parenting, personal

Lessons learned

This past week has been a real struggle for Benji, my oldest. My suspicion was the whole “summer vacation” thing was throwing him off. He is the type of child that thrives on schedule and order, and going to a different camp every week seemed to be taking its toll. He’s been argumentative, disobedient, and at times downright unlikable. I know, I know – he’s four. But still, my Benji usually isn’t like this.

Tonight, as we were getting ready for bed, he did things back-to-back that he knows he shouldn’t. He did them as I was telling him not to, and just smiled at me while he disobeyed. So, at 7:38pm, I yelled. If you read this post from yesterday, you know that making it to 7:38pm is no small feat for me, but still. I tried so hard to make it all day without yelling, and there I go, flipping my sh*t. But I digress…

Once I’d calmed down, I tried to talk through things with him. I asked “Benji, why are you doing things when you know you shouldn’t? I’ve told you not to do these things, and I’ve told you why you shouldn’t do them. You remembered why you shouldn’t, and yet you still did. Why?” His answer absolutely shocked me. With a tiny voice, so wracked with tears I could barely understand him, this is what he said:

“Mommy, it’s just so hard for me right now because Daddy has been gone for a really long time. He’s never here and I miss him so much and that’s why I’m being a bad boy.”

Wow. I wasn’t expecting that.

Both of my kids have handled my husband’s deployment so well, so much better then I ever expected. Maybe too well. I had no idea this was all simmering inside my sweet little boy. He’s said here and there that he misses Daddy, but I had no idea it was hurting him so badly. No clue at all.

We sat and talked for a few minutes. I told him that I missed Daddy too, that having my best friend gone for so long made me feel sad and frustrated just like he was feeling. I told him that these were really big, really normal emotions to have, and that it was okay for us to share these feelings with each other. He calmed down and seemed to feel better. He apologized for being “bad”, and said he’d try harder to be “good” from now on. We hugged.

I walked out of that room with two very important realizations: one, I need to have a better appreciation of how hard big emotions are for little guys to handle; and two, I need to pay more attention to them and less attention to me. Perhaps if I wasn’t so busy woe-is-me-ing myself over how tough my life is right now without Daddy, I’d have realized my boys’ lives without him are much tougher.

Kids never stop teaching us, do they?

Daddy and his boys, when Daddy deployed.

parenting, personal

Bringing tomorrow to today

Every morning I wake up with the same mantra: Today I am not going to yell at my boys. I say it to myself within the first five minutes of rising, when I’m not quite awake. It comes from the deepest part of me, that subconscious portion that knows how to be the best mom ever. Sometimes I say it more then once, repeating it until I feel confident that yes, today will be the day. But typically before even leaving the house I’ve broken that self-made promise. And, within a nano-second of breaking it, I feel the guilt, shame, remorse and self-loathing that being a yeller brings with it.

I know why I yell, my Dad was a yeller. He would get furiously angry, his eyes would glass over and his voice would raise to decibels my young ears didn’t realize were possible by a human. He was also a hitter, so at least yelling was the lesser of the two. But his screaming is something I carry with me to this day. I know when I get mad like he got mad, I probably look as scary to my kids as he looked to me. And that makes me horribly, horribly sad.

It’s almost always Benji who triggers me to scream. He is just so, well, four. I tell him something, nicely. Then again, with a “please”. Then again. And again. And again. I flip my sh*t almost every morning over Benji and his breakfast. Away from 8am it seems so silly, as though so many more options are available then screaming and arguing with him. He can go hungry. Or we can be late. Or, I don’t know, anything but me bellowing at the top of my lungs. But then, at that moment, I can do nothing but yell. And just like that, today becomes tomorrow.

Sometimes the rest of the day goes better. Sometimes it doesn’t. I try to look at my boys and recognize the feelings they are trying to process as being overwhelming. I try to remember they are young, they don’t have all of the answers, it is my job to guide them and teach them and understand when they don’t respond perfectly every time. I’ve read the Peaceful Parenting books – in my head I know what to do. But in those moments, when I am frustrated and stressed and annoyed, it is all I can do to not hit as I was hit. And so I yell.

I yell because I don’t want to be my Dad, but in yelling I become him.

I can change though. I’ve asked Benji to help me – to remind me when my voice starts to raise. I’ve asked him to stop me by saying whatever he thinks will work. Today he said “You’re being mean Mommy” and it stopped me dead in my tracks. I’ve been looking over the Orange Rhino Challenge and will soon be strategically placing my orange reminders throughout the house. I’m trying to schedule less, to be stressed less. And I’m trying really hard to think and breathe and let some things go. It isn’t easy.

But at night when I look at my boys sleeping, their sweet faces so perfectly trusting and innocent, I know easy doesn’t matter. I will be a better mom. I will find a way to calm myself and channel my anger and quiet my voice. And tomorrow, I am not going to yell at my boys.

(Note: My Dad was a horrible father to me growing up. He was an okay father to my younger sister – at least he appeared to be. But he is a fantastic father to my much younger half-sister and half-brother. He clearly learned from his mistakes, and although it doesn’t make the way he treated me right, it somehow makes it better.)