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Yelling at Your Kids? Me Too.

One of the only unfortunate side effects to taking voice lessons over a period of time is that your yelling gets really loud. Have you ever been in a dream where you wanted to scream above the surface of the water or above the mountain you’re trapped on or above the head of your attacker, and all that comes out is a breathy little whimper? Well, I’m having the opposite problem. I surprise myself with newly amplified volume. And I surprise my kids, too.


I have to admit something else: I kind of enjoy it. In that heated moment, when the only way to bring justice down upon the earth is to bellow a righteous cry, it feels like flying to the top of Mount Sinai just to blow the kids’ bangs from their faces with a good, loud YOP — as Dr. Seuss calls it. I feel the power; the anger has full ventilation; the wrath is glorious. Except there’s one problem: I’m actually not, in fact, God.


And sometimes my kids even laugh at me. Drew spent the better part of his bath time last night giggling to himself like a gremlin, and when I asked what was so funny (thinking he would mention Caillou’s inexplicable baldness), he says, “’Member, Mommy, when you yelled NO! NO! NO! when Maddie dwopped her food on the ground? That was so funny.” I heard him doing impressions of me later after I had left him swirling figure eights in the bubbles. NO! NO! NO!

I remember giggling when my mom got really mad, too. Her eyeballs would bug out several inches past her natural lash line, and there was a small part of me, a very small part, that wondered if she would ever actually eject one from its socket. What would I do then? Would we gather it up, flick away floor particles, and calmly walk to the hospital? (Would we really walk to the hospital? We would have to. At the time, I didn’t have my driver’s license.) Or would it be better to shove it back in place, pick up where we left off, and never speak of it? Puzzling indeed.

The Bible says that a man’s (a mom’s?) anger doesn’t bring about the righteous life that God desires. Funny, since my anger happens right smack dab in the middle of enforcing righteousness in other people’s lives. In that moment when my kids have done something wrong or rebellious or disobedient, it feels like I am the only arbiter of justice on the whole face of the earth. No, the next Stalin will NOT emerge from my house in fifteen years. Nope. Not on my watch. It’s up to me, ME, if my kids are going to grow up to be law-abiding citizens. I, I am the one who must step into this tot-sized tyranny and correct it. After all, somebody has to get control, for crying out loud. (And then I lose control.) Maybe the root of my problem isn’t voice lessons or a low boiling point, but the overwhelming need to make my children righteous right here and right now, on my own terms.

And that’s a generous speculation. The more probable scenario is that my kids are embarrassing or inconveniencing me past what I believe are my rights as a human being. (Translation: Selfish!) Throwing temper tantrums is unacceptable for kids and parents alike, but parents dress theirs up like dolls with frilly words. Well, at least I do. In a twist of irony, kids leave their pretend world for a moment to throw a tantrum, but adults (I) pretend to not actually be throwing a tantrum in the first place. We’re switching places, but we’re doing the same thing.

Last week I actually had the presence of mind to apologize to Drew for yelling. He looked at me with those brown beauties as if beholding something interesting and dangerous and unpredictable, and said sweetly, “It’s OK, Mommy.”

But it’s really not.

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