, this mama had to pee wicked bad and there was absolutely, positively no way in hell I was going to pull over and wake up four sleeping kids to pee. Nope, wasn’t gonna happen. I didn’t even entertain the idea! You couldn’t have paid me to pull over and end my quiet, peaceful and easy drive up north. Sure I had to pee so badly that I had stomach cramps but the downside to that was far less than the upside of my boys not yelling at each other, asking me “are we there yet?” over and over, and complaining that they had nothing to do.  Pulling over just wasn’t an option. And then again, peeing in my pants wasn’t really an appealing option either.

So I did what I think most parents would do in said situation; my boys slept and I squirmed.

And I crossed my legs. And I squeezed. And I looked out the window for distractions. And I tried to think about everything but peeing. And I told myself over and and over “that I can do this, just a little bit longer, I can do this.”

And then, well then I had an Orange Rhino moment and I laughed so hard at my absolute ridiculousness that I had to squeeze even harder because after four natural births, well, you know, sometimes pee happens.

You see it donned on me at that moment that learning to hold pee and learning to hold a yell are very similar.

They both take paying attention to signals that you are about to explode and then acting accordingly to avoid said explosion.

They both take focus and putting mind over matter.

They both take practice and doing it over and over so you can go longer and longer.

They both take distractions so that you don’t think of the strong desire to do said action.

They both take positive thinking, telling yourself over and over that you can do it.

They both take choosing to do all of the above no matter how hard because the alternative is not really a desired option.

And they are both behaviors that can be learned and achieved over time!

Seriously, all ridiculousness aside and the fact that it is a wee bit crazy that I compared not yelling to not peeing in one’s pants, just think about the similarities. It is kind of uncanny, right? When I stopped and realized the similarities (which by the way was a great distraction and kept my mind occupied on something besides the growing need to pee my brains out), I couldn’t help but to think,

“Wow, all the skills that I thought I developed to not yell I didn’t really just develop, I already had them and had them since I was a child when I got potty trained! I just applied them to a new situation.”

My point in sharing this story and risking looking like a total fool for comparing something as difficult and personal as learning to not yell to something as trivial as not peeing in one’s pants is this: you already have some of the skills to yell less. You already know how to work hard to control yourself physically.

Yes, the desire to yell is a heck of a lot more intense and frustrating; it’s a heck of a lot more anger filled and most definitely a heck of lot more emotionally charged. I am not in any way trying to diminish that. I guess what I am trying to say in a most absurd but also light way to combat the heaviness of yelling as a topic is that…

You can do it.

You can yell less.

You have the skills within you already. You just need to apply them in a slightly different manner. Here’s how:

  1. Pay attention to your personal signals that a yell is coming on so that when you feel them the next time you know to run to the bathroom and scream in the toilet instead of exploding at the kids.
  2. Focus all your energy on one task, one goal, that of yelling less. Focusing on too many goals at once is too much stress!
  3. Practice not yelling over and over again. Accidents happen, trust me, since my fourth son was born I have had two. Totally mortifying. But hey, it happened and I learned that I need to focus harder on not laughing on a full bladder! So if an accident does happen and you do yell, forgive yourself. Let the shame and embarrassment go and know that there will be another opportunity to practice and succeed.
  4. Set yourself up for success by placing distractions around the house, or rather reminders to not yell. Place pictures of the kids in yell zones (great way to feel love not anger) and place orange rhinos up to remember to be warm and calm.
  5. Be positive and believing in you; tell yourself over and over that, “I can be calm and not yell.”
  6. Choose to not yell because you know not only does yelling not work, but that is just isn’t a good option. Choose to hold it together, to squirm, and to squeeze your hands in frustration instead of yelling. Choose to try your hardest even on days when you want to scream your brains out.
  7. Tell yourself that you are learning to yell less and that it takes time, just like potty training. I know wasn’t born knowing how to hold my pee or um, other things. Just ask my parents or the nice couple at the beach sharing a romantic picnic. I may or may not have walked over to them totally naked at age two and squatted on their blanket and left them a present. Like, a smelly one. Moving right along…. Seriously, it takes time to learn how to not yell but it can be done!

Okay, it’s official. This post is weird. I just told you that I pooped on a blanket as a kid and that I have pee accidents at the age of thirty something. If nothing else is achieved from this post, I hope you are laughing with me. Because laughter is a great way to be in a good space to achieve all of the above!

Happy holding your yells (and pees!)

“Parental Nesting” to Prevent Yelling

I distinctly remember my need to “nest” before each of my son’s births; it was an instinct that my body just couldn’t fight. From washing onesies to perfectly folding burp clothes, from picking out birth announcements to printing labels for said announcements, from arranging the temporary changing station in the family room to setting up the night time one in the nursery, I did anything and everything I could to prepare for the arrival of my son. I know there is real research about why moms-to-be nest; I don’t know exactly what it says, I just know that for me, nesting brought me calm.

Nesting made my mind feel an ounce of being prepared when the rest of my mind knew that it wasn’t even remotely emotionally or physically prepared for the joys and challenges motherhood would bring. As excited as I was to be a mom, I was also so incredibly nervous about breastfeeding, lack of sleep, crying fits and about whether or not I would have an ounce of a clue as of what to do! Somehow hanging clothes told me that none of those worries mattered; as long as the cute clothes were hung in size order and by color, I would be okay. I nested intensely for every single son, each time with a different focus.

