I screamed at my girls yesterday. And I mean SCREAMED.
They had only been in the same room for about 4 minutes…it wasn’t like a day of slow built frustration that came out in a booming holler. Nope. Presley had spent the night with Chris and Riley with me. We try and do one-on-one nights with them from time to time when it’s apparent that one (a-hem *usually* Presley) needs it. Their irritation of each other was immediate and my lack of patience for it well…you read the first line. Somewhere in the space of four minutes I lost my mind or they found my trigger…the octave indicated both. “GIRRRRRRRLLLLLLLS” I screamed from the kitchen as I turned towards the living room to face them. We all froze. All three of us. Frozen. Like Elsa in that scene…we were solid. I moved first…towards them. I wish I could say like Anna I wrapped them up, my love melting away the fear that mean mommy had just induced. But no. I scolded. “Girls…come ON. I just can’t. Presley you have GOT to stop trying to upset her…you know what you’re doing…you KNOW jusssst how to push her buttons. What is the point? Just PLAY. And Riley…you HAAVVVVEEEE to stop being so sensitive…just ignore her. You KNOW she’s just trying to make you mad….MOVE ON. I can’t do this with you girls…PLEASE….just play. Just GET along.” Blah, blah, blah, I rambled on.
Presley moved first…it was love that caused it but not any she felt from me…girl was radiating it out my direction. “Ok Mom, it’s ok” she stated with the confident calm in which a therapist would deliver those very same words. Her eyes wide like windows…focused on mine, forearms parallel to the floor she motioned her flat palms downward…not only calming me with her tone but using physical movements for added effect. Riley was still frozen…I don’t think she realized my voice got that loud. Shaking I hastily replied “No Pres, it’s not ok…this is NOT ok…clearly I am NOT ok.” Yup that was my response…again I’d love to say her sweet words and loving body language snapped me out it immediately and sent me falling to the floor in apology and cuddles. Nope. “Pres I just can’t.” I’d said it again…”I can’t” What does that even mean? Can’t what exactly, McDonald?…referee a mild dispute between your children? You “can’t” do that? Really? But the thing is…I couldn’t. In that moment. I couldn’t. I screamed at them for something that only required me to sit my bum on the floor between them and in an upbeat tone go “Change of plans ladies…” or I could have shouted “Tickle FIIGHHHHTTT” and darted their direction, or I could have said “Hey Google…play Greatest Showman” or I could’ve I don’t know…done anything OTHER than scream the word “GIRLS” at them like a full blown lunatic and then follow it up with a lame lecture that highlighted my shortcomings not their misbehaviors.
“I need you guys to just go to your rooms and watch a show for a bit.” I said it as nicely as possible so that they would know they weren’t “in trouble”…I was the one in trouble. I needed a minute. I needed to get rid of the demon inhabiting my being…that’s honestly what it felt like…I know better…I mean KNOW better than to act that way…even the deafening of my shout couldn’t silence the right minded voice in me sadly pleading with myself to stop…the part of me actually saying the exact words Presley used “Ok, it’s ok.” But neither my inner voice or my eldest daughters could make me believe them. I wasn’t ok. I had just screamed at my children and I clearly wasn’t “ok” before or that wouldn’t have happened. But why wasn’t I ok? What in THAT moment made me lose it? I don’t even remember what they were bickering about…honestly I don’t even think I was aware of the content or context at the time…they could have been playing a game of “house” and the argument ensuing fully pretend…a part of their storyline. Crap. I hadn’t thought of that until just now…it’s entirely possible I screamed at them for playing. This is great. Just great. I sat down at the table. Shaking. “Pull it together McDonald”. More shaking. I felt so defeated. I thought of how I would feel if I heard someone else speak to their kids that way. I felt sick. I thought about all the times I’d been called “an amazing mother” and felt even sicker. The shame gremlins came in HOT…”What’s wrong with you?”, “Do you have a pretty picture to go along with that moment? Huh?”, “Was that some of your famous “light in the dark” BS”, “Yelling huh, that’s your plan?…you’re an idiot.”…it went on and on and ON. And on. Guilt and anxiety and anger and fear…I was being pummeled from every angle. Then came the realization that I had to face them…not just leave them in their rooms with YouTube for the remainder of oh I don’t know…forever. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t face them. Not because I was so sorry for what I’d done but because I was so frazzled that I couldn’t know for sure I wouldn’t do it again. I could feel the angst rising in my throat like acid reflux…taunting the threat of more heated words. I closed my eyes and tried doing “breath of fire”…yeah that’s a thing and if you feel inclined to judge then add it to the list of all the other reasons I’ve just given you. I felt like Maleficent so I leaned into it…”you wanna act like a dragon…breathe like one.” Like Tums for emotional reflux…fast acting relief but in my case a bandaid for a deeper issue. I sat there for another few moments, trying not to move…afraid to wake the beast inside again but knowing there was both dinner and apologies to be made. The anxiety was gone but the shame…so. damn. heavy. “Really? Breath work to be a decent human? You need that huh?”, “Where do you think Presley gets her nasty tone from…could it be YOU?”, “You just screamed at your sick kid.”, “Everyone thinks oh Alissa, she handles everything sooooo well…meanwhile you’re screaming at your children for playing.”, “Go on ahead and pretend you’ve got it together, good story.” “Why don’t you write THAT little ditty and post it on the internet?” FINE…I WILL. That right minded voice in my head shot back. FINE…I WILL. I will? Yeah. I will. With that it was gone, shame shut up and I got up.
The weight of it wasn’t fully lifted but I had a better grasp that made carrying it possible. I apologized, I made dinner and drew baths. We went about our evening and all was well. We didn’t have a totally blissful rest of the eve, there were still tantrums (theirs this time not mine) but there was no more screaming. No more shaming. Neither me at them or me at myself. I hesitated to make good on my “FINE…I WILL” promise but here I am…telling this little ditty because I know I’m not alone and I need shame (mine and yours) to know that as well.
**This morning while deep in Play Doh playtime…
”Hey Riley…what did I look like when I lost it and yelled like a crayyyyyzzzzzy person yesterday?”
She giggled and then“RAAAAAWWWWRRRRRRR”.
Click. Take that shame…I even got a sorta pretty picture to go with it.