There was a moment a few months ago that haunts me still. Miss E and I were enjoying a play date with two friends and their dear little people when she decided she was quite through with the fruit pouch she’d been enjoying. Instead of setting it down or even dropping it someplace conspicuous enough for me to retrieve it, she screeched and shook it. All. Over.
Her name was on my lips in an instant; I was yelling. I was irritated that she was doing something she knows she’s not supposed to do, frustrated that she was making a mess and a challenging spectacle in front of our friends.
Of course, I immediately regretted it. I know yelling isn’t productive, that it’s just my gut reaction to feeling out of control. It doesn’t teach Miss E anything, and the excuse that it’s good for her to see me as human being who loses her temper, too, can only carry me so far. I was also embarrassed. I’d never seen our gracious host shout at her very spirited child, and here I was, feeling like a maniac when we were supposed to be having a pleasant afternoon.
I grew up in a house with a lot of yelling, so I knew this was going to be a challenge for me as a parent. Letting it all out is how I’ve learned to deal with my feelings. I’ve got a short fuse. My temper flares up and out in an instant, but it does flare. With a toddler whose language revolves mostly around animals and the foods she likes, we can’t always communicate. And when she’s tired, or hungry, or excited or just, you know, being a less-than-2-year-old, sometimes she’d rather howl or grunt or flail and it’s my job to keep it together.
But I can’t always. I don’t feel good about shouting at her. I don’t feel good about the late afternoons with an hour or more to go before her daddy comes home, when she’s clinging and whining and refuses to tell me what she needs and I look at her and say, “I don’t want to hear it.” I’m guilty of scooping her up from whatever misdeed she’s half-completed and carrying her to her comfortable, entertainment-rich and child-proofed room and shutting the door for three minutes while I cover my face with my hands and take as many deep breaths as I can manage.
I know I’m not always at my best. But I’m always trying.