Does any mother not yell? No, seriously, is it possible? – leaving aside the Swedes, of course, who apparently don’t believe in using the word “no” to a child, let alone raise their voices ( my mother thought I was kidding when I told her that) .
I try as much as I can to be patient, but sooner or later the tantrums, the wailing, the sulking and the pestering gets the better of me and I find that the only way of making myself heard is by raising my voice.
I am not a patient person by nature ( it took me years to admit this) but with the kids, I try. A few months ago I told myself that I’d try to be more patient with them, no matter what. So, when the other day when my eight year old made an unreasonable demand, I declined gently, explaining all the reasons etc (all that textbook stuff about dealing with questions in a positive manner) but, the demand persisted. I counted to ten and explained it again. This happened about three more times. I continued to explain the reasons while holding my ground on my decision. She didn’t take to it well and started to bolster her argument with talk of equality and fairness. It’s a time-tested strategy – when in doubt, bring in justice. Kids are clever enough to know that this usually puts the parents on the back foot.
Well, not this parent. I told her my reasons for my decision and expected her to understand. I also wanted to make it clear that if she could not fully comprehend my reasoning then she would have to sort-of lump it, because sometimes parents have to do what they have to do. I always think of my own parents when I over-explain things to my kids in an effort to be the modern, involved (read evolved) parent. I cannot help but feel, at times, that their method of dealing with us was far better. My father had two pet phrases : ” you will know when you grow up” and “because I said so” as an answer to many questions . End of story. That was that. My mum would try and tell us more, but only so much. I know that every generation glorifies their age and loves going down the how-things-used-to-be path, but my parents’ method did give them a lot more freedom than we give ourselves.
Anyway, that’s a whole different post. Coming back to my tale of patience, I tried as hard as I could to make her understand my point. And to be fair, she did get it, except that she still didn’t accept my ruling. Then the tears started. I took a deep breath and told her that she was overreacting. This seemed to open a can of worms and she went into previous arguments about this and that and how I never let her do blah blah blah. So, it finally happened . I caved and blew a lid, high drama followed (I am telling you, this teenage thing hits about five years too early) and more tears and apologies later, the matter was laid to rest, for the time being that is. It ended, as it always does, with sorry notes from my daughter for the things she said in the fight, and apologies from me for losing my cool and making her cry. After having sworn, during the fight, not to take any more notes from her, I wiped her tears, kissed her, put the note in my cupboard (with the numerous others) and told her I’d never scold her that way again (this happens about once a week). What didn’t help (at all) was my husband’s comment about my handling it. So I sulked and he didn’t address it, which, you can imagine, made me madder than ever (more on that in a later post, because man, that needs some venting)
With remorse comes guilt and with guilt comes introspection. I regretted the way I spoke to her and wondered, again, if I was being too harsh with her. I’ve never been able to decide this one, does she react this way because I am too harsh? or does she react this way because I’ve not handled it right earlier? The guilt lingered and I thought about my own actions, of why I got so worked up and yelled. I started to question my reaction and look for a deeper meaning into my angst. Surely I wasn’t so angry just because my daughter had cried.
Well, yes and no. Yes because the tears get to me. I can’t handle them beyond a point. I know it comes with being eight, when things that seem of little consequence to me, are matters of great importance to her and thus, when they are denied, there’s much gnashing of teeth. But when the tears flow so freely (with all three of them) I reach my limit and let my anger get the better of me. There’s only so much wailing one can take in a day and with the twins preferring it as a form of protest, I look to my older one for respite. And no, because my anger is not only a reaction to her crying, it’s a symptom of the bigger problem (for lack of a better word).
I know I’ve said this before, but I wish that I was one of those women who was content being at home with the kids, or at least one who could make peace with it. But, I am not. And I am not even sure if such a woman exists.
I am reading The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friednan – it was a book that addressed, head-on, the real truth about the picture-perfect life of the suburban American housewife, about her angst and and of how she felt unhappy in a life that she’d longed for in a mistaken belief that that was what a woman must aspire for – a life of domestic bliss filled with a husband, children and a nice house. The book is said to have started a second wave of feminism ( don’t care for that word).
Here’s the opening paragraph:
“The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night — she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — “Is this all?”
My life could not be more different from the American suburban wife of the fifties, and yet, I can relate to her “strange stirring”. I guess that’s the stirring I need to address, because it’s whats causing the yelling. From what I hear from other women (and it’s comforting to know that I am not alone in this) it’s the way a lot of them feel.
So, what’s the solution? Not sure. But I know the problem, and that’s always the first step..