Friday, March 29, 2013

My Orange Rhino Project

I read something online the other day that struck a nerve with me.  It was written by a woman who has four boys under the age of five. I assumed that it would be the typical MY KIDS ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY BUT AT LEAST I HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR ABOUT IT post that I usually read  to reaffirm that I'm not the only one who thinks this parenting crap is hard.  I'm attracted to those types of posts because... hey, I feel you!!.  And if you can get through it and keep your sense of humor intact, maybe I can learn something from you.  Lord knows, that's one of the only things I use the internet for these days.  Well, that and Words With Friends.  And to research how to get my 2-year-old to poop like a normal human being again. 

But this was different.  The title of the article is what drew me in:  10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling At My KidsCards on the table, my immediate thought was that she probably learned that she needed more wine and maybe a massage.  Anyway, in the article, the author describes her utter mortification when a handyman working in her home heard her go off on her boys in a way that only a mama with four boys under the age of five could do.  And how at that moment, she decided she would go an entire year of not yelling at her kids. 

I know, right?  Four boys? I've got two girls and if I can go a day without yelling at them, I'm all:  "Dude, this parenting crap is CAKE. Speaking of cake, pass the cake, please!  I deserve a reward"

An entire year? That's madness... and a ticket straight to the asylum.  Or at the very least, the bar.

But, as I started reading, I saw in her writing so much of what I'm doing right now when I am "communicating" with my children.  And it hit home just how much I whiff as a mother every. single. day with these girls... in ways that I haven't even realized.  I'm human... I know I'm fallible and I fully admit that there are moments that are a swing and a miss.  Where I see the ball coming and take my eye off of it for a split second and boom... strike zone.  But I'm talking about looking beyond those moments... and instead look at the whiffs I haven't even considered. And when I thought about that?  I punched myself in the eyeball for being a complete and utter idiot about, you know... life in general.

I'm really trying not to be one of those mothers who laments how hard it is to work outside the home... I am well aware that stay-at-homers have it just as tough... and we all make our choices and yada yada yada. But, you guys... getting the kids out of the house, into the car, out of the car, into school, up the stairs, checked in and then dropped off in their classroom each day without losing my mind takes a freakin' act of God.  First off, The Bean can't decide if she wants me to pick her up, or put her down, or pick her up, or put her down, or pick her up, or put her down.  But she does know that if you decide on which one it will be, SHE DEFINITELY WANTS THE OTHER ONE.

While The Bird adds to the situation by questioning every single thing you say.

"Hazel, please put your shoes and jacket back on, and go get in the car."
"Because we're late."
"Because you took your shoes and jacket off while I was busy playing charades with Millie.  Let's go!"
"Because I asked you to.  Nicely."
"But whyyyyy did you ask me to nicely?

And so it goes until Mommy just can't take it anymore and turns into the Mommy she swore she'd never be.  The one that yells at her children because they're being... children. 

It is with this background that I read the Yelling post.  The author refers to herself and to the project as The Orange Rhino.  Orange to remind herself to be mellow and more warm... and not ferocious (which would clearly be a Red Ostrich). And Rhino because rhinos charge with their horn, and she was charging with her words.  She was aggressive.  She was loud.  And she was scary.

She was... me.  

You know, sometimes you have epiphanies reminiscent of a light going on over Wile E. Coyote's head when he has a really good idea. It's a nice fuzzy feeling that comes over you... slowly so as not to startle you... and you're all:  "Hey!  Ice cream for dinner!  Yay!"

Other times, that epiphany is a grand piano falling from the sky, landing on you... when you thought you had everything figured out. It comes hard and fast.  And there's no escaping it.  And you end up bruised, battered... and probably with a mouthful of piano keys.

But if you're open to it, it is life-changing.  That's what the Orange Rhino was to me. 

