I never thought of myself as a yeller.
In my adult relationships shouting is not part of what I do. I like to avoid conflict. And if it arises I usually resolve it in a mature, adult and intellectual way. By talking.
Or by getting sulky and passive-aggressive. You know, whatever.
But there is nothing like parenthood to bring out the shout. Man alive, can my kids make me yell.
They don’t of course. It is only and always me that makes me yell. Or that allows myself to yell.
It’s not their fault and they don’t deserve it. And if there is anything worse than the awful feelings I have when I’m shouty, it’s the terrible, horrible feeling of guilt I have after the anger subsides.
I never, ever have felt good about yelling. Even when it has yielded the desired behavioral result.
And I always resolve not to do it again, but then I find myself in a situation where the kids are running rings around me and NOT LISTENING and I feel my blood pressure rise, my jaw tense and I can feel the yell build up inside me seconds before it erupts.
(And this is precisely when I need to stop. To be mindful and to stop.)
The stupid thing is that it doesn’t scare anyone. The kids don’t care. Only on the rarest of occasion when I have really lost my shit have I shouted the kids into spontaneous simultaneous submission.
Normally though they just get angrier and more defiant than they were in the first place.
It really is futile, the shouting. Only worse than futile because it does have a negative impact. It makes me feel horrible and it teaches the kids not only that their mother is a shouty nightmare, but that it’s ok to shout. That yelling is an appropriate response to frustration, or to not getting what we want.
So I resolve again not to yell. And this time I have a tactic to help me do it – eye contact. It is so hard to stay angry at my babies when I am looking into their eyes. It’s so easy to see how little they are, how vulnerable, how beautiful.
And it’s interesting that often I am not looking at them when I’m angry, not really looking. Anger is such an intense emotion that it can be very consuming and can make it difficult to focus on anything other than my own feelings in that moment.
But if I can be present enough to remember to stop and look into the eyes of my children, this act alone can be enough to diffuse the situation. To slow things down, to break the circuit.
It can remind me that I do not want to yell, that they do not need me to yell and that often the situation really, just isn’t as bad as I am making it in my head.
It’s all in the eyes.