Our daughter Stefanie has three live-wire boys ages 6, 4, and 2. She’s a terrific mom and knows lots of cool stuff about child-rearing (which she also has a degree in). For example, she knows if she can get the boys to articulate what they’re feeling, often she can diffuse intense situations without full-blown squabbles. When she sees they’re pert near ready to pop their cork she tells them, “Use your words!”
I wish someone had taught me that when I was young. Heck! I wish someone had taught my mom that when she was young. Mom had quite the temper, and instead of telling you what she felt, what she was upset about, she’d just light into a tirade.
You know that old poem about children learning what they live? I believe it’s true more often than not. And I carried that kind of parenting into my own life and family. But there came a day I was faced with the short-tempered shrew I was becoming, and I decided I didn’t want to be that way with my kids.
We were in the process of adopting Stef and had flown to Portland, Oregon to meet her plane from India. We went a day early so we could rent a car and take our 10-year-old son Brandon to Seattle to see a Mariners’ baseball game. All three of us were on edge not knowing what to expect. All we knew was our whole life was about to change.
The tension built, and after the game, which we sat through in kind of a drizzle, Bran dragged a ton of mud on his shoes into the back seat of the car. It was a horrible mess. We had only been able to find parking in a vacant lot. I was horrified knowing we’d probably have to pay extra to have the carpet cleaned, and in that moment all my anxiety was released on my son. I was so angry I just lost it. Lordy! You’d have thought he’d committed a crime or something. It’s a awful thing to yell at a 10-year-old so much that you have him in tears…
On the way back to Portland both he and Drollery were silent, and I sank deeper and deeper into a pit of shame as I realized it was just mud! And Bran was just a normal kid. And he was as anxious as Drollery and I were about meeting Stef. Maybe even more so. After all, he wasn’t going to be the absolute center of our world anymore.
I made a decision in the car that day that I didn’t want to be like my mother had been with my brother, sister, and me. It took a while for me to change that behavior, but eventually I rid myself of that short fuse and hurtful words on the tip of my tongue. Oh, I have words alright, but I choose them more carefully now and I seldom shout them. There are still times, of course, when I get angry. After all, I’m only human. But those times are few and far between. I’ve learned you need to be careful about what you say (and how) because words can be the deadliest weapons we have. They can also, however, be a blessing.
Picture Credit: thecouponproject.com