Friday, September 4, 2015

Lessons at Bathtime

I am not a yeller. I don't yell at sporting events or concerts, on roller coasters, or in traffic at other drivers. I don't yell at friends across the room to get their attention. I don't even often holler for the dog to come. I didn't grow up with yelling or conflict. I don't remember my mom or dad ever once yelling at me and without exception, never at each other. Not one time.

So.... when this happened the other day, I was taken aback.

It went like this. I was trying to get the four year old and the just barely turned two year old through the bath and bedtime routine. The first step is getting to the bathroom. The second step is taking off clothes. I had the two year old in the tub and had asked the older one to get undressed approximately 1,682 times, calmly and nicely. Finely I yelled, "just do it!" at him. One look at his face and teary eyes and I knew I had made a mistake. Now don't get me wrong. Everyone loses their patience sometimes. I wasn't ridiculing him. We were all tired from a long day of work and play and no naps. Being pregnant makes me even more tired and I just wanted to lay down. I quickly apologized for raising my voice. I explained that was not the right thing for me to do and that I should have used my words in a nice way (this is something that we tell both boys to do regularly). His eyes welled up and his lip trembled and he said, "It cracks my heart open when you yell at me." And my mind flashed to an image that I had seen not long ago on social media.

I apologize for not knowing where this originally came from in order to give them credit for the photo.
This picture makes my stomach drop. That is exactly the look I got from my little boy and I hate that I made him feel that way. The only thing I can do now is try my best to maintain my patience and to remember this moment. To understand that he's four. He can follow instructions but he also gets distracted. He isn't doing it to be naughty, something else just catches his attention. This is a kid who likes to please, for better or for worse. He was in his own little Hot Wheel world and not in a hurry to get in the bathtub. He is also sensitive to emotions. He does not want people to be sad, or angry, or hurt and he takes every little thing personally, which we are working on slowly.

The next thing he said was, "momma, who did you yell at today?" My stomach dropped even further when I sat and thought to myself that the answer was "only you". I couldn't even answer him. That  question made me realize in a split second that I would never yell at a friend, coworker, patient, sibling, parent, my husband, or a stranger. I would never yell at them to "hurry up", "knock it off", or "pay attention".

So why would I do this to my child?

The answer is, I won't. I am certain that I won't resort to this again. It helps that it is not in my nature but it is not what I want them to learn. I don't want the boys yelling at each other or at their parents when they are upset. I don't want them to yell at their future wives or kids. I want them to begin to learn other techniques for dealing with stress, agitation, annoyance, frustration, and anger now.  That starts with me, with what they see and hear every day and their observations of how I dealt with issues. 

Parenting is certainly not easy and it doesn't come with a manual. Each day is a new lesson, both for the little boys and for their mom.