Today, I was putting the kids to bed by myself. It’s the first time with a while as I’ve been struck really low with a flu type bug this week and hubby has been running around doing most of the childcare while I try and recover. But tonight is his work night out and he’s already missed some of it to help, so I was putting the kids to bed alone.
It started well, they were doing craft, they were calm, I was having five minutes peace (my first mistake, letting my eye of the game). Then they were playing up and I was telling them what to do from the next room and before long there was grumpy mummy trying to get tired kids to tidy up and they kept thinking of just one more angel that had to finish/rearrange and I kept trying to politely and firmly say no, it’s too late now and before long we were off upstairs and the little one was upset and crying that I wouldn’t let her rearrange the paper angels before bed.
But still, it was ok, I had one in pajama’s, one with teeth cleaned, it was swap over room/task time (it’s easier to get them doing different jobs in different places when they’re in this mood) and then there was a restart of a disagreement on who could wear a certain satin cloak and I tried to quell the discussion, to no avail. I just wanted to leave it until morning because I could see that there was going to be no compromise reached, because everyone was tired, just more upset and argument. But they were struggling to let it go. Before long, I was having a shouting match with my son in the bathroom. I just wanted him to stop, to leave the conversation, to clean his teeth and he kept ignoring all my social cues, my clearly stated cues and was fixating on the same conversation and I’d had enough, I was ill and cross and I was shouting at him and he was interrupting and the more he interrupted the more I shouted and the more I shouted the more he interrupted. I shouldn’t shout at him like that, I know this, but somehow I find myself doing it fairly regularly. I could blame the illness, it certainly didn’t help, but the truth is it happens when I’m not ill too.
I think we were about getting somewhere, calming down, I hope we were, I like to think we were, and the doorbell rang. I might have ignored it, but my daughter was downstairs getting a book and went to answer the door so I went too. I remember thinking “this better be good”. It was my neighbour, my next door neighbour, the one I don’t really know, who apologised for doing this but said the noise had woke her 1 year old up. I apologised, we went our ways and then I just wanted the ground to swallow me up. Oh the shame, the shame of being called out on shouting at your 8 year old so loud it wakes next doors baby up.
I got the kids in beds with books, I lay on my bed and I hated myself, detested myself, my mind swirled around in self pity.
Then, my daughter came through and asked why I wasn’t reading to her. So I read some of her magic pony book to her, and that helped a little. I took her back to bed and apologised to her for the shouting. She apologised for making me cross and I told her that I was a grown up and I shouldn’t shout like that. I sang her a song. Then I climbed up to her brothers bunk. I apologised to him too, told him that I shouldn’t shout like that, that I’m the grown up and I should do the right thing.
He told me that the shouting made him feel like he’d been a lot naughtier than he had. I tried to properly listen and acknowledge him. After all, he was right, he’d only been trying to talk about cloaks, I was cross because he wouldn’t stop, that’s not really a huge wrong.
He told me that “shouting doesn’t usually make things better (unless you’re far away and it’s needed for people to hear you) it usually make things worse”. I agreed with him. I asked him what I could do instead. He suggested that I punch a pillow, or do something amusing (as I’d been showing him how to punch pillows one day when he was in a rage, it wasn’t working well, but then I was silly and managed to get him giggling instead, see, sometimes I do it right).
Talking to him helped. But I still feel ashamed. And I should do. No-one should get into the habit of shouting at their kids. And I shouldn’t shout so loud I wake the neighbours baby. And I shouldn’t be ashamed of the neighbour having to tell me I woke her baby, I should be ashamed of treating my kids like that, that should stop me way before the neighbour has to, I wouldn’t let anyone else treat them like that.
But I can’t help but thinking what she must think of me (are we part of the reason they’re selling their house?) And how different I was when he was 1 (and I was 3 months pregnant). I didn’t shout at him then. I don’t think I shouted at him like that before we moved 2 years ago. Maybe I did. But it’s definitely got worse in the last 2 years. And it needs to stop, I need to stop.