Bottom-line?  I have yelled at my kids too much.  And it has always bothered me.  It's bothered me because I've been yelled at a lot in my life, from many different people... and I can honestly say that yelling never made things better for me.  It always made me feel bad about myself.  It always made me question myself.  Yelling at my kids has never made things better for anyone.  What... they're crying and so I'm going to yell at them to stop crying and expect it to happen?  Because I used my Mom Voice?  Madness.

I've heard it said that you emulate those traits that you despise most in others.  And I'll be damned if I wasn't becoming what I loathed:  A Yeller.  Even worse... A Yeller At Kids.

And that's just where I was until I read about the Orange Rhino.  

Without even making the life-changing statement of: I'm not going to yell at my kids for an entire year... well, I've stopped yelling at my kids.  I have gotten angry when the nonsensical drama occurs every 36 seconds, sure.  But it hasn't resulted in yelling.  It's resulted in me leaving the room a few times to gather my thoughts... it's resulted in hugs rather than screams... and it's resulted it me truly listening to the girls, and their knowing that I'm truly listening to them.  That?  THAT'S HUGE. 

Last night, after a particularly horrendous five minutes where both girls were screaming and crying because one of them hadn't napped well and the other one was just being three, they both got to snuggle on my lap while I read them bedtime stories.  Had I blown up at them as I was tempted to do because I'd had an awful day and I was tired and sick of the whining/crying, I never would have experienced the joy that was holding my two little girls while reading Where The Wild Things Are along with them and listening to them roaring their terrible roars, gnashing their terrible teeth, rolling their terrible eyes and showing their terrible claws.  I never would have experienced the giggles and kisses and pure sweetness of having both girls lay their heads on my shoulders as I read them Oh The Thinks You Can Think! and help them trace the tail of a zong through the pages to determine just how long its tail was.

I would have missed it all because it would have been tainted.  I would have been upset at myself for yelling.  I would have been upset at them for making me yell at them.  (Mommy-logic) It wouldn't have been a legitimate story time and cuddle session with them.  It would have been a make-up for yelling at them... and we would have missed out on a memory that I'll always treasure.  

And kids, they can sense stuff.  They can sense when you're open for those moments... and when you're not.  And they feed off of that.  So even if all of the tears had been wiped away and the sorrys been divvied out - as has been our custom - I know I wouldn't have been open.  And they wouldn't have been either.  It would have been an opportunity missed.  Instead, we created a memory for us all of quiet time together with no yelling or crying... just giggles, kisses and peace.   

It has only taken me three days of being an Orange Rhino to see a change in myself.  I can't believe that it's taken me this long to figure out that I was what I swore I would never be... a yeller.  And that it took me this long to figure out that yelling never helps the situation.  It never fixes the problem... it may cover it up like a scab on a wound, but it doesn't fix it.

And I will forever be indebted to this woman - this stranger - who gave me a tool that I didn't even know existed.  I will consider my parenting a success if my girls don't have to have this similar epiphany when they have kids of their own. 

And to ensure that happens, Orange Rhino will be on the clock.

Three days and counting.


Pamela said...

This is awesome. The biggest regret I have as a parent is that I yelled at my kids. I really wish I could have just held on, told them to sit very still and be very quiet while Mommy pulled herself together (which, when I did it scared the shit out of them) and calmed down. You are way ahead of the curve.

The other regret is that I spent too much time on my computer that I could have spent with them but I have to let that go because I worked at home and I work on a computer.

Anyhow - yay! What a lucky find that Orange Rhino thing was and please, please, please do not berate yourself as a parent. Even at your worst you rock the house at parenting. Seriously. Look around you at all the parents paying no attention to their mouthy, mannerless kids. You're doing great.

emily ballard said...

I love, love, love this.

The Orange Rhino said...

I stumbled upon this post tonight. Reading this was the greatest gift you could give a stranger. I had an awful day. An I want to quit and it doesn't matter day. You just reminded me it does. Thank you. And congratulations to you :)