Sunday, September 12, 2010

anger management

I've shared part of this story elsewhere, but yesterday I had a sort of dramatic confrontation with one of the less pleasant portions of myself: the quick-tempered mom who sometimes (more than she likes) yells at her kids.

Here's what happened: Yesterday morning we spent the morning doing yard work (my husband) and cleaning the storage room (mostly me--although everyone else helped put stuff back once I was done cleaning). It hadn't ever really been arranged--we just put our food storage in around whatever boxes were left down there from moving in. All that's changed now: everything is neatly arranged by type.

The process wasn't entirely painless, however. My four-year-old offered to help me move things off the shelf, and, without thinking to give him any instructions, I agreed. Not two minutes later, he came out to where I was arranging things on the floor outside the storage room, holding a big glass jar of grape jelly. "Uh oh," he said, "Mommy, I just dropped a jar of jam." (I had had two big glass jars.)

While I may sound calm recounting this, I'm afraid I wasn't very happy at the time. I ordered the kids out of the storage room, and set about cleaning up the mess. Glass and jelly make a pretty awful combination--one I hope I don't have to repeat anytime soon!

The other calamity of the morning was mostly Evelyn's doing. I was trying to rearrange a couple of shelves and the kids were just outside the storage room, where almost everything that had been on the shelves was reposing. I heard Andrew say that Evelyn wanted a popsicle--I responded (somewhat absently) that she couldn't have one now; maybe when we were done. I assumed the subject was dropped, but I continued to hear vague murmurings of popsicles, and I suddenly remembered that an open box of otter pops (not yet frozen) was one of the things on the floor by the kids. I dashed out just in time to see Evelyn spraying green juice all over her skirt (and the carpet) as she tried to open her "popsicle" for herself. (Andrew also had a partially opened otter pop, but his hadn't spilled as much). And yes, for the second time in two hours, I found myself yelling at my children.

I don't want to be this mom. I had thought, when I reached maturity and stopped fighting with my sister, that I had finally managed to overcome my temper. Having children has taught me otherwise.

However, I don't think I'm alone. I remember reading a NYT article last fall, which suggests that this new generation of parents (the ones who are hyper conscious about their children's involvement in a variety of activities, who would *never* think to spank their kids, who carefully monitor their children's health) are, ironically, a generation that yells.

I read some of the comments--some noted that the article resonated with them. A few (the ones that stuck in my head) suggested that only people with a limited vocabulary would yell at their children. As a woman with a PhD in English and a reasonably large vocabulary, I'm more inclined to agree with the other commenters who felt that this particular individual probably didn't have children.

Still, knowing that I'm not alone doesn't exactly make me feel better about the fact that I do, sometimes, yell at my children. And I feel like those moments undo all the hard work I put into the other 90-95% of my parenting, when I try to be calm, reasoned, and rational (not all things that come easily to me, appearances to the contrary). Certainly, I'd rather yell than lash out physically, but there has to be a better option. Help?

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