When I grew up in the 70’s, we got spanked. This wasn’t shocking. Everyone got spanked. In fact, if you didn’t get spanked, it was understood that you were the product of liberal hippies and chances are your mother didn’t wear a bra and your lunch contained natural peanut butter.
Believe me, I didn’t like it. In fact, I hated my parents for it. I was embarrassed, humiliated and emotionally scarred by the experience. So much so that I vowed, like the millions of other parents who grew up in my generation, that I would never strike my own children. And I don’t. Not ever. For any reason.
But BOY, can I yell - and I don’t just mean in bed. I yell at my kids all of the time. I’m not sure if it’s any better than my parent’s more “hands-on” approach, but it’s certainly effective.
I don’t want to yell. In fact, I start each day with the notion that I’m not going to yell…ever again. I’m going to be “easy-going” and “keep my cool” and impress upon my children that their mother is peaceful, serene and just.
But inevitably, after being with my three children through 20 minutes of wrangling, dressing, brushing, serving, feeding, making lunch, bagging snacks, finding library books and locating their backpacks, my patience begins to wear thin. “I am asking you again, could you please pick up your plate and brush your teeth?!” “Why didn’t you tell me I had to fill this out last night! “, “You need a diorama of the polar ice cap TODAY?!”
I know what you’re thinking. “This is your fault. If you prepared your children the night before and left a little extra time in the morning for “breathing room,” you and your children wouldn’t feel so stressed out and you wouldn’t need to yell.”
Let me tell you. I’ve tried this. I’ve spent the half hour before bed laying out clothes, making lunches “to order”, placing homework inside of backpacks by the front door – and it does makes things easier. But it does not solve the problem. “The problem” being the three children who decide they want something for lunch other than what I packed the night before, or that they’re hot and need to wear a different shirt, or that they want their hair in braids, or a different lunch box, another muffin, the “good” syrup, more milk, less milk, no milk, or maybe even a pony – all before they go to school.
I smile for as long as I can, forcing the edges of my mouth upwards through the tensing muscles that want to make all things on my face furrow and frown. I use breathing techniques I learned in birthing class and I say things like “It doesn’t look like we have time for braids today. I’ll braid your hair tomorrow.” And “We don’t have anymore of that syrup. Why don’t you try the Mrs. Buttersworth.” and “I’d love a pony too, but it’s just not going to happen today. Come on, we really have to go.”
And they’ll ignore me. The clock will be ticking and they just keep right on arguing with me about braids, shirts, and ponies. “You guys? Could you please put your lunches in your backpacks and put on your sneakers? Seriously. We’re going to be late for school if we don’t leave right now!”
And they continue to ignore me. And the clock is still ticking. And then I’ll catch one of them watching me out of the corner of their eye to see just how close Vesuvius is to eruption, and they’ll smirk - and that’s when it happens.
“YOU GUYS AREN’T LISTENING TO ME!!!! I’M LEAVING WITHOUT YOU RIGHT NOW!!!!!!” Of course I wouldn’t, but a mom can dream.
And THAT’S when they line up. They grumble and moan and say things like “Mom’s in a bad mood…again.” Nice.
So many magazines and books espouse the idea that talking to your children quietly, reasoning with them, addressing whatever issues they have in a calm tone, will help you raise happy, well-adjusted children. I think if you stick to those rules, your children will happily live in your home until you stop making their lunch to order…or you die. Whichever comes first.
So, it looks like my kids are going to grow up thinking their mother is a banchee. But I think I can live with that.
Just as long as I’m not still making them lunch.