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.