I yelled at Ben today. The usual explosion after getting fed up, after me having done all the “right” things to improve the situation. This is not a remarkable scenario; I can literally feel your parental empathy / boredom and knowing nods. What makes it noteworthy is that it’s kind of rare these days. Things between Ben and I were getting pretty fiery there for a while, me the flame, him the fuel. I 100% get that it’s hard being three, hard to share mothers/toys/life with a brother, hard to give up naps and still act civil. Maybe it was the convergence of these external factors and my own baggage stew, but for whatever reason I was hating my mothering of our eldest. I felt like a bully, a control freak and was getting a really toxic feeling after my fear-inducing vocals. I am not a passive parent. I have no intention of letting our kids live an ungrounded life without firm boundaries. But there had to be a better way. Our relationship was being eroded, my heart was being hardened and as you can imagine, that didn’t leave me oozing with love light.
So I engineered a kind of mini-revolution. It’s either a subtle shift of perspective, a commitment to action, or the single most important decision I’ve made as a parent. I feel like I have my boy back. I feel like a different version of me, even from two months ago. I took Ben’s earnest little face in my hands and told him I am committed to not yelling at him anymore, and that I hoped he would hold me to it. I credit a book called “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting” by Dr. Laura Markham. There are a lot of things to digest in that book, a lot to sift through the many layers of “what would others think”. For me, the book kicked me in the ass and said (in more gentle, eloquent words): Deal With Your Shit. Take a good look at the stink of it, at whatever crap is sticking to your boot. And then let it go, heal, move on. Whatever the cause, genes, past-life, current-life or upbringing, I brought a serious need to “control” to our family. I know I have many great mom qualities, so please don’t think this is a self-deprecation fest. But I could, and would, do better.
Long story short, the book gave me tools and ways to think about parenting that changed things pretty fast. Interestingly, though not surprisingly, the more gentle and present and connected I become with this stupendous kid, the better he behaves. The more I stop to really SEE him, to consider his perspective, the more I enjoy our time together. I don’t want to rule through fear of me or of punishment. I want him to find his internal motivation to act well. I will keep feeding him connection-rich time so that he feels safe and can learn to process his intense emotions. I know I’ve been living with a seriously cool kid (kids now), but I swear Ben is even cooler than I thought. My heart is much softer and open than it was; I notice it at work too. I’m not living in as much of my own fear anymore. Seems ridiculous now, being scared of my kids, being terrified of myself. Ridiculous, but real. I will leave you now with a recent quote of Ben’s:
Me: Ben, did you lose your your big-boy voice? Where is it?
Ben: It’s in my heart.
No kidding, son, no kidding.