The Vicious, and I mean vicious, Cycle

166 days without yelling, 199 days of loving more to go!

Dear #1,

You and I are caught in a battle that needs to end. We’re both in bad moods and we’re bringing each other down. We are spiraling downwards fast as fast can be and we are starting to affect everyone around us. I am writing this post as my way of reminding myself about my commitment to parent with more warmth and composure, two words that I would not exactly use to describe me lately. Sure, I haven’t been yelling at you. But I have not been the mom I know I can be either, the mom that I know YOU NEED in order to help you out of your bad mood. When I see you today after camp I am going to swoop you up and give you a big hug and tell you I love you a thousand times. I am going to hold you until you feel settled. Until you feel safe that we won’t be in a car accident again. Until you feel secure that you aren’t dying anytime soon. Until you feel comfort knowing that even if the babysitter is leaving, mommy isn’t going anywhere. Until you feel more love than you have felt from me these last few days. Because I love you. And you deserve my love, not my wrath…

big hugs and kisses,
mommy orange rhino


It’s a vicious cycle that my son and I get stuck in. When we are BOTH stressed and anxious, sometimes for the same reasons, sometimes not, we quickly get stuck being impatient, rude and quite frankly, annoying towards each other. My son starts acting out: hitting ME more, yelling at ME more, crying more, listening less, smiling less. I start acting out too: snapping more, saying no more, listening less, engaging less, smiling less. In the beginning of the vicious cycle, I try my hardest to stay calm, patient, loving and understanding. I try not to take his actions personally. I try to help him in the ways I have learned how. But the problem is, my stress counteracts all my efforts. Because my stress scares him. It makes him worry even more.

And I can’t hide my stress. According to my husband, I’ve always had a bad poker face. This week has been no different. In fact, it’s been exceptionally bad.

I can’t hide my fear that I too will die and leave my kids without a mom. I can’t hide my anger that I had to fire the babysitter at the worst possible time. I can’t hide my frustration that with everything going on I also have to deal with a car accident AND with three angry and sad kids that daddy went back to work after an extended vacation.

And I can’t hide my frustration with my son that his meltdowns are back, tenfold.

I am trying. I am really, really trying. Trust me, I am. Because I know that all my fears and frustrations are written on my face and THAT is actually making my son feel worse. It is making him more anxious, more stressed. My behavior is making him act out more.

Which of course adds a whole new level of stress to my day. Because when he acts out from stress and fear, it is HARD to stop. The meltdowns are enormous. They are physical. And sometimes they are scary. And when they get this bad, my son needs me to be calm, and patient, and loving. He needs me to be all the things I am incapable of being at that moment because I have my own issues.

And because his behavior is making me feel worse. Because like my behavior is stressing him out, his behavior is stressing me out.

So we play this little game. Who can drive the other person nuts faster? We each keep acting stressed and making each other worse. And worse. And worse. It ain’t pretty.

And it’s a pain in the a*s. Because it is exhausting, physically and mentally. Why can’t he pull it together? Why can’t I pull it together? Darnit, I didn’t sleep again last night. Darnit, he didn’t sleep either. Crap, now we are both tired and even MORE overwhelmed and persnickety.

Last Thursday I FINALLY snapped out of it. I finally put an end to the game.

I was REALLY close to yelling at him. Really really close. I had had it with the screaming and the kicking and the throwing pillows. I had had it with feeling like I was the only parent to have a child act like this. I had had it with feeling embarrassed by his behavior. I had had enough of ALL OF IT. I had had it with my week. With the stress. I had had it with him. I was done being patient. I was done being The Orange Rhino.

I walked away as a toy was thrown at me and went to seek solace in The Orange Rhino facebook page.

I looked at the computer screen. And I saw 44, no 45, no 48, no 60 new people had found my page and started following along. I was immediately reminded of my promise to my boys, to all of you and I stopped dead in my tracks. Seriously.

I looked at him and said, “#1, what is wrong? Why are you so angry? Why are you throwing things at me?”

He burst into tears.

“I am angry that the babysitter is leaving. Why doesn’t she love me?”

I held him in my arms so tight and rocked his almost 6 year old body like a baby. He crumpled into my lap and arms and sat and cried and cried and cried. Those tears kicked me in the ass. Those tears reminded me that when in a vicious cycle with him, he NEEDS ME. I AM THE ONE RESPONSIBLE FOR ENDING the cycle. I am the adult. I am the one who, no matter how hard it is, needs to find the strength and patience to give my son what he needs to “snap out of it.” I am the one who needs to stop and ask, what is going on?

When my son is in a bad mood, rightfully or wrongfully, I need to keep on loving him. When my son is struggling, I need to be an Orange Rhino. I need to find warmth and composure. I need to be patient and calm. I need to be understanding.

When my son and I are in a vicisious cycle of bringing each other down, I have two choices: make it worse or make it better. I finally made it better. It took me days to realize this, it took me days to GROW UP and realize my son needed me. But at least I finally did. And not just because it kept me from yelling, but because it allowed me to love my son more. And really, that is all he needed. To be loved more.

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5 thoughts on “The Vicious, and I mean vicious, Cycle

  1. F*ck. Sorry. You hit the nail on the head with your post. In fact, I walked around and struggled with a similar post. My oldest son and I are two sides of a piece and that means that sometimes conflicts arise between us. Conflicts where I forget to be the adult and instead points fingers and talking down to him and fills him with a lot of guilt and shame. I have to write my own post on that later today.

  2. This post made me cry. Thank you for being so honest. Thank you for continuing to post on here even though you have so much going on right now. Seeing things from you and your family’s perspective helps me be a better mom to my brood. Sometimes it is really hard to be the grown up and I struggle too. 

  3. Wow, just got a moment to read this post and did it resinate with me.  My son and I feed off each other as well.  Just yesterday he was in a bad mood and being rude to me.  He was trying to push my buttons and I felt the urge to yell coming on inside me.  I chose to be silent and told him I couldn’t speak to him right now.  I was afraid of what may have come flying out of my mouth.  After about five minutes of silence he came over to me and with attitude said, “so you are not talking to me now”.  I replied, “yes, I need to be quiet for awhile”.  At this point, my son apologized and explalined why he was angry and we came up with a solution.  Thanks for sharing.  The work you do is very important and impacts others!

    • Liz – Thank YOU for your kind words and for sharing your story. I needed that right now more than you know. I am still in the vicious cycle and I am struggling. STRUGGLING. Reading your kind words and story reminded me to keep on trying and to take time for myself. Thank you so much. Have a great day!

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