Recently I’d noticed I had been slipping into a very bad habit, one that just didn’t sit right with me. The habit I’m talking about is yelling.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know that a healthy amount of yelling and parenting generally go hand in hand, but you know the saying that goes “I yell so loudly the next door neighbours are brushing their teeth and putting their shoes on” well I was living that every day.
And the thing was, my kids still weren’t listening.
Something had to give.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and after a lazy day of doing whatever we wanted, i.e. kids trashing one room at a time, I could feel the tension in my body rising. I was irritated that I would be the one that would be cleaning the house at the end of the night. I was annoyed that I seemed to be the only one who could see the mess. I was deflated that the clutter never seemed to clear.
I took a deep breathe and prepared to raise my voice, yet again.
But then a strange thing happened. Instead of yelling, a thought popped into my head, and the result was utter relief.
“Will this matter in five years?”
It was a thought so random it made me stop in my tracks.
“Will this mess and clutter and disorganisation REALLY matter in five years?”
The answer was clear. No. It wouldn’t.
Yes it is important to teach my children to clean up after themselves and be responsible for packing up. But me becoming so irate about the mess would do nothing, for anybody.
The thought was a revelation. And I started to think, what if I applied this rule to every situation where I felt like yelling?
I decided to give it a try. One week, where instead of yelling and screaming at my children, I would stop and think “will this matter in five years?”
My first test came Monday morning. I awoke to the sound of the kids fighting in their room. Angus and Eddie were whinging about something or nothing, just the usual squabble about stuff. This is usually something that really aggravates me, the daily fights about everything and anything, but I decided to take my new approach. I got out of bed and ignored the fight, instead making breakfast, for myself. When they finally realised what was going on they stopped and asked where their food was. I told them I would make it once I’d eaten my own breakfast, which they began to protest, so I explained to them that if they were going to start their day fighting then they’d have to wait for their food. They were silent. And I was too, as I gulped down a hot tea and porridge.
Tuesday didn’t go as smoothly. I hadn’t slept well and was annoyed when Eddie woke me during the night repeatedly. I tried to remember my mantra, but it was hard. I yelled. I yelled because no one was getting dressed and ready for school drop off.
I also yelled about them slamming the door and leaving toothpaste all over the bathroom sink.
But instead of letting that dictate how the rest of the day would pan out, I turned it around. Reminding myself that the slow and frustrating start to the day wouldn’t really matter in five years, would it?
Wednesday was a success and on Thursday, when the two younger boys decided to turn the living room into an underground bunker right before a friend came over for a coffee, I resisted the urge to rage clean, and took a deep breath and reminded myself, that in five years I will probably be pining for the days of this creative clutter.
The mantra set the tone for the week, and by Friday I decided we’d have sausage rolls for dinner, much to the kids delight, and by taking the pressure off, I felt liberated.
Now I’m not naive, I know that there are a lot of things this mantra won’t apply to. Lack of respect, violence, acting dangerously, are all things I take seriously, and are all things that will matter VERY much in five years time.
But what I have learned in my week of no yelling, is that taking time to pause, gave me an opportunity to think about a better way of reacting.
And the result? Well I know I have enjoyed parenting much more this week. My mum guilt has lowered, my kids seem happier, and my throat is less hoarse!
So my plan is to continue this for as long as it continues to work for me. Because I don’t want to look back, and think, why did I worry and rant and rave about all of those silly little things, that just don’t matter.