I am off today. Simply off. I didn’t sleep well as I knew I wouldn’t. First grade orientation was last night and while my oldest son did great, mommy didn’t do so great. My stomach was in knots all night at the thought of meeting new mom friends; at the thought of all the volunteer opportunities and what I could say yes to versus what I wanted to say yes to; at the thought of my oldest son going to a school where he’ll be the youngest; at the thought of another big milestone sneaking up on me, pushing me to once again realize just how incredibly fast my boys are growing up.
So yeah, I went to bed with a lot of my mind, which meant I didn’t sleep a wink. Not a wink. And when my darling boys woke me up at 5:30am this morning (totally normal given their early bedtimes,) I practically lost it. Actually, I wanted to lose it but was too tired to even make words. I stumbled to their rooms, ordered them back to bed, ordered lights out and ordered them to stay quiet until 6:00.
6:00 came around and I dragged myself out of bed. My eyes could barely open, my legs were wobbly and my bed just screamed at me “come back! Please come back!” I knew it would be a rough morning until I had a good dose of Diet Coke. Turns out, my normal morning drink didn’t even get me going. Shucks. I continued to stumble through the morning, struggle to find patience wherever I could.
And just now, at 1:30 p.m., I looked hard for my friend patience but couldn’t find her anywhere (or at least fast enough.)
As I headed to get #3 and #4 down for naps, I sent #1 and #2 to their rooms for their quiet time. Not two seconds after sitting down to read to #3, I heard massive tears and screaming. I walked down the hall, calmly and slowly.
“What is the problem?” I asked.
“He took all the toys!” cried #2.
“But they are my toys!” screamed #1.
(But I just want quiet!) I thought to myself.
Meanwhile, #2 found something new to entertain him so I sent both boys back to their rooms, hopeful that naptime for the other two would commence.
As bloody if! #1 and #2 are at it again. I walked down the hall, less calmly and less slowly this time.
“What is the problem, now?” I asked.
“He came into my room asking for the toys!” cried #1.
“But he isn’t sharing and the dolphins aren’t his!” screamed #2.
(But really guys, they aren’t your toys to begin with they are your brothers, so enough already! Can you give me a break here?) I thought to myself.
I counted out even piles of dolphins and dinosaurs, gave a handful to each boy, sent them back to their rooms, again hopeful that naptime for the other two would commence.
What was I thinking? Both boys are overtired from late nights and sleeping problems; their current ability to listen and control impulses is, um, not virtually non-existent, it is non-existent! #1 and #2 started up again. This time I didn’t walk down the hall; I stormed down the hall. There was no calm in my step. There was no slow saunter to my step. There was just sheer annoyance and impatience.
I got to the end of the hall, my heart beating, and my hands shaking.
RED FLAG! I know when my heart races, my hands shake, and my feet are stomping that a yell is brewing. I started to open my mouth but thankfully, my mind intercepted my words. My mind screamed: “Dude, don’t yell! I know you desperately want to and think it is the only thing that will work but it won’t! They will just cry and carry on more and then naptime really will never happen. Come on, you can do it.”
I slowly and cautiously opened my mouth, a little nervous as to what tone would come out.
“What is the problem NOW?” I asked.
“#1 came in my room without asking and took my dolphins and dinosaurs.” #2 sobbed.
“But moooooom, they are mine. Really. They are mine. I need all of them to play. Honesty. Truly.” #1 sobbed.
“You know what boys, enough is enough. Hand all of them over. They are mine. You are both tired and need a sleep. To your rooms, lights off, quiet time for 15 minutes. No ifs, ands, or buts.” I stated confidently and full of hope that it would work.
The thing about parenting without yelling is that while I know it is the right path for me, sometimes I still get sucked in by the notion that yelling is the only approach to parenting during difficult moments. Today was one of those moments. I was tired and had little energy to keep myself together. I wanted to scream my head off! I wanted to scream and cry and carry on like they were! I wanted to say,
“But boooooys, I don’t care about your dolphins and dinosaurs and dilemmas! I care about getting your other two brothers down for their naps. I mean I care about you, but right now, whoa nelly, do I not care about your small plastic toys.”
Oh yes, I was tempted. But I knew better. I knew screaming would have just induced more tears and more crying and would have prolonged naptime of the other two which would have then produced more crying and even more screaming. I totally knew yelling wasn’t worth it and that is what kept me from losing it.
Did my boys take a rest? Not really. Did they settle down long enough for me to get the other two for their naps? Yes. Did they perhaps learn that fighting over toys and not sharing leads to no one having their toys? I think so; I hope so. I do know though that the chances of them learning in that moment were a lot higher without me yelling.
And I know that the toilet directly in front of me during this entire exchange offered me great support – while one side of my head said “just yell, just do it,” and the other side said “no, don’t!” the toilet lovingly said “hey babe, if you need to yell just yell into me and flush it away. Problem Solved.”
And yes, I did actually consider yelling into the toilet at that moment. If there is another thing I have learning from The Orange Rhino Challenge besides the fact that yelling just makes things worse, I’ve learned that letting out frustration into toilets, freezers, bags and closets, works. While yelling into the toilet may be unconventional, it is definitely better than yelling at my kids.