My Name is Jean Marie, and I’m the Yelling Mom by Jean Marie Keenan-Johnston
I was sitting here in my living room, legs propped up, blanket draped over my lower body, trying desperately to find a comfortable position on the couch while I tried to figure out what to blog about this evening. My recent efforts to post have been sparse…there just aren’t enough hours in a day to get everything done, especially when your health puts you behind the eight ball and you feel like the clutter is piling higher and higher around you, the laundry could walk its way out the door it’s sat there for so long, and calendar is laughing at you, mocking you with dares to just try to keep up with everything red-inked on it. Ideas don’t come to mind that easily when your mind is trying to manage all a busy life is throwing at you.
All this swirled through my head until those words came out of my mouth…”GET BACK TO BED!!!!!” It’s nearly 11 p.m. and it’s possibly the third time…or fourth? that I’ve had to yell to my girls to get to bed. What used to feel like “one of those days” seems to be more the norm the past few months. And so as I sit here I feel like I should be in the middle of some twelve-step program for stressed, out-of-control parents, standing at the front of the group introducing myself, “Hello, my name is Jean Marie, and I’m a mother who yells.” I’m actually a lot more than that…these days I feel like the mother who yells A LOT. “Clean up your mess!” “Who was the one to sneak candy from the kitchen?” “Who left all this water all over the bathroom floor?” “WHY CAN’T YOU LISTEN AND FOLLOW DIRECTIONS!?!?!” All direct quotes from my mouth over the course of the past few months…all times when this mama felt like she was grasping at straws, seeking answers about how to get back the control she used to have. All moments when I reminded myself over and over and over how much I loved these awesome kids, how badly I wanted these babies in my life, and that some day I would find a way to reach them again and get back the harmony we used to have in our home.
I never used to be this way. I amazed parents whose children I babysat. They were never able to understand how I could handle the endless screaming of a child who insists on having Mommy and Daddy stay home rather than head out to date night. My toughest night may have been the night I babysat my cousin’s children. The oldest was a breeze and the youngest was too young to know what was going on, but boy, was the middle child a handful as she screamed and screamed refusing to leave the vicinity of the door they walked out when they left earlier that evening. “Why didn’t you call us to come home?” my cousin and her husband asked when they returned a few hours later. “Why?” I responded. She wasn’t sick, she wasn’t hurting. It turned out that she did calm down after a bit only to scream louder again when I approached her. So I kept my eye on her, gave her the space she needed, and did what I had to do so I could keep the other children calm and happy. There wasn’t one single moment when I lost my cool.
Travel in time a little over a decade later, and I find myself in a middle school classroom. Whether it was those days with adolescents or earlier in my teaching career when I taught Kindergarten, I still for the most part was a calm authority figure. Sure, I would have moments of stress, but I was never the teacher who screamed at her class. I have always prided myself on the fact that I had some pretty difficult students to contend with, the type that many teachers before or after me sadly gave up on, and each and every one eventually turned themselves around to be students I could be proud of, students who once were trouble-makers and were now doing what was expected of them. I was as proud of myself for keeping it together through all of their goofing off as I was proud of them for their new found hard work and determination in my class.
Now years later, a mother of two instead of a teacher of many, I’m not feeling so cool under pressure. I used to joke that my youngest should have been a boy…her cute little impish grin bringing joy to my life as I dealt with her occasional moments of poor judgment getting her into trouble. I used to brag about what a great helper my oldest was…my second-in-command on the days fibromyalgia made getting around nearly impossible in the morning. This child was more a helper than a headache. I miss those days. Lately I feel like I’m constantly redirecting and reminding. And that redirecting and reminding turns into repeating and more repeating, directions given two, three or even four times before little ears process and decide to act. When that doesn’t work, next come threats, reminders that privileges are just that, a privilege they can lose rather than a right. At this point, I’m getting tired of hearing my own voice, and I’m still not getting the cooperation I need. Finally, it comes…the yelling. The feeling that nobody is listening to me and I must do whatever is needed to make them listen…my voice is raised, my temper is elevated, and I’m yelling at my children. I’m that woman I never wanted to be.
I thought I was well aware of the fact that this needs to change. I thought I had it all figured out that I need to find a way, any other way, to reach my children more successfully than I have until now. My current theory is now that my children have gotten used to the fact that Mommy’s fibromyalgia makes her a bit “weak” despite her attempts to discipline as if nothing is wrong with her. I know my children are intelligent beings, so it’s wouldn’t surprise me if this was something they were capable of. But if I’m so aware of how much this needs to change, why am I blogging about it? Do I feel the need to not feel alone? Do I have a full understanding of just what needs to happen to correct this, OR am I instead using this blog as a way to sort it all out and figure what my next move should be? I don’t think when I finish this post in the next sentence or two that those answers will reveal themselves. Maybe I’m just so stressed about the fact that I AM stressed to the point where I yell to get them to cooperate that I felt the need to share my life as a parent these past weeks so some other mother can look and say to herself, “Oh yeah! I do that too!” Maybe somebody will share some new discipline technique they stumbled upon that will be the answer to all my Discipline Hell prayers? Either way, no matter what the incentive, I’m hoping sometime soon I can share with everyone here that I’ve found my answers…that my girls and I have found harmony through finding ways to work as a more cohesive threesome. Until that day comes, I’ll be reminding myself to breathe through all the testing of my patience they still have up their sleeves and working hard to “catch them being good” for all our sakes! And when the Three Muskateers are truly back, well…that will be a day I’ll celebrate!