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.
For 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!