I didn’t read the Tiger Mom book, just the WSJ article and then of course the huge media flap that followed. And as I’ve said before, I’m more of a Tigger Mom than a Tiger Mom – I sort of bounce around from place to place, and wish that we could all just hug it out on a regular basis. What I wonder is, does Tiger Mom yell a lot? All that sitting at the piano or working through the math problems or throwing out the inadequate birthday cards…was there yelling? Is yelling part of Tiger Mommying? Because if it is, then I maybe need to own my stripes.
I yell. I yell more than I ever thought I would, when my childless self would imagine myself as a mom. I yell and I hate that I yell and I try and try not to yell, and then there I am, yelling.
Tonight, after a longish bickerish day–Sunday of a long weekend, Husband traveling since last Tuesday, and it’s cold cold cold again–I yelled at Liam for grabbing the water glass away from his brother who needed to rinse the toothpaste out of his mouth. I didn’t yell because he grabbed, actually; I yelled because had Caleb done the same thing to Liam, Liam would’ve wanted him thrown to the wolves or at very least brought up on federal charges.
But actually, it doesn’t matter who did what to whom, now, does it? Isn’t that exactly what I tell the boys? That I don’t really care who started it (unless we’re dealing with bleeding from the head or the loss of the proverbial eye, but thus far, knock wood, that hasn’t happened. Of course, we have an entire week of vacation to look forward to). I tell them that what matters is how they choose to respond, that they are in charge of their own behavior and…
blaaah. I imagine that in their minds, I sound like the grownups on the old “Charlie Brown” cartoons: “wanh-wanh-whanh-whawhawha.” And besides, if I can’t take my own advice, why on earth should they?
Liam complains that he’s trying to control his reactions to his brother’s teasing, and I suppose that he is, despite his protestations of mortal injury due to the fact that his brother is breathing on him: “maaaaaaam, he’s being so aggravating, he’s just… god,” complete with a hand flick and eye-roll that are worthy of characters in a Verdi opera.
I’ve been trying too, really I have, and so I sympathize with my older son more deeply than he will ever know. Because of course, no one ever sees you trying. They see only the lapses. And I know, as I’m sure Liam does, the insidious pleasure that worms inside a moment of yelling, a tiny little moment where it feels so good to let go, to just give in to the angry feeling.
“STOP IT! HOW CAN YOU BEHAVE LIKE THIS!” is a lot easier, in a way than “Okay, guys, come on, let’s figure out something else to do, Caleb stop poking your brother, c’mon over here and let’s build a lego castle together.” Or rather, it’s easy to find that alterna-voice the first ten times but on the eleventh? or the fifteenth?
Don’t get me wrong – despite the “let’s build a lego castle,” I don’t want to be my kids’ best friend; I’m their mom, not their buddy, and I don’t need to be interested in every little thing they do. Nor am I particularly invested in the boys being the prize-winning pigs at the state fair–prizes are nice and shiny and all, but what I really want is for them to learn how to be friends. A little bickering is okay but I don’t want to live in a family of yellers. (Let me make the inevitable pun for you: that now, at 47, I am an old yeller.)
Yelling bring bad karma, it makes us all tense, it creates negative energy–none of which I want in our lives, if I can help it. I mean, we already live in New York, so all that stuff is waiting for us right outside the door. Why create it inside, too?
I wish I had some grand resolution here, some vow that I could make about just saying no to yelling or something like that, but I’m not sure I can. All I can do is dredge out the standard issue one-day-at-time thing: I won’t yell tomorrow. I can do anything for a day, right?
That sound you’ll be hearing from our apartment tomorrow? That’ll be the sound of me, not yelling.