Hi, my name is The Orange Rhino and I used to yell at my kids.
In fact, I yelled so much that I started The Orange Rhino Challenge, a promise to not yell at my four boys, then ages 5 and under, for 365 days straight! As I started publicly writing on my blog about my journey to yell less, I received a boat load of wonderfully loving and supportive comments such as, “Thank you so much for sharing your story and letting me know that I am so not alone!” I also received a couple of well, how should I put it, um how ‘bout, outright nasty and hurtful comments. The following is a sample of one of the nasty comments. Mind you, it isn’t verbatim because the email was so incredibly hurtful that I erased it immediately so that I wouldn’t dwell on it. (I knew at that point that dwelling leads to yelling and that it needed to be avoided at all costs when possible.) Anywho, after reading about my challenge, one woman wrote to me,
“You know, maybe yelling isn’t your problem. Maybe your challenge shouldn’t be about not yelling. Maybe it should be about not being a parent. I think your problem is that you shouldn’t have had kids in the first place, that you are an awful mom if you yell so much that you needed to create a Challenge to stop.”
Um, can I get an, “Ouch!?”
I felt incredibly attacked at the moment and her comment immediately started pushing me into self-criticism mode. Was she right? Was I an awful parent? Did I have no redeeming qualities? Was I not meant to be a mom? Fortunately for me, my oldest son had ever so quietly snuck up behind me and read the entire email and then started a heartwarming conversation that quickly pulled me right out of self-criticism mode.
“Mommy, why is she saying you shouldn’t be a mom? Are you not going to be my mom anymore?” he asked tears forming in the corner of his eyes.
“Oh sweetie. You weren’t supposed to see that. Of course I am always going to be your mom. I am not going anywhere.” I said as I pulled him into my lap.
“But mom, why did she say those mean things about you?” he implored.
“Well, because she thinks that because I used to yell at you ‘so much’ that I had to become an Orange Rhino that I am an awful parent.” I stated, fighting back tears.
“But mommy, you aren’t an awful parent. You are a great mom.” He said ever so sweetly as he wiped a tear off his cheek.
Um, can I get an “Awwww?!”
To be honest, I haven’t thought of this story until just today. I had simply pushed the memory as far back into my mind as possible because not only did her accusations hurt, but more so, they really, really struck a nerve. But then I received numerous emails today in response to an old blog post titled, “A Mom’s Regret About Yelling,” and this painful memory came flooding back. Fortunately, a powerful insight came right after!
In the post, my son was headed off into Kindergarten and that to me symbolized the start of him officially being with teachers and friends more than with me. I wrote about how disappointed I was in myself that I spent so much of the last six years, my unshared years, with my son “complaining and yelling instead of loving.” I felt so incredibly sad and let down and wrote that I regretted that I hadn’t enjoyed all the time I did have with him because I was so often yelling and being, well, grumpy.
Sitting here tonight, processing the comments and my post and my painful memory, I just want to go back two years and give myself a hug. I just want to go back and say to myself,
“Girl, it’s okay. Yes, you used to yell. Yes you regret all the times you did yell. That’s normal and expected. No one likes to do not nice things. But you know what, you’re missing something. You were looking at the situation from your eyes and not your son’s. You saw yourself as having yelled sooooo very much that you missed soooo very much. You saw yourself as just a yeller and nothing else. I am not sure that is the truth. Is that what your son experienced? Did he sometimes see you as a yelling parent? Yes. Do you wish that weren’t the case, does he wish that weren’t the case? Yes.
But do you know what else?
He didn’t just see you as a yelling parent.
Because even though you did yell more than you felt comfortable with and probably more than acceptable, you didn’t yell 24/7. You did a lot of other things too, a lot of great things that you shouldn’t regret for a moment. It is because of those great things that your son saw you as a parent who sure, used to yell, but who also used to and still does…
Give him kisses on his boo-boo’s.
Tuck him in at night.
Comfort him when he has a nightmare.
Play Candyland with him all night long.
Encourage him when he’s lacking confidence.
Take him apple picking.
Plan special birthday parties for him.
Teach him to do new things like riding a bike.
Help him with homework.
Laugh with him during water fights.
Advocate for him.
Teach him how to build a master Lego.
Throw footballs to him.
Love him fiercely in a way no other person could.
So dear self, please, please don’t beat yourself up about the past, about the moments you yelled. Yes, by all means remember the past just enough so that it continues to inspire you to daily work at being an Orange Rhino, but don’t hold onto the past so much that it is the only thing you see when you look at yourself as a mom. Those yelling moments aren’t the only moments that make up your journey as a mother. Those yelling moments don’t define you as a mom. The whole package defines you and the journey has just begun.”
Obviously I can’t go back two years and tell myself this to help me feel better and perhaps stop a few tears. But I can write it now so I can and share it here with all of you, so that is what I will do!
Dearest Orange Rhinos,
You aren’t an awful parent because you are struggling with yelling. You aren’t just a yelling parent, you are a heck of a lot more too! Don’t let yelling define you as a parent. Instead let how you find the strength, courage and determination to change, along with your fierce love and commitment to your kids define you.
The Orange Rhino
P.S. I write this now and in a few days, maybe weeks if I am lucky, I know I will begin to once again doubt myself as a parent and will focus on all I am doing “wrong” instead of seeing all that I am doing “right.” I know I will forget that all my inadequacies and mistakes as a parent don’t define me. I know I will forget that there is more to me as a parent than the negative stuff I love to highlight. And I know that I will forget that every day I tip the scale away from “yelling/cranky/not-doing-this-or-that-right” towards “Loving More” and that THAT is what really matters.
To learn more about how to tip your personal scale towards the “Love More,” side and to realize that yelling doesn’t define you, check out my new book due out this Saturday, November 1st! “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” is a 30-Day guide with 100 alternatives to yelling, simple steps to follow and honest stories to inspire you on your own journey to “Yell Less, Love More.” You can pre-order it here!