For my first son, nesting was all about the nursery and basic baby necessities as those were the things that I thought mattered the most. For my second, I knew better. Sure I did those things but I focused on getting organized in a new town, finding doctors and friends to ask for help, as I knew from my first that a support network is more important than folded burp clothes. For my third son’s arrival my focus was all about getting all my nagging house and personal to-do’s done because I knew for certain that once my third child came that my time to do anything for me would be gone. I was accurate to that accord (mostly.) Yes, nesting for #3 included a 142 item to do list, color coded by priorities and arranged into a schedule. Such items: birthday invites for #1, Christmas card, baby book for #2, etc. It was a bit obsessive but again, it eased my fears and nerves about how crazy life would be with three because I knew there were no “to-do’s” hanging over my head. Oh did that list keep me calm. And oh did I ever kick that to-do list’s butt; 142 items done. I still look back and smile at that accomplishment!!!

And then there was nesting for #4. We literally finished construction and moved into our rooms again at week 37. I had been having the urge to nest for weeks and it was driving me crazy that I couldn’t “get ready.” I had theoretically three weeks to unpack every box and get every room and the nursery organized. Every night I talked to the little man and said, “Dude, you can’t come until the house is ready. I need the house to be ready so I can be relaxed for you? Kay? Please just wait.” He listened quite well and arrived on the same day as I unpacked the last box and the handyman installed the last doorknob. I felt such gratitude that I got all my “need to nest” urges done before #4 arrived because I knew that being organized before my life got completely disorganized would be one thing that could keep me sane. And it did. Oh did it.

And right now “parental nesting” is keeping me sane. Parental nesting is keeping me from yelling by keeping me calm. Parental nesting is making my mind feel an ounce of being prepared for what will start out as an incredibly difficult school year. This year will be filled with three different schools, four different children’s schedules, mommy going back to work part-time, and other personal challenges that are working overtime.

Yes, parental nesting is helping me find an ounce of calm when the rest of my mind knows that it isn’t even remotely emotionally or physically prepared for the joys and challenges that the year will bring. As excited as I am for the year: for my youngest to keep on learning to talk, for #3 to start soccer, for #2 to start reading and #1 to continue blossoming in his confidence, I am also nervous. I am nervous about the growing demands of four children. I am nervous about finding the balance between letting go so my kids can cherish their moments and holding on so that I can cherish the fleeting moments. I am nervous about working part-time, about feeling guilty even though it is something I wanted and continue to want. I am nervous about the complexity of it all. Because unlike when I prepared for my first son to be born and I truly had NO idea what to expect, I kind of have a clue here.

I know there will be days that within the same hour I am going to drive two kids two different places and then the other two will drive me to a frustrated place.

I know there will days that one son will come home from school crying because his teacher is bossy and the other will come home proud that he learned to read and I will end up crying.

I know there will be days when I throw up my hands in the air and say “I just want summer back when I didn’t have a schedule” and then moments later “I am so incredibly grateful for the routine!”

I know there will be days when I watch all four boys eat breakfast on time and together without putting a fork in each other’s arms for sh*ts and giggles and I feel grateful I have a large family and then there will be a time when the chaos and demands of four kids will make me think I was crazy to have a large family.

And I know there will be days when I feel confident about my parenting and days when I feel absolutely lousy and lost.

And I know that all of these mixed emotions that the school year and motherhood bring will make me stressed and on the edge of losing it vis a vis unnecessary yelling at my kiddos.

So, I nest. I have finally put a bath mat in the kids bathroom so that morning fights about the water on the floor aren’t an issue. I bought a toothbrush holder for the bathroom so that toothpaste doesn’t also cause an issue. I installed a huge calendar and bulletin board on the wall with each kids daily schedule printed out so they they, and I, know who needs to be where, when. I bought bedside table lights so that I read before bed instead of surfing the net which inhibits my sleeping.

Yep, I have been nesting for the school year for the last two weeks. It’s interesting to me that when pregnant, nesting was a natural instinct. My body knew that nesting would calm me; that it would give me something to focus on other than my nerves. My body knew that getting organized would give me confidence that I was ready to handle the upcoming challenge. Yes, nesting before mamahood was natural. But afterwords? Not at all. It seems that my body didn’t know what to do to calm down in order to prepare for a challenge.

It took me until The Orange Rhino Challenge to figure out what I needed to do to calm my nerves and gain confidence that I could handle a tough situation. In labeling my triggers, I forced myself to figure out how to stay calm so that my stress wouldn’t push me to yell. I figured out preventative measures for most triggers, but one of the big ones has continued to remain: the stress and “overwhelmingness” of managing four kids different schedules, different needs and different personal challenges. Lately, this has taken over my life. This has made me want to yell on a daily, no hourly basis because the stress is immense. This, has led me to nest because I know how to nest. I nest well. Really, really well.

Before The Orange Rhino Challenge I wouldn’t have allowed myself to nest. I wouldn’t have allowed myself to take comfort in getting organized or doing small, seemingly inconsequential to-do’s. Shoot, six months into The Challenge I wouldn’t have. But now, now I know that it is necessary. It is necessary to do what I need to do to stay calm.

And so, again, I nest. And I will keep nesting until I feel settled enough to fully tackle the challenges and joys this year brings me. Although part of me really wishes it had been a natural instinct to nest last year and the year before to relieve some of my stress, I am just grateful that at least now I know that I need to. I am just grateful that it is become a natural instinct to parentally nest because it does prevent me from yelling which we all know I am grateful for as well!

Do you know what you need to do to “nest” to ease the stresses of parenting and life? Do you let yourself do so? 

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. 

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.

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!