November 15, 2007

Lightning

I'm going to tell you how I totally sucked as a mother and as a human being this morning, and then I'm going to tell you how I handled it afterward. And some of you are going to be like, "Oh, I am so relieved I'm not the only one who sucks!" or "I've never done that myself, but it's good to know that the world wouldn't end if I did."

But some of you are going to be like, "Dude, I guess you get points for fixing it rather than, like, thinking you did nothing wrong or pretending it didn't happen--but you still really really suck, and I hope you don't think that knowing how to glue things back together cancels out the part where you broke it." And I'm going to be all, "Dude! I KNOW! I totally suck sometimes!" What I try to work on is (1) reducing how often my suckiness presents itself, (2) reducing the severity of the attacks I fail to prevent, and (3) finding ways to handle things so that we don't have to get a third mortgage to pay for the kids' psychiatric bills.

I get frustrated very, very easily. And when I'm frustrated, I'm FURIOUS. This morning I was frustrated with the children: I'd been working all morning on THEIR routines, and I finally took my TEN MINUTES to take a shower, and it was "Mommy, Rob hit me TEN TIMES and he's doing that voice he KNOWS I hate!" and "Mommy, William sat in the baby swing and it made a CRUNCH noise," and lots of crazy laughter and giddiness and the jarring irregular banging sound of toys being thrown down the stairs, and a toddler screaming and a baby fussing, and I couldn't quite hear the older-kid reports/tattles over the shower/fan and had to keep asking for repeats.

As I dried off, I could hear part of my brain advising me that this was a good time to go to another room and calm down, but I couldn't take the time to do that because we needed to be at the bus stop in 20 minutes and I was still in my robe, and how was it possible to even SPEAK to a child who would think it was a good idea to sit in a baby swing, and that swing cost $80 and I NEED it for Henry, and everything was so UNFAIR, and so I felt that little catch being released, and I flipped the flip out.

There was enough yelling that afterward my throat felt rough. There was self-pity at top volume. There was door-slamming. There was door re-slamming, and re-slamming, and re-slamming, with "URGGG!!!!" sounds of frustration and anger. Afterward, the door wasn't closing right.

It was an ugly, ugly temper tantrum. Part of me was watching it happening, eating popcorn and saying, "Oh, girl, you are not going to say THAT. Oh you DIDN'T! Oh, girrrrrrrrl." The rest of me was like a tower of flame. There is nothing like rage for feeling SO GOOD and SO HORRIBLE at the same time. Sickeningly exhilarating.

I went into my room afterward to get dressed. I felt stunned and sober. Lightheaded. I felt like trying to talk myself into thinking it didn't happen. I dreamed it. I fantasized it. I read it in a book. I saw it in a movie. I didn't really yell like that. No, my mind said back: you really did. Then I started thinking, I can't fix this. There's no way to fix that. It can't be undone, and children are too young to understand, and this is terrible, and there's nothing I can say to make things better, and nothing can be done about it.

But I had to go back out of my room, to where they all were. And so I went out like this: I said, "Geez, that was enough yelling to last us about TEN YEARS, wasn't it? Man, I yelled SO LOUD, my THROAT HURTS!" The children visibly relaxed. I said a few more things along those lines, and Rob said, tentatively, "I thought the door was going to bend backward on its hinges!" and I said, "It was actually STUCK a little! I thought I was going to be locked in my room!"

Then I made strong eye contact and said, kindly but very seriously, that I should NOT have yelled like that. That no one should. That I was sorry. That they had indeed needed to be reprimanded, but not like THAT, not with anger and yelling. That although toddlers have tantrums (glancing in twins' direction), adults should not. That I should not have yelled like that. That I was sorry.

I reminded them of conversations we've had before, about how everyone has their own issues to struggle with: some people battle self-pity, and some people battle discontent, and some people battle addictions, and some people battle anger--and I was someone who struggled with anger. That I was working on it, always working to control it and to control myself, and that a lot of times I succeeded, but that sometimes I screwed up, and that I had screwed up really badly just now.

The kids weren't sitting silently this whole time, they were making eye contact and looking a little shy, and saying "Yeah" when they knew what I meant; and William was smiling but Rob was trying to keep himself from warming to me, because he was still mad about being yelled at, as well he could be, but on the other hand this kind of talk really appeals to him and to his sense of justice. I kept going.

