What I learned from yelling at my child

What I learned from yelling at my child

"Can you please go get your brother some socks?" I huffed at my 4.5 year old. It is one of those mornings where everything is taking longer than you think it will, or should.

"Why do I have to do EVERYTHING?!" he responded, stomping up the stairs.

"You, do everything?" I think to myself. I feel my body tense up as I think of all the things I've done and still have to do to get our family ready for a trip.

"I can't find them, Mommy," he whines.

"He's not looking hard enough. He knows where the damn socks are," I say to myself as I clench my jaw in frustration.

"Well, I don't know what to tell you," I say. "They're up there. In the top left drawer." ("Does he know which is his left?" I'm annoyed, so I tell myself that I don't care if he knows or not.)

"Mommy, I can't! They're not here." His request is changing now from a whine to a genuine plea.

My ears burn hot. "Why can't he just find them so we can GO? Try a different drawer!" I say in my head.

"Okay, if you can't help Mommy, then I guess you can't have a play date."

Boom. Anger in full force. I've chosen to give in. To threaten, to be a bully. To be everything that we, as mothers, try to protect our children against.

He is frantic now, fearful of losing a play date with his best friend. All because he can't find his baby brother's socks.

I don't stop there. I give in more. I escalate the situation.

"I'm going to count to five," I warn. "One...Two...Three...Four...Five." With each number, my voice rises, so that by the time I get to five, my little 1.5 year old is looking at me in confusion.

"Mommy, no!" my oldest begs. I storm up the stairs. The top right drawer- the pajama drawer- is open.

"THIS is the top left drawer," I bark. "This is the sock drawer." I grab a pair of socks, slam the drawer shut, and march back downstairs.

Little footsteps follow me. "Mommy," he says between sobs, "that was...not a...nice tone."

I look at him. I see tears running down his cheeks, and see his little body tremble. For a moment, everything- my child, my body, the scene- feels frozen. "What have I done?"

I hold out my arms. For reasons that I'll never understand, he comes right to me. We collapse into an exhausted heap. "I'm sorry," I repeat over and over.

Socks.

A pair of stupid socks.

I don't know exactly why socks put me over the edge. One of the hardest things for me to deal with after yelling at my child is the self-hate that follows. So much guilt, disgust, shame.

How do I get past this? I can't change it, but what can I learn from it?

Maybe it happened right before a big trip so that, in challenging travel moments, I remember that giving into anger just makes things worse.

Maybe it happened at the start to summer so that, when my son and I are bored with/sick of each other, I take a break in my room instead of exploding.

Maybe it happened because I'm not getting what I need: enough to eat? Enough sleep? Enough recharging?

I always hope that "this one" was the last time. But that makes it seem like it's all up to chance. And the truth is. it's all up to me. Which Mommy am I going to be today?

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Filed under: Parenting

Tags: yelling

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