Scream-Free Mommy

The first time I yelled at my son he was 16 months old, to the day. I had raised my voice before and had even become frustrated over various things, but this time was different. Typically, I am very good at redirecting, explaining my feelings, teaching alternate or correct behavior and moving on. As a family we are committed to giving choices and alternate acceptable actions to promote positive behavior modification with problem solving. Something was different, however, on this particular morning.

This time I let out an anger-filled, despair laced, bone chilling scream that turned my stomach. I share this in embarrassment, anguish and guilt. This is one of the ugly sides, for me, of being a “new” mommy.

I want to start off by saying that I was raised by one of the best mothers a girl could ask for. My mom is still one of my best friends and closest allies. She was and still is a loving, caring mother. She was also a screamer. She was raised by the same type of mother and so I also grew up in a household with a lot of yelling. In fact, yelling, light spanking, and grounding were the main forms of punishment in our home. This was typical for the culture and time of Baby Boomers raising their children.

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Even though I am grateful for my beautiful life and have little complaint about the way I was raised, there are some things I have decided to do differently as a parent. True to my generation, a couple of those things include re-directing and teaching instead of “punishments” such as yelling and spanking; using “early bedtime” as a threat or otherwise “easy out” to behavior modification; and creating empty threats about catastrophic things that will take place due to certain behavior, unless of course, the catastrophic thing is a real and truly possible outcome.

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Our lives change monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily with a constantly growing infant and now toddler. Therefore, our boundaries, hopes, wishes, and composure as parents are constantly being tested. There have been many times where I have caught myself doing things that I swore I would never do. I have to admit that I have given in to mindless cartoon watching in order to get a couple of loads of laundry done, I have offered the comfort of the binky that is “only for resting” during rushed but overly whiny mornings, I have allowed certain sugary snacks to be consumed just to see a smile, and I have gotten very lazy on some days with the rule of reading two books a day.

This time, though, was different than all of the rest. This time I had an experience where I felt totally out of control, totally bewildered, and like an ultimate failure.

I had become someone I never want to be. It was more than bending or breaking a rule. It was a moment when I didn’t recognize myself. I couldn’t control my anger and it flowed out of me through my tone, my facial expressions, the volume of my voice and the angry words I chose to use. It was all over a bowl of dog food and water and once my tantrum was complete, I wept in shame and despair.

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In reflection, I know that there were many choices I had made up until that point to create the perfect storm for a meltdown. I stayed up past my bedtime the previous night to watch a show instead of preparing our household for our morning routine. I took extra time in the shower, not giving myself enough time to feel composed and prompt on our way out the door. In my rush to be on time, I set the dog bowls of food and water down earlier than normal just to have it out of the way. Even though I had repeated “hands off” a million times that morning, I simply kept saying it instead of physically moving my son out of the kitchen. And, in my hurried morning, I made the mistake of leaving him to his own curiosity while I ran to the coat closet. All of these things led to a soup concoction of “way too expensive” dog food and water covering our entire kitchen floor. In the middle of it all was a soaked baby playing happily in the disaster and a bewildered mommy trying to get to work on time. I take responsibility in this way not to take blame but to remain accountable for the type of parent I want my son to be raised by.

To this moment, I feel ashamed about the negative feelings I projected onto my son that morning.

While writing this I realize that the event was marginal, unimportant, and will most likely be forgotten in a matter of months. What will not be forgotten, however, is how I felt observing the confusion and shame on my son’s face. When I am worn down, I revert to behaviors that were ingrained in me as a small, impressionable girl. In recognizing this, I am also positive that I don’t want my children to have to experience the same.

I am reminded each day, as each new test comes my way, that I am human. When I don’t take care of myself, I’m not the mom I want to be. Even though I mess up and let myself down, I know how to pick myself up and try again. I’ve learned that this is just part of being a parent.

I also know that I need to give myself a break when I fall short of expectations; apologize for my mistakes; and correct my wrongs even when it means trying to explain such complicated emotions to a 16-month-old.

It is so easy to commit to this when that anger-filled, despair laced, bone chilling moment is not at hand, but in reflection we become more self-aware and with practice and dedication we become the parents we want to be. For me, this means I want to be a scream-free mommy and so, I start the journey to accomplish this over the lifetime of our first born and the siblings he will someday share his parents with.

9 thoughts on “Scream-Free Mommy

  1. We have all been there, for sure. I think this creates a positive lesson for our kiddos. Mom (and Dad) aren’t perfect and at times, have the same difficulty making good choices. But I always apologize for yelling or whatever bad behavior I exhibited (the slap that was a split second reaction to being hit by the 2 or 3 year old). Then I request the same apology from him.

    1. Love the modeling of reconciling, Jenn. It is SO important and a real “life skill.” I was not prepared for how it would feel to be an imperfect parent! : ) What a lesson and one that continues to stay with me!!

  2. What I am truly appreciating more than anything else on this blog is: The fresh-faced, real, own it & move on HONESTY.

    For far too long, I feel like moms have felt judged, inadequate, and alone in this journey of imperfect motherhood. It’s about time we change the culture to a “me too” awareness and actually support one another.

    We also parent on choice giving, along with consequences (good or bad) for each choice. I will never forgot the one (or two) times I completely lost control with Kellan, and literally carried him up the stairs and body slammed him on his bed. The only “right” thing I did in that moment was not use words. I simply walked out and closed the door. My husband (who deals with 15 year olds all day, bless his soul) has one simple piece of advice that I try with all my effort to follow from that day forward… Sommer, he said– The most important thing is to maintain control of your emotions. (I also grew up with a yeller mom ) If you explode, it’s over. If you continue to explode, it’s still over. Train yourself to keep calm-say nothing if you need to, and walk away until you can go back to him calmly. I know I always think I have to fix it right in the moment, and sometimes– we just need a minute. I tell Kellan that now…that I need a minute. And the funny thing is, when he is mad he tells me he needs a minute 🙂

    Apologies– much more of a story than a comment, but I was inspired 🙂

    1. Sommer, I couldn’t agree more nor could I have said it better!! Thank you. You never have to apologize for sharing stories! WE LOVE THEM! Thanks for the share and tips, lady! I love the “I need a minute.”

  3. Great advise from both of you ladies. I too felt like I needed to correct or make it right immediately 🙁 I hated myself after the yelling but didnt have any other skills to draw on, sadly. Probably why I love all the info out there today;) also one of my biggest regrets. Love this blog and the support you ladies share. Keep up the outstanding work!!!

    1. You were and still are an awesome mom! I learned so much from you and still do. Thanks for allowing me this so that I can improve and grow. I love you!

      1. Love all of your comments ladies! Thanks so much for sharing. In writing this blog, I did not anticipate how how much I would love your stories and how much I would learn from all of you. Parenting is so much harder than I was prepared for and parenting with another person, who has different thoughts and experiences, is even harder. The way I would choose to discipline is certainly not the way Seano would and we have to work hard to be on the same page and make choices we are both okay with. We also have different trigger points when it comes to N. In every interaction, I just try to be the best mom I can be to him. There are many times I fail and others that I impress myself. But at the end of the day, I’m giving the most I can and I take comfort in that.

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