Friday, December 08, 2006

You Scream; I Scream

I'm having some mommy growing pains. Before I had a child, I swore I would never yell in that way I see parents do, in situations that are obviously futile. I wondered, contemptuously, what was wrong with these people--didn't they know that their 2-year-old wasn't rational? What good was yelling?

Readers, I've become one of those yellers, and it's no good. Not because it might scar Jarrah (but ack! what if it did?) or make her tell her friends "My mommy yells a lot for no reason" (though she probably will) but because it scars ME. First, there's that bit about not wanting to have to eat my hat (see above.) Then, there's the logical part about the recipient being totally irrational (again, see above.) But the real reason it scars me is I don't WANT to yell, and sometimes, apparently, I lose control. I say "lose control" because the outbursts often surprise me, and because they sound really maniacal and pointless and desperate in the air.

I feel especially guilty because Jarrah is generally an easy child. Everyone comments on her sweet, agreeable nature. She is enthusiastic and playful most of the time. I am frequently grateful for all these traits.

But I get really furious sometimes, about stupid things. In the big picture, these things don't matter, but sometimes in the moment, I am really, really angry that I can't get Jarrah to sit still for shoes and socks when I'm already late, or because I fall over her toys with the sharp edges while I'm trying to make dinner. I find myself yelling about that aforementioned big picture, in a way that is not comprehensible to Jarrah: "Don't you know we're going to miss circle time?" "The kitchen area is off-limits for toys!"

Those aren't the serious times, though. The serious times are when I just sit there and scream "STOP IT! Stop it, stop it, stop it this instant! I can't stand another second of that noise!" At those times, I am really, really loud, and my face is all screwed up and hateful, and I pound on the table with my fists. Kind of like a two-year-old having a tantrum, now that I think about it.

David has seen me do this and is quietly shocked. It's not his personality to be hot-headed, first of all, and he's always been more rational than me. But also he hasn't been worked over for 10 hours already, or used up the patience reserve that was already low, the one that sometimes I can only replenish on odd-numbered days. I think in those moments, when Jarrah and I are both screaming, he wonders what he's gotten himself in to, sharing his home with two nutso women. But he is wise enough to keep it to himself, instead stepping in with soothing words for both of us.

Jarrah, at least for now, seems completely unaffected by my outbursts. By which I mean, not only doesn't she cry or look scared, she doesn't even seem to notice. She wavers not a whit in whatever she was doing that made me start screaming in the first place. Sometimes she even starts laughing. I dread the day that I frighten her or hurt her feelings with my loud voice. I don't want her to associate me with the bad parts of life.

Also, I wish I could stop yelling because it makes me feel small and petty and pathetic. I thought I was going to be tougher and wiser and more saintly, being a parent at my age. What happened? Readers, I don't know. I just know that by the time I realize I feel like yelling, I already have.


Anonymous said...

Oh Sam. You are me. I don the same thing, and feel the same way all the time. GET OUT OF MY HEAD LADY!!

I wish I could give you some encouraging words, but I'm fresh out. Just do the best you can, I guess. :-)

Anonymous said...

Dearest Sam,
Know that so many of us out here have felt your same are not alone. I know it is particularly frustrating for me who really likes to be "in control". I want to acknowledge you for your courage and honest of speaking your truth...something I am also trying to work on.
Thinking of you and sending hugs your way!

Anonymous said...


Hang in there, she's not going to be scarred. You are a person with limits and you're in very good company. I've lost my marbles over what turned out to be small things too, and Olivia has survived each time to test my limits another day. Your daughter is entering that glorious testing limits age and all day with a toddler can take a lot out of you. Remember that you are both resilient and you're doing the best you can, it's all any of us can do.

Anonymous said...

Ah, if only we all could be patient all the time...

If you can catch yourself before you yell, take a few deep breaths
get up and walk out of the room for a few seconds
or if you have time & are really upset, go punch a pillow or beat-up your bed.

These things might help you feel better about yourself. For now, Jarrah won't know the difference, but remember - kids are great mimics.

Do the best you can. You're a great mom.

Been there, done that- Best, Gail

Anonymous said...

I have had days like that. I just read a good article on stress and parenting in "Parenting" magazine. I don't know anyone who hasn't lost it. Toddlers push all our buttons and sometimes, all at once. You are great mom. We are all learning what to do and a sense of awareness is the most important thing, I think.



Unknown said...

Same story, different house. ;) Tom=David

It happens to all of us. The good mommies feel bad when they holler, try not to the next time, and still holler on occasion. Bad mommies have books written about them. If there was such a thing as perfect mommies, they wouldn't holler at all. You're a good mommy.

suebdo said...

Hey there Old Yeller! Don't you remember what happened to him? (it wasn't pretty :( ) ... A mom who yells, never heard of it! (HA!) If you're yelling, you're actually still OK & haven't lost control going into that glossy eyed state of burn-out ... We all do it, the thing that saves me and, no doubt, you - is that killer sense of Humor. Hey, you have a doctorate in it for Pete's sake! When I'm at the point of yelling my head off ... I actually let myself go off the deep end, usually way-over in a Robin Williams kind of way (though not with the substance abuse twist) I start to inhabit the persona of one of the Where The Wild Things Are personas ... I really camp it up. This ususally has the desired effect of putting my kids into a fit of giggles, and me too. Its all so ridiculous with an hour's worth of perspective but manic in the moment. If you can acutally make the moment ridiculous - you all win. "What - you're wearing shoes in the no shoe zone!!!! I'm going to have to gobble you up!!!"
Now that my baby is nearly 5 he starts getting in on the joke earlier and proactively asks "Mommy - Am I driving you to the bridge? Am I making you a mental monster"

A good laugh is totally cathartic, burns calories and won't get you checked into the Betty :)

Anonymous said...

That sounds familiar. And unfortunately, as they get older it's the same singer, just a different tune.

I HATE yelling at my daughter. When she was younger, she would at least listen and tell me she didn't want to do so and such. Now, she pretends she didn't hear me at all.

So, after the third or fourth request to do or not do something, I shout. But I don't hit my kids out of anger. I did it once and the guilt and hurt both parties felt was just too much. I apologized profusely, and still felt awful. And I vowed to never do it again.

I think the other readers are right. This happens. There's tons of factors, and there's different load-baring levels for each person. When you can, try to keep your level low, but so long as you don't hit out of anger and you are putting forth effort to not yell, you're doing better than a good deal of the parents out there.