I explained how I'd gone wrong. How in the shower I'd been thinking of things that had happened when I was working at the pharmacy, situations where the customer was so mean or blamed us for things that were not our fault. I'd gotten myself all worked up about these things that are long in the past, and I explained how that was another thing I had a problem with. I asked if they ever did that--thought of things that made them angry a long time ago--and they both said they did.

I said that thinking about those things had put me in an angry mood, and so when the kids' behavior frustrated me, I had taken the anger I felt at those old situations and directed it at them. That I hadn't even been angry "at them," but rather just ANGRY. Since we've been watching the show Avatar, and there are people on that show who can take lightning and channel it through themselves to use it as a weapon, I used that as an analogy of how anger can come in from one direction but get flung out in a different direction. They lit up with understanding. I said it's like how you can scuff your feet and build up more and more static, but you don't have to put that static shock back into the carpet, you can use it to shock a person. I said that I should not have done that: that I should not have taken anger and shot it at them. I said that I should have gone into my room and calmed down if I felt like I was going to yell. Rob said, "You know what helps ME, is I read a book for a few minutes."

We talked about it a little more, but the bus was coming and we needed to wrap it up. I was glad to see that the storm seemed to have passed, that we seemed to be coming out of the bad situation I had created. Rob said, grudgingly, "At least it doesn't take long to get your temper BACK." I agreed, and--lest they think that their mother showing human flaws meant it was open season on her entire personality--reiterated that that was one of my good points. That everyone had GOOD things about them, just as everyone had things they had to work on, and that "getting over anger quickly" was one of my good points. They agreed.

I took them to the bus. I felt wrung out. I'd slipped, and in fact I'd slipped badly. But I am okay, and the kids are okay, and I took a really bad slip and found a teaching opportunity: (1) people screw up, sometimes REALLY screw up; (2) people should acknowledge their screw-ups and apologize for them; (3) people should continue to work on their weak points; (4) fortunately, our weak points are balanced by strong points.

I don't know if you'll see it that way or not. Some people don't struggle with anger, and I can see how those people might be appalled that I could think anything good came out of this, so I want to re-emphasize that in no way am I saying, "See? It seemed like a bad thing but actually it was good! I can yell all I want now!" My behavior was shitty, and I hope I communicated that to the kids: that I treated them shittily, and that people should not treat other people that way, and that there is no excuse for it.

And what is it I hope I'm communicating to you? I hope I'm not communicating that I need to be reassured, or that I need it re-emphasized to me that I should not have yelled. But I'm a fan of truth-in-motherhood, and I hope I'm communicating to you the same thing I was trying to get across to the kids: that I screwed up, and that we all do sometimes. That being flawed human beings does not mean we're not qualified to be mothers.

92 comments:

Type (little) a said...

I too have the flash temper, and since my husband is never home (and ahem, even when he is) I feel like I am parenting 24/7.

So I get annoyed, and I yell.

And I have been apologizing, but I don't go into the detail that you did, but some of your kids are older than mine.

I will be stealing your explanation.

So, I suck, too.

MrsGrumpy said...

That's some very good glue you've got there. My entire life, these days, appears to be yelling at my children and, too many times, pointing out their faults. So many times that sometimes it is difficult to know where to begin with the fixing. We all start out with the best of intentions. I hope your day is going well.

AndreAnna said...

I think we all tend to forget how human we are and how raw and natural of a human emotion anger is. You don't have to be sorry for feeling it, but you 100% right (and I think awesome) in how you explained it to your kids.

My parents just trumped around yelling and screaming for what seemed like 17 years until I went to college and not once did I feel the sincerity in their apology as I felt in yours.

We're mothers, not superhuman.

Phat Phannie said...

I'm going to be one of those that says, THANK GOODNESS I'm not the only one. I have a hot temper. I got it from my dad. Yesterday I stayed home sick, and I let Alexander stay home with me. That was my first mistake because I was already not feeling well, and well, he's kind of a clingy kid that likes to test boundaries. The windows were wide open yesterday and I'm quite sure that the neighbors were probably considering calling CPS with all of the yelling I was doing, and all of the resulting tantrums from me taking things away from him because he stuck his tongue out at me one too many times.

I love your analogy. Because after he and I had had it out all I wanted to do was take it all back. I was acting like Sarah in "Little Children" yesterday and I think I act like that a little too often. All he wanted was attention from his mommy, and I was just getting aggravated. I'm constantly working on my temper, and the way I present myself to him. I feel like I'm one of these moms that is constantly pushing him off or yelling at him. Of course, that's not the case, most times are great, but I think I have too many times where I lose sight of what I'm trying to accomplish.

