520 days of loving more, yelling less
I have a confession.
On Friday July 12, 2013, after 520 days of The Orange Rhino Challenge, my public promise to not yell at my boys, I yelled. Big Time.
Yes, I, The Orange Rhino, yelled at my four boys.
There was no question if it was maybe just a snap or an emergency yell. Oh no, it was a full on, blood curling, yelling tirade complete with four children bawling and one mommy who just couldn’t stop herself. And it was topped off with my feeling guilty, disappointed, and sad beyond belief. And oh, oh how the look in the eight teary eyes staring at me proved that my boys shared my sadness and also felt anger, confusion, and fear.
“Mommy! You’re so mean. You’re back to day Zero on your Challenge!” screamed my almost seven year old.
“Too loud!!!!!” cried by almost four year old, the one closest to my rant, as he covered his ears and shook with fear.
“Ma Ma. Ma Ma,” sobbed my two year old who up until that moment, had never ever heard me yell.
“Why are you ye…lll…ing at us Mommy? We ddd…idn’t do an..y…thing! We got in the car like you asked!” my five year old tried to say between sobs.
He was right. Oh was he right. My boys had done absolutely, positively, nothing wrong. My yell was completely unnecessary, completely hurtful, and completely my own doing. I took my own sadness, fear and anger out on them, period. Blech.
You see my marriage boulder, which had truly started getting smaller, grew back a teensy weensy little bit that Friday morning and for some reason, I couldn’t handle it. As a result, everything bothered me.
The boys talking in normal voices? Too loud.
The boys asking me for some water? Too demanding.
The boys rough housing and laughing? Too much what, too much being kids?
The boys not getting ready for the pool when I asked? Too much what, not listening when I mumbled my request under my breath so quietly no one could hear it?
I felt my anger bubbling up and my sweaty hands, racing heart, shorter and sharper voice told me that I was flirting with losing it; that I was in desperate need of getting in control. So I tried. I tried so very hard to get in control of my personal stress by pulling out some of my Orange Rhino tricks. I talked to myself “hey Orange Rhino, you are not mad at the kids, you are frustrated with your situation right now.” I got a glass of cold water and physically tried to cool down and slow my breathing down. I talked to myself some more: “You can do this, you will get through this, just hang on, you don’t want to yell.” And I talked to my kids. “Boys, mommy is having a tough morning. I am feeling a little grouchy. Can you stop running around and help me get ready for the pool fast so we can go have fun and relax?”
It worked. For like 5 minutes.
For 5 minutes I found calm amidst the crazy, I found warmth amidst my anger, I found determination amidst my desire to just quit and scream. The boys stood in line for lotion, grabbed their towels, put their shoes on and got in the car. Yes! I went in the house to get my bag and came back to find kids not buckled in as requested.
And I lost it. In my loudest voice ever (or maybe it felt so loud because it had been 520 days since I heard it?) I screamed,
“WHAT ON EARTH DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?! WHY ARE YOU NOT BUCKLED IN? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? CAN’T YOU JUST LISTEN FOR ONCE!”
Seriously? I mean really just writing that, I feel ridiculous and ashamed. After everything they had JUST done to be helpful and wonderful I lost it because they didn’t do one of five things I had asked them? Was that necessary? Or even nice? No! But then again, I didn’t yell because they didn’t put their seatbelts on,
I yelled because of my own pain that was screaming to get out.
I yelled because, well, because I am human and sometimes despite best intentions, hard work, and a heart full of more love than ever, mistakes happen.
People slip up. I slipped up. I knew I would one day. I knew that even though I call myself an “Orange Rhino” I am still human. The only thing I didn’t know was, how would I react when I finally yelled? Would I react in a pre-Orange Rhino manner and let shame, guilt, and disappointment send me into a vicious cycle of self-disgust and negative thinking, making a one-time yell turn into a problem again? Or would I react in a new way, a way reflective of 520 days of personal growth?
Well, the most wonderful surprise happened as soon as my boy’s two minutes of crying and rightfully deserved yelling at me ended and heard my truly heartfelt apology. I didn’t turn into my old, pre-Orange Rhino self! Instead, so much of what I have learned and embraced the last 520 days came to life.
After I yelled, I immediately forgave myself and forced myself to think of what I had accomplished, not what I had “ruined.” This is an accomplishment in itself, a huge one! I have learned during this Challenge that in order to yell less I need to let go of negative thoughts, I need to be kinder to myself, and I need to focus on the positive as much as I can. After I yelled, my brain, clearly re-wired from 520 days of practice, actually focused on how I went 520 Days without yelling! That’s 1 year and 155 days. Or a little under a year and a half. Or a heck of a lot more than I ever, ever imagined. Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, I never would have forgiven myself or even stopped and written a positive post like this one. Nope. I would have dwelled about how I let everyone down and been negative until the cows came home.
After I yelled, I promptly took responsibility for my actions, reminded myself that sometimes “it’s me, not them,” and owned up to my mistake. Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, I would have just assumed that the kids were “at fault” and then justified my yelling with “well, my kids didn’t listen.” I never would have wondered and accepted that perhaps I was part of the problem.
After I yelled, I found perspective and realized that “hey I might not have been able to keep myself at the grumpy stage, but at least I was aware of my grumpiness and tried to control it.” Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, I wouldn’t have even realized my physical yelling symptoms or that grumpiness was a sign that a yell was coming and that I needed to stop and quickly find a way to calm down.
After I yelled, I very quickly said, “okay Orange Rhino, what do you need to do to take care of yourself? You clearly aren’t taking care of you and managing your stress and um, you need to!” Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, I wouldn’t have acknowledged for a second that taking care of me is important and I never in a thousand years would have known how to take care of me or tried to even make it happen!
And after I yelled, despite how painful it was in that particular moment to see in my sons’ eyes the fear and sadness resulting from my behavior, I actually felt a bit grateful. Yes, I felt grateful that I yelled because my response to this situation not only showed me just how much I have grown and changed for the better during this Challenge, but also how much I have learned.
I have learned that learning to yell less has taught me more than just that. It has taught me how to bring forgiveness, perspective, positive thinking, accountability, and so much more to all the relationships in my life and all the situations in my life making me a happier person all around.
I have learned that that mistakes are okay, that not being perfect is okay, and that trying my hardest and still charging forward to yell less even when I have had a “bad” moment, is way more than okay, it’s courageous and crucial. Because learning to yell less isn’t just a 365 day Challenge for me, it’s a lifestyle change and I am certain over the next however many years my boys are my sons, I will slip up and yell again, and I will need to charge forward, again.
I have learned that at the heart of The Orange Rhino Challenge is not just clocking days that are yell free but collecting more loving moments. Any moment that I don’t yell is a win and all the loving moments add up – that is what matters.
And most importantly, I have learned again just how much yelling scares my kids, how awful it makes me feel, and no matter how hard it might be at times, I want more than ever to continue to be an Orange Rhino because it is changing me and my relationships in a heck of a lot more ways I ever imagined.
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P.S. I was fine posting this until now. Now I am nervous that I will have disappointed you all. Please don’t let that be the case.
If you liked this post, you might also like these posts:
“Bottled Up Emotions Do Me No Good”
“(Sometimes) Marriage Makes Me Want to Yell”
“Choosing Perfectly Imperfect Moments”
“I Didn’t Rock Motherhood Today”
You might also like my new book due out in October, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” Part parenting guide, part memoir, I include a 30-day guide with key revelations, actions, and tips to help you on your own journey. You can pre-order it now to make sure you are one of the first to receive it by clicking here.