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. 

The Orange Rhino Re-Start

429 days of loving more

A horrible thunderstorm hovered over our house for what felt like hours last night waking all of us at least two to three times. At one point I was convinced lightning had hit the house it shook so hard. And while it hadn’t, my boys started this morning as if it had. Frazzled and burnt from not sleeping well, every darling son of mine was striking at each other with hands and words and loud, loud, thunderous yells. It was horrible. Absolutely, horrible.

So I demanded a re-start to the day. I sent the three boys to their rooms for some rest as I collected myself and re-gained the calm and the determination to stay calm that I started the day with. And it worked.

This morning’s re-start allowed me to re-focus and then re-connect with my boys in the loving, calm manner I know we all desired. And as I basked in the joy of my re-start, I started thinking (quiet and calm allow that, it’s amazing!) I realized that if I replaced “z” in realize with “v” I would have exactly what I want in life right now: to RE-ALIVE.

What is “re-alive?” The official Orange Rhino dictionary states it as a verb: to become alive, again.

I re-alived 400+ days ago when I started The Orange Rhino Challenge.
Yes, when I stopped yelling at my boys, I became alive again.

Parts of me that had been stuffed away for years came out. I started laughing more. I started smiling more. I started walking with a greater pep. I started sleeping better. I started finding joy in the small things, in the normal moments with my boys like bath time, dinnertime, playtime, chat time.

When I stopped yelling at my boys, I simply felt calmer because I WAS calmer. I had to be calmer in order to think clearly enough to control my temper. And this newfound calmness made me happier than I had felt in a while. This is not to say that I was not happy before. I was. But I also had a cloud of guilt and anger that followed me wherever I went preventing the happiness from lasting as long as I wished. I would have a great moment and feel happy and then I would yell and that happiness would disappear and the guilt and anger with myself would hover around for a while. Because that is the thing with guilt and anger. They are strong emotions – they are hard to lose, to overcome, to forget, to forgive.

But oh, oh those emotions didn’t have a chance to enter my world when I put everything I had into being as calm as I could be. Nope, they didn’t stand a chance. Because when I fully focused on being calm then when frustration arose I handle the situation well and afterwards I felt pride, joy, invigoration and pure utter happiness. And it felt AWESOME. Totally awesome. This happiness seeped into so many aspects of my life: my relationship with my boys, my friends, my husband, my family, my everything. This happiness and new found calmness carried me through some really trying times during the first year of The Orange Rhino Challenge: trips to the emergency room, one son being repeatedly being picked on, my father-in-law getting his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, one son needing more therapy, and more.

I know it sounds cliché to say that my happiness from not yelling made all the challenges of my life manageable but it did. That happiness made so many ugly, heavy emotions that used to come mainly from yelling smaller. So yes, life was more manageable when I focused more of my energy into being calm. And I want that back.

To be clear, I am happy today. I still feel the same pride when I don’t yell. And I am still most definitely calmer than I was a year ago, way calmer. But if I re-wind the past two months, I can honestly say that I am starting to take for granted my non-yelling attitude. I sense that I am not trying as hard to be calm and patient the first go around and instead am working harder to get calm after I’ve heard “Orange Rhino Mommy!” I know part of this new behavior is because of the stress of my life (okay a big part of it, like 97%.) And I know part of it is because I assume I won’t yell so I am subconsciously not putting as much effort in. But reasons aside, I don’t like it.

Am I yelling? No. Am I snapping more than I like? Yes. Am I grumpier more than I like? Yes. Am I letting my personal crap sneak into my relationships with my beautiful sons even though I vowed I wouldn’t let it? Yes. Is this all okay? Of course it is “okay.” I am not, never will be and never intend to be perfect. (Will I keep reminding myself of this though daily? Ha! YES. Like I said, I am not perfect but I am still working on embracing that it is okay to not be perfect!)

But all that said, even though I know it is okay to be grumpy on occasion, I also know that I want to feel calmer again, I want that happiness again. I cannot change the stress in my life. Stress will always exist. But I can change what I do to make myself feel happy and calm in order to keep that stress manageable. And for me, focusing, I mean really re-focusing on not yelling and being a calm and warm mommy, just like I did in my first year, will help combat my current stress. I know it will.

I put this thought to test today. After I re-alized I wanted a re-start to feel re-alive, I decided to pretend it was Day 1 again; that I needed to act calm, speak calm, and do anything possible to make sure that “Mommy Orange Rhino” wasn’t said. It was a fantastic day. FANTASTIC. Did it have moments I wanted to yell? Heck yeah. But because I aimed to keep myself calm, I was able to handle those moments easily and lovingly, not agitatedly with a big dose of grumpy. I felt better. WAY better. My kids responded better. And I, I had the biggest shit eating grin on my face when the last son fell asleep.

I felt again what I felt 400+ days ago: that invigorating feeling of “I DID IT!” We had a great calm yet at times frustrating day. Parts of the old me that had started to go dormant again the last two months peeked out. I think it is the perfect time for those parts of me to peek out; it is spring after all! The buds are just peeking out. The flowers are getting ready to bloom. It is just about the time where the weather pushes me to grab my son’s hands and skip down the sidewalk whistling and smiling because it is so gorgeous out. I want to be ready for that. I don’t want my grumpiness to hold me back.

So tomorrow is the perfect time for me to re-start. To re-focus. To re-set my ticker back to 0. That’s right. I am officially going for another 365 Days. I am going to keep my continuous days ticker up so I don’t lose focus of all the good, but I am also going to set a new goal of 365 days effective tomorrow, April 12, 2013. I know me. I am a goal driven person. Goals keep me focused. Sharing my goals keep me accountable and will help me not take for granted my new found non-yelling attitude and will definitely help me not let my stress push me to become a frequent grumpy and not-calm mommy.

This day wasn’t the only thing that needed a re-start, I did too and I couldn’t be more excited. Re-starts are a great opportunity. Bring it on Year 2!