I never used to be a yeller. I don’t remember ever really having to shout at Amy when she was a toddler. Of course I raised my voice at her if she was doing something dangerous or she wasn’t paying attention, but I never really shouted. I don’t remember shouting in anger. I don’t really know what has changed over the last year, a younger sister who doesn’t listen, a laptop, less sleep. A combination of things mean I am quicker to yell than I ever have been.
Its a horrible feeling that Kate described so perfectly, I quote “It doesn’t have to be something major to set me off and in the beginning it feels quite good to yell. It feels good to let it out. It feels like this is the only way I can get my message across, the only way I can regain some control. When I begin shouting I feel powerful and totally justified.”
This is almost exactly how I feel when I shout. Both children look at me and my raised voice has their attention for that brief moment and then the connection is lost and all they hear is my VOICE not my intention, which isn’t to scare them, just to stop them from doing whatever it is they are busy with.
Of course a side-effect of me shouting is that I now get ino shouting matches with my five year old. I raise my voice, she raises hers, I raise mine higher to denote my status, she raises hers higher to indicate her complete denial of my status. Its not pretty. I am not proud. I know what my triggers are. When I am tired, or its the end of a long day, especially when it comes to food and meal times. Amy has a knack for asking me for something really important to her, when I have just finished washing up, wiping down the kitchen and have sat down with my cup of tea.
Its times like that when I can’t understand why I would shout at her? She is not deliberately waiting for me to sit down, she is a child, her intentions are purely in the moment and not derived from a power struggle or a place of manipulation. And yet what lessons I am teaching her, when someone won’t listen to you, SHOUT. When you can’t get your point across, SHOUT. This is not how I behave in my adult life, why is it becoming a pattern of behaviour in my parenting life?
Last night I couldn’t sleep. Ron was out at a stag-do (bucks night) and I had slept in that morning and just didn’t feel like going to bed. I sat up and watched an episode of Oprah from her last season, the premise of the show was something along the lines of “Greatest moments” and there was one segment that absolutely struck a chord with me. Call it an Oprah, aha moment if you will! Oprah was sitting down with renowned author Toni Morrison who was asking all parents if their faces light up when their children enter the room? She went on to describe how when her children were little and they came into the room, she would look at them with a parent’s critical eye, are their trousers done up, are they dressed warmly enough? Thinking that your children can see the deep love you have for them is not enough, instead of seeing those emotions reflected on your face, they see your critical face. Toni urged parents to let your face show what is in your heart and so when your child walks into the room, or comes to show you something, show them those real feelings in your eyes and in your smile.
So today after I started the morning shouting at Amy for something so trivial and insignificant and then felt so dreadful and guilty afterwards, I knew something needed to change. And you know what, looking up and smiling at her when she calls me or asks me something makes her face light up and there is honestly nothing quite so heartwarming as making your child smile with joy just by looking at them, don’t you agree?