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.