I don't yell at my husband, or at least it's very rare these days. When we were first married he let me know that it was possible to have an argument without yelling. In fact, he thought it was possible to have a discussion and not an argument, something that I'm still working on, I suppose. I grew up with a family that tends to come in fast and hot, solve it and move on. Descartes said, "We're going to be together a long time, and I just won't talk with you if you yell." So I don't yell at him. I might holler across the kitchen, or from the back yard, "Do you want cheese on your burger?" No. "Do you want another beer?" Yes. I want to raise my voice sometimes when I am very passionate about something, but I try to be respectful of him, and our marriage, and I want our children to see that two people can disagree, come to a conclusion, and stay married, all while being kind to each other.
And I don't yell at Jake, because, well that's not cool to yell at a special needs kid right? No one thinks that's okay. And I'm not sure he always processes everything I say when I'm just talking, so what would be the point of yelling at him? Asking him to hurry, or get off of something, or into something, or around something is often futile at best, so it just never occurs to me that I should yell. I've been frustrated, many, many, many times, and I know I've raised my voice in fear; yelling "NOOOOO!" as he darts away from me in a parking lot, or scrambles towards an open door...heading to a swimming pool. I've been tense before, used a stern voice, and cried and sobbed with him, but I don't think I've really yelled at him.
I do yell in the car sometimes when I'm alone. I might yell when there are dangerous drivers, or radio news that reports of laws being passed that are discriminatory, or politicians who-- well, almost any politician can raise my ire a bit. I've yelled at my computer screen at other bloggers, but mostly these incidents are far between, I stew rather than scream.
But, I've yelled at my daughter.
I get frustrated and I yell. I get exasperated when she does not do what she is supposed to do, like get her shoes on, or go to the bathroom before we leave the house, when I ask her to. Then the time rolls around to depart, and she, with several reminders, hasn't done whatever simple, but time consuming task it is. The consequence is that the whole family is then rushed, and possibly late. If we miss Jake's bus, that's a 40 minute drive to his school, one-way. This new school year has presented the scenario where there's about 12 minutes between the time Jake leaves for school and the time Lucy needs to be in class. Luckily the school is 4 minutes away, but we need to park and walk and the later we are the farther away we need to park...
It feels like we do not have a lot of room for anything else to be any more difficult than it naturally is. I need everyone, we need everyone, to do what they are supposed to do, when they are supposed to do it, and do it to the best of their ability, every single time. Which means that Jake needs help with every single thing, every single morning, but Descartes and Lucy and I should be able to get ourselves together. I make sure she has all of the components of her outfit. I 'do' her hair. I make her breakfast, and pack her lunch, and get her backpack ready to go because, I'm not an idiot, I know she's only five.
But when she doesn't do those other simple things? I yell. Sometimes loudly. "NOW! GET YOUR SHOES ON RIGHT NOW!" and of course it doesn't help anything. At all. It probably even makes things take longer. Then we get in the car and my heart is racing and Jake who hates being rushed, just wants to get the hell to school and away from us, and the day has begun with anger instead of calm, and we can't ever go back and make it different. Another whole day of our life has started with Jake agitated, me feeling like a crappy mom, and Lucy feeling like...like what? What emotion is she taking to school and sitting with for the day? And what have we gained?
What I am wondering, is this: am I taking every single thing out on her when I am yelling about her tiny little white tennis shoes, because I can't yell at anyone else? Is it just my nature? Does she perhaps push me farther than every other thing on the planet? Am I destined to yell at my daughter, because that's a style of "discussion" I'm used to? Is it that we are so alike that she knows all of my buttons and presses them systematically like she is testing a shuttle before launch? And what am I teaching her by yelling? What will we have accomplished at the end of a verbal spar?
I'm more aware of it lately. It feels like it's been happening more often, though it probably hasn't. It may be she's exerting independence in more places, which is age appropriate, but I don't want to have these interactions every day. I'm not calling her names, or demeaning her, I'm only ever repeating the task that was supposed to already have been done, but it makes me feel awful, even when I know it's not that dramatic or bad. And I'm sure it makes her feel awful too... recently I've found myself apologizing to her hours later, and it almost always turns into a good, productive conversation with talk about how to do things better next time. But right now, it renders me unable to fall asleep at night, and makes me want to wake her up after she's been in bed, just to have some more positive moments in the day.
Do you yell at your children? At just one of your kids? Is it a phase?
note: I wrote this post several weeks ago, just as school was starting. Things have settled down into a better routine in the morning for all of us, and Jake is out of the 'episode' he was in. We have had a couple weeks of nearly yell-free mornings, but I think I need to continue to think about how I interact with Lucy because it feels like she could be an easy target for my frustrations.
a version of this post was an editor's pick today at OpenSalon.com