Of course I had a talk with him and told him that he needs to be understanding of when mommy feels bad, but that mommy should never act like she did, either. Next time I'm going to liken it to static electricity like you did. He would totally get that. Thank you for your honesty. You rock.

PS. I had two chocolate chip cookies for breakfast this morning, can we be friends again?

bananafana said...

I think the fact that you can screw up then acknowledge it to your kids and apologize is one of the things that does qualify you to be a mother. No one is perfect and our kids need to learn that too. they also need to learn to take responsibility and you showed them that. Of course we always aim to do it right but it just isn't possible 100% of the time. I also have The Temper but my child fortunately doesn't push my buttons too often - his dad usually is the receiver of the yelling in our house!

Pickles & Dimes said...

Oh my god, I'm barely containing tears here, but THANK YOU for posting this today.

Jason struggles with anger - it's his go-to emotion when he's stressed. He works in a highly stressful environment where he routinely has to work late, and he has no control of his schedule. He also has no appropriate outlet for his anger, so he'll get frustrated about something that is NO BIG DEAL.

He knows it's a problem and we talk a lot about it (sometimes at high volume) and as crappy as things are when he's like that, just hearing him admit that he knows it's wrong, that he's sorry and that he wants to fix it help immeasurably. (And for any haters out there, he's not abusive or anything like that. He just gets frustrated over the little things way too easily, which frustrates me.)

I think admitting to your kids that you're human and that you know it was inappropriate helped them realize that not everyone can be perfect. You handled it so well.

I think I might have to show Jason this entry of yours, just so he can see someone else's experience.

Mommy Daisy said...

Bravo! I think you handled the bad situation perfectly. That's what I would have done (maybe not so elegantly though), because these moments will happen.

Kristie said...

I think most mom's have moments of anger and frustration. I know I have. But you recognize that it was not ok and you fixed it. Keep it up. :)

Pann said...

Word.

Artemisia said...

Thank you for your honestly, Swistle. I don't think anything makes me feel worse about myself than when I lose my temper. I will really try to remember how you came back and talked to the kids; I usually just shut off for a day or two. (I don't have kids, but when I lose it with A. I'll just sulk and hide for a day. Not good, or very grown up.)

Jane said...

My dad always told me, "Don't say you're sorry; say you're not going to do it again." I still think an apology helps, but a big long explanation? I don't know if kids really absorb or appreciate that. As you know, I heartily disagree that "we all lose our shit and yell at our kids." We don't all do that (I mean, *I* do, but as someone said above, I suck), and I think it is a worthwhile goal to figure out a way to never do it instead of figuring out a way to apologize well.

Black Sheeped said...

I like the part about how people have things they struggle with, but everyone has things they're good at, too. It's a good one to remember.

Melospiza said...

1. Thank you for writing this;

2. Thank you for telling us how you dealt with this, because I sure the hell need to know and I sure the hell aren't (am not? ain't?) out there reading parenting books that probably would tell me this and also make me feel about one-inch tall because the absolute bottom line of every parenting book I ever read is that Real Parents Don't Have Flaws, Unlike You

and 3. Lightning. Love it. May use it next time I have to apologize to my own kids.

LoriD said...

Awesome. I think it's good for children to see their parents as flawed and human. And good for parents to admit it. I haven't given my kids nearly the thorough explanation/apology that you did. I will remember your words the next time it happens. Because, there will definitely be a next time.

Penny said...

Yes, sometimes we need to blog about the bad if nothing else than to get it out of our system entirely.

I think that a measure of good parenting is not what happens (with the caveat of 'as long as it doesn't include abuse', which clearly this did not) it's how you handle situations that arise, and I am totally taking notes for the future, since I randomly blow up at times as well and would not have handled the situation nearly as good as you did.

mom huebert said...

I am so awed by the way you handled your anger after the fact. I'm afraid my tendency (inherited from my parents) is to pretend like nothing happened. I've been working on apologizing, because I know it's better, but it's hard, and I think you did well.

Chelle said...

Our flaws are what make us human. Sometimes, we just have to embrace our suckiness.

I'm proud of how you handled it and you should be, too. The kids will thank you for not being perfect later, you know, when THEY find themselves in a situation where they suck a little, because they will know how to handle it.

Kristin H said...

It's the admitting it and *talking about it* that makes it awesