My confession

            Niobe has a “true confessions” post up filled with people’s deepest and darkest secrets.  I thought about posting mine, but then I realized it would do me no good because it is anonymous.  If no one knows it has come from me, how will posting it help me to fix the problem?  The whole point of blogging for me is that it keeps me honest.

            So, here goes.  My deepest and darkest secrets.

            Lately, I have not been the kind of person I want to be.  I have been dismissive of the kids too often.  No, I don’t mean saying “uh-huh” distractedly.  I mean sniping, “Really?  Do we have to talk about this right now?” when the kid just wants to tell me something.  OK, usually it’s when the kid is complaining about something, but I am afraid I am making my sons think I don’t value them and their words. 

            I don’t know why I am doing this.  Sometimes, I can be the most attentive, caring mother.  But, at other moments, I am just this snide woman who wants to be left alone so I can get the laundry put away.  How can the woman who supportively helped Zachary sound out words in the morning be the same one who, in the evening, snapped at him to be quiet for a minute because I couldn’t tie up the tomato plants while carrying on a conversation with him?

            I have a fucking doctorate.  I am pretty sure I have the brain-power to both tie up tomato plants and talk to a five-year-old about his plans for his birthday party.

            I value these children more than life itself, but I am shooting my kids down several times a day.  “Several” means three or four, which is way too often for a child to get the impression that his mom doesn’t have time for him.  I feel like Aunty Em when she tells Dorothy to find a place where she can’t get into any trouble. 

            They don’t seem particularly troubled by it, which bothers me even more.  Are they just used to their mother telling them they are not a priority?  How long have I been doing this?

            I also yell too much.  I know that.  I must end up hollering at them each four or five times a day.  Not red-in-the-face yelling, but angry enough.  Today, yeah, it was warranted when Zach waited till Ben had left to go to the bathroom and then deliberately broke apart his brother’s train track.  That yelling I am OK with, especially because I hit just the right note of how-would-you-feel.  But, when Benjamin kept putting his belly on the small table I had set up in the kitchen for Lilah (Little Miss I-Can-Pull-Up-To-Standing), did I really need to say, “Stop getting up on that table NOW!”  Was there perhaps a cooler way of dealing with it?

            It’s not just the one incident.  It’s that there are many times a day I choose to raise my voice instead of finding another way.  Although, the word “choose” is a suspect one, because I am not entirely sure it is a choice on my part.  I just get worn down from “finding another way” nine gazillion and two times a day and go for raising my voice, which actually works.

            Yeah, yeah.  I know.  I am not a bad mother, everyone does it, I use positive reinforcement well, yadda yadda.  But, the truth is that I worry that if some of you saw our household, it wouldn’t seem very happy to you.  I want some sort of quantitative system that will count the number of giggles, kind words, and attention given and weigh it against all the “I’m busy” and “Stop that this instant.” I want to know I’m not as awful as it feels sometimes.

            We have an Unkindness Chair, where the boys have to go when they are particularly unkind.  It helps underscore the need for changing their behavior.  Combined with the positive reinforcement of the sticker charts, it is fairly effective for reinforcing appropriate behavior.  Putting this up on the internet is my grown-up version of the Unkindness Chair.  I am hoping it will underscore for me the way I need to change my behavior.

            Because, while it is kind of cute when Zachary tells me “you’re grouchy,” I also think it’s pretty cute when he smiles.

23 responses to “My confession

  1. so your deepest secret is that you’re human? I am SO disappointed in you ;p

  2. It’s not just you. I sometimes think have tons of education kills the fun drive. I’m not a big player, either. I do love, but not fun. And impatience seems to come with the territory because I’m a person too, an introvert in fact, and they are insatiable for my attention. And worst of all I’m efficient, bloody efficient, and when I’m folding laundry or doing anything, really, I’m doing it fast and efficiently. I get into the zone and hate interruptions. So there are reasons, but like you I fight it every day and try to do better with the loves of my life.

  3. I worry about this a lot too. But not too long ago, I had a conversation with my mom about the same thing. She was a SAHM w/ me and my 2 brothers, and she said she has always worried about how much she yelled, how she passed up playing with us for cleaning, etc., etc. And I told her that I don’t remember any of that. And I don’t. I remember all of the fun stuff we did, that she was home when I got home from school everyday, that she made me breakfast everyday. That conversation made me feel better about the times that I lose my cool with Caleb, or tell him to just go play. Kids are so resilient. Your kids have tons of love-and I think that’s what they’ll remember 10, 15, 20 years from now.

  4. I worry all the time that I am the ‘yelling mom’. Sometimes my 4-year-old even tells me, “Mom, I love you but I don’t like you very much right now.” Usually it’s when I tell her she can’t eat half a box of fudgsicles for dinner, but still.

    When I think about my own childhood I would call it happy. But if I think long and hard there were a lot of moments when my mother was frazzled and upset and probably not at her best. But those aren’t what stand out for me. So I try to do my best and hope that my own children will also focus on the good times and not the bad times.

  5. You and me both. The worst is when Calvin points out that one of our rules (posted in plain view on the fridge) is “no yelling, screaming, name-calling or violent language.” Oops! But my kids still love me, they still have plenty of affection to show, they still run smiling into my room when they wake up. So I think they will be okay. They don’t need a perfect mom, just one who loves them. We can always do better, and I do want my home to be one of laughter and joy and not impatience and anger. But it’s a process. Thanks for being honest. So many blogs seem to just show the good, which is fine, but it’s nice to know I’m not the only one.

  6. Cranky moments or not, you are their mom and they are home. They feel comfortable and safe and will adapt to your less-than-perfect moments. When they grow up, what they will remember are the comfortable little routines you establish, reading to them or making their favorite snack or just sitting together in the dark. Whatever it is. The feeling of home and the mom that helped make that home.

  7. I’m with fidget. You’re only human, Em. You recognized that you have a behavior you want to change and you’ll change it. You can’t be patient 24/7 unless you’re heavily sedated.

  8. If I had an unkindness chair in my apartment it would be stuck to my backside.

    With 3 small children I do believe anyone would lose her temper. You are presented with an intellectual challenge of a certain kind over and over again, any sane person would crave variety.

  9. No, you aren’t a bad mother. Like you said, everyone has been there. However I will say that when I went to a psychiatrist to discuss my issues, he put me on anti depressants and it’s made all the difference in how I parent. I’m not the yelling mom anymore. Well, I was when I first left my husband, but for the most part I’m present and happy with my kids. Have you considered taking the time to yourself to talk to someone? I’m of the opinion that a happy mom makes a happy home and an unhappy mom can negatively affect the home. Don’t beat yourself up, though. 3 kids must be hard!!!

  10. The difference between morning and evening is tiredness. That’s why you can’t deal with tomatoes and a pre-schooler at the same time. And you’d be just as tired no matter what college or degrees you have.

    I sympathize. I think the same thing about myself a lot. I thank people who say I’m a good mom but I think they aren’t there when I yell.

    But I know–and I’m suggesting to you–that it’s really about being tired and overwhelmed. We both know it’s not about intentions. And the way to be the funner mom is to get more rest and breaks.

    I am really glad to read the other comments from people who remember the good times with their parents. I think it’s hard to evaluate that when you didn’t have a healthy good-enough family as a child.

    So I want to point out that when you yelled “Stop getting up on that table NOW!” you were direct, clear, appropriate. You didn’t call him a name, belittle him, humiliate him or do anything other than deal with the situation at hand.

    Sometimes I work really hard to cut back on that with my kids. And the result is that it’s more fun for me, but you know what? Their behaviour deteriorates. I get the pouty, sulky faces, the not-listening and the backtalk and the sarcasm between the kids. So I have to assume that’s their way of saying Mom get back on the program.

    Maybe Emily this is our job. Maybe as moms we are supposed to nag and yell and not supposed to be sweet and positive all of the time.

    There is a balance and it sounds like you are doing all the important things of positive reinforcement and talking and so on.

    The balance isn’t always exactly right. Sometimes I sense there has been too much of being the heavy and not enough cuddling and fun and when I adjust the balance then the kids let me know via their actions that I’m getting it right.

    But it isn’t perfect. It’s a constant adjustment. And they have their moods and days too when it isn’t about us or what we’re doing but the stage they’re going through.

    So yes, if you feel the balance needs adjusting then do that. But also remember that it is a balance and that there is going to be some yelling, some admonishment as part of the package.

    And remind me to re-read my comment when I feel guilty!

  11. Well, do consider that it’s not a bad thing if they’re not always your priority–it’s good to know that other things, other interests, other people, can sometimes take precedence.

    But the lack of patience, humor–everybody has that sometimes, as you know. It’s okay. For me it just depends on if I’m worried/pissed about something else.

  12. I hear you on this, but I also confess that I struggle with this on another level – I feel like as a parent I need to teach my child that the world does not revolve around her… that sometimes she DOES need to wait until I am not busy, and sometimes I just am not willing to play yet another round of Hungry, Hungry Hippos with her, and yet I still love and value her. I think that sometimes I have done her a disservice by attending to her too quickly, and not saying no enough. The struggle for me is finding the balance… doing it when it is the right thing to do, and not just because I am grouchy.

  13. Thanks. 🙂

    And on the topic of your post … it’s impossible to be perfect, and yet it’s also good to stay awake to tendencies that might become habits if not watched closely.

    A couple of years ago I attended a seminar on neurolinguistic programming in which they explained that tone of voice was far more important than volume of voice to convey the key message, but that most people never learn to separate tone from volume. I started trying it, and by crikey, they were right.

  14. i know you you know this and it’s already been said but you are human.

  15. Really, I’m this way with one child.

    Some days I listen to myself and I think I should just sit in our version of the Unkindness Chair until my butt goes numb, Em.

    But then my Badger will come up and offer a hug or a kiss or want to show me the pumpkins growing in the garden even though I just yelled “What do I have to do to get you to LISTEN?” for the 8th time that day, and I know that I may have areas I can work on, but he forgives me, and he loves me anyway, and that’s what matters most.

    I think it’s the same way with yours.

  16. Mostly what everyone else said. But also, one day Angus brought home a craft from school about his mother, and one of the things he had written was ‘always smiling’. I’m pretty sure he’s not actually on crack, so I have to assume that they remember the good stuff and not the bad.

  17. I don’t know why anyone thinks it’s sensible to prize mothers who never yell or raise their voices. How terrible to model to children the lesson that love means never disagreeing, never annoying the other person. What unreasonable expectations they will have of their partners and friends in later life! Far better to learn that people are a bit unpredictable, have their moods and their emotions, and still love you through all of that.

    And then the other side of this is how you feel. I know that I was grouchier with my son at the times when I felt I had no time for me, no space, no rewards. I wanted him not to bother me so I could finally think things through in my head for five minutes together. If you really are less tolerant and you really do want to change that, then I would strongly suggest a further clampdown on your emotions is a very bad idea. You need to let off steam to someone beyond the realm of the house and get yourself some pleasure, relaxation and reward. You’ve just got to have something coming in before you can give something back.

  18. Wow. I feel like I could have written a fair chunk of this, especially lately. I’ve been grumpy and impatient, and there’s been too much yelling as well. I know part of it’s because I’m tired and not feeling like running around too much right now (9 months preggers, and all), but still; I’m the adult, the parent, and know better.

    sigh

    Thank you for posting this.

    I do like the idea of the Unkindness chair… suspect we could use one here … and perhaps I need to spend some time sitting on it, too/

  19. Oh, I hear you loud and clear on this one. I almost posted something very similar the other day, after I totally lost it with my son once again. Sure, he deserved to be yelled at, but my intensity even freaked me out.

    It’s been one long month of really bad behavior on his part and on my part, as well. I’ve been exhausted since the whole thumb incident, and it’s been so hard to not lose my patience with him.

    I thought of tattooing S-T-O-P on my fingers to remind myself to calm down, but instead I went less permanent and put on a rope bracelet that I can’t take off to remind me to just stop when I feel like yelling.

    I cannot live with myself if I crush his spirit or his self-confidence, so the bracelet is staying put. So far, it seems to be working. Running is helping, too. I hate every second of it, but it does blow off a lot of steam 😉

  20. I think you don’t have to worry, I know tons of people who “don’t have time for kids”. It’s OK to raise your voice sometimes, kids sometimes don’t understand that you are serious if you don’t raise your voice. But I’d advise that you ask your kids if that bothers them. That way you’d show them that you care (even if you don’t listen to them sometimes). You maybe can’t do that when you are nervous but catch yourself in a good mood and make yourself approach your kids at that moment. Probably no one can do that when in bad mood, and no one can blame you for that, but use your good mood moments to reach your kids. They’d appreciate it.

  21. I have felt this exact same way many, many times. For me it waxes and wanes. When it’s the worst, I carry around huge feelings of guilt. When it recedes, I think I won’t ever let it get that way again. And then it does. And again, it waxes and wanes. I remember someone telling me “we all yell too much. ALL of us.” (Yes, that was you when I was having a mothering meltdown.) I hope you find some joy to prop you up until it wanes again.

  22. The ages your boys are, is the hardest stage in childhood. Once they get to school age, it does get easier. I have had moments of feeling like I was the most impatient mother in the world. I think we all have.

    All you can do is try again the next day. And know that everyone of us is with you. No one is patient with preschoolers all the time. They are hard. The things they do, over and over and over again; the way they tell the same story all day; the fact that they will tattle on a sibling for hitting and then turn around and hit a second later. It’s tiring and frankly not all that fun.

    You being short with them, does not make you a bad mom. It makes you a mom, their mom. The woman who takes care of them, loves them and plays with them. Also? the woman who is teaching them to be good human beings. Try not to be to hard on yourself Emily. 🙂

  23. mmm hmmm (nodding head).

    I try to remind myself that, in the bigger picture, I’m doing a great job. And I’m only human. Of course I worry about how the yelling affects her and, in turn, how long until she starts yelling back if that is the example I’m setting? But, being a mother (esp. a SAHM) is HARD and we do the best we can. Nobody is a perfect saint, no matter what the media tries to shove down our throats 🙂