As I wiggled her little body into the pink corduroy pants, her nose wrinkled and she let out a colossal sigh. “I don’t want to wear these! They don’t feel comfortable!” she pouted.
I could feel it. Like an elementary school science experiment, frustration and irritation combined in my insides like vinegar and baking soda to create a bubbly cocktail of anger.
And then I rifled through her drawers to find something else.
Her eyes welled with tears. And mine did, too.
I reeled with guilt because that was her morning, too. If I pull on pants that are uncomfortable, I change them. She wasn’t being particularly unreasonable.
I could tell you it was the time of day that made me lose my cool. I could tell you that my dad sincerely warned my husband about “Emily in the morning” and added vehement head shaking and teeth sucking for emphasis.
But that wouldn’t explain why I had the very same emotional response hours later with Noah. He stormed off in a huff, stomping his feet all the way to his bedroom.
Strike two for mom.
Strike three hit the hardest and burned the most. Chloe sidled up next to Noah and inadvertently bumped into him. He wheeled his head in her direction and hissed something livid in her direction. In an instant a fight erupted.
“Whoa. Whoa. Whoa!” I announced as I got between my two children turned MMA fighters.
Anger mottled their faces, and even separated from one another, they glared.
Suddenly I recalled a horrible marijuana commercial from my childhood: A mustached father confronts his pot-smoking teen who yells, “I learned it from watching you!”
My kids could have turned to me and said the very same thing. “I learned it from watching you!”
The angry display wasn’t mine, but it was mine just the same.
I’ve seen headlines and blog challenges all over the web imploring parents to stop yelling. In my head I thought, “What? We can’t have an emotional response? We’re parents, but we’re still human.”
Then I noticed the effects of my short fuse. I’m embarrassed and more than a little ashamed. I’m ashamed that sometimes my go-to emotion is frustration. I’m ashamed that sometimes the unpredictability (or predictability) of childhood irritates me.
There are moments — sometimes entire days — when I feel like I’m struggling to stay afloat; my kids with their novice strokes or enthusiasm for the water step on my head and grab my neck and grope and pull and squeal. I waste what little breath I have by yelling, and we all start to sink.
When Noah lashed out at Chloe, I saw he was focusing on his Legos. I know he wanted to finish what he started without interruption. I know that feeling, and sadly, I understand his response. But I can’t condone it. I won’t.
I’m disappointed that I neglected to show him a better way to handle his feelings to avoid a dam break that leaves the broken remains of people in its path.
I really need to stop yelling.