His face. It was enough to stop me in my tracks. It was like in a cartoon where a light bulb ‘dings’ above your head, except instead of a light bulb it was a gigantic neon sign flashing ‘YOU ARE THE WORST MOTHER IN THE WORLD’. You just shouted at a boy who couldn’t find his shoes. You told him off about shoes.
And I haven’t even told you the heartbreaking bit yet. He looked at me, crestfallen and simply said ‘Mum I’m just a kid, I’m doing my best’.
Rewind 15 minutes earlier. It’s a week day morning, a Monday, a school day. The kids are still in their PJs and I’m running around trying to clean up, put a wash on and browse Facebook. We are going to be late. So I yell at them to get dressed from the kitchen (still checking Facebook). I go into the playroom and they’re throwing the cushions onto the youngest of my boys and yelling “baby bundle”. So I yell again “go and get dressed for school. NOW”. Reluctantly, off they march. I fish the toddler out from under my sofa cushions and carry on faffing around tidying and sorting bags, lunches and the permission slips I should’ve done yesterday. I hurriedly get myself dressed; we have 3 minutes to leave the house or we will be late. I yell “get your shoes on!” while brushing my teeth and dressing the toddler. Expecting them to have their shoes, coats and bags ready, I come downstairs to find them doing the baby bundle again (what is it with my sofa cushions?). So I shout at them “GET. YOUR. SHOES. ON. I am not going to tell you again” (but I’ll probably have to). And then my eldest says those words that I know will push me over the edge. The ones that make me want to reach for the gin at 8.43am: “I can’t find my shoes”. And I’m exploding with irrational rage. And I’m yelling at him. “Why don’t you put them away? Why do I have to know where everyone’s stuff is all the time”? And that’s when he says it. Boom. “Mum, I’m just a kid, I’m doing my best”.
Now not only do I have 3 minutes to get to school but also I have to make up for the fact that I single handedly ruined our morning. I sent them off to school having started the day shouting at them. About nothing. I feel guilty. I apologise but I don’t feel better.
On my way home alone, his face and his words haunt me. He’s just a kid. He’s doing his best. Shoes! Over shoes, I lost my shit! I yelled at my boy, over shoes! What has happened to me??
I thought about it. I hadn’t always been this ‘shouty’. Why do I shout at them? Because I’m the mum of 3 boys. I yell because sometimes it’s the only way I’ll be heard. Because they’re not listening, they rarely are. Because they’re drumming/fighting/chanting. Because it’s the only way I can get their attention. And then it hits me. No, it’s not because of them. Because I’m the one who is yelling. I’m losing my shit. (Over shoes). I’m making me yell. I’m supposed to be the grown up. They are just kids. Doing their best.
So I thought about all of the times I have shouted at them over the past month or so trying to understand why I seem so quick to shout.
- I’ve been on my phone. No don’t worry it’s not another ‘put down your phone, look at them’ blog. It’s probably legitimate business/facebook. Or important social connections being made/facebook. But I’m distracted. And I lose track of time. So I haven’t asked them to get ready. I haven’t asked them to get their shoes on. I am not making the best use of my time to get us out of the door on time. So I shout.
- I’m running late. I’m never actually late but for an organised punctual control freak person just the simple threat of being late is enough to make me a little nuts. So I shout.
- Trying to do the impossible. Of course it takes longer than 36 seconds to put all three of them in the car. Of course I can’t expect them to run to school quicker than Usain Bolt. I find myself in this situation usually as a direct result of 1 and 2. And I’m mad at myself. And facebook. So I shout.
- I leave them without supervision for too long. For those with boys you know that when it goes quiet that you have left them too long. Can you hear them fighting? Brilliant! Another episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Silence? Shit, get your bum upstairs because they’ve painted your best bed linen with your nail polish. What did I expect? I have never and will never be the sort of parent that hovers. They can play alone or together; they don’t need me to be supervising them all of the time. But leaving them to it for too long will end in trouble. I know it and they know it. So whose fault is it that my bed sheets were ruined? My husband’s Mine. So I shout.
- We are stuck inside. It might be raining. It might be cold. I might even be hungover. I do not do craft. I hate crafting. I’m a better parent when I’m out of the house with them, not distracted and not crafting. But it’s cold and I want to stay in. So we have a duvet day (translation we start under a duvet for movie time but after 10 minutes I am watching Madagascar alone while they smash play-doh into the rug). So I shout.
- We are crafting. Enough said.
- They asked to craft. Covered it.
- I forget that they are just kids. I’m expecting too much of them. After all, they are learning, pushing the boundaries, experimenting, baby bundling with my sofa cushions (seriously?). They are enjoying the simple pleasure of kicking a ball at the windows. They don’t care about shoes or where they are. Nor should I expect them to. But I can teach them these things without yelling can’t I? I should be able to stop getting frustrated with them for doing the very things that makes them children.
So I decided that I had to make some changes to my parenting. But I seriously had no idea how. I thought maybe it would be better if I wrote it down; I love a plan or an excel spreadsheet. So I started writing a list of steps. Number 1. Stop yelling. Ok great start.
Then what? Blank. So then I started writing a blog about it.
In writing this I, in no way, mean to shame any other parents who yell about shoes or crafting, nor am I trying to start a new parenting movement about peace and love and meditation. I am writing this for two reasons: number 1 I wish to share this with you because before I can fix it I need to confess my parenting mistake. Because as we have already established by the ‘plan-not-really-a-plan’ I have no idea how to do this. But I need to get it out; it feels better just saying it. Saying it makes me feel less alone, more guilty, but less alone. Secondly, I need you to be my witness. My motivation. My support. You can virtually hold the pillow while I scream into it. Hold my hand while I count to 10 and breathe. Pour me a gin after a long day of not yelling.
Now I’m sure when they stomp mud through my newly washed floors I will be a bit peeved. I will want to yell but I’ll have to find another way to tell them to take their shoes off. I’m sure that when they’re teenagers and burn holes in my carpet while smoking fags out of the bedroom windows I will be mad. But I won’t yell. I’ll be…disappointed. I’ll figure out a new way as they grow.
So it’s not a bullet pointed laminated plan but it’s a start. That was the last time I shouted at my boys. Shoe-gate was the last time. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. We all yell. It’s ok. We are human. And we are parents. We lose our shit about shoes. And crafting *shudders*. I want to be a different parent now; I’m not a bad one, I just know I can do better. I want to be a calm parent. One they can come to with anything knowing I won’t just shout at them. I’m never going to be a perfect parent but I can be a less shouty one. Who still drinks gin. And never does crafts. Never.
Gemma at Baby Tech Support
3rd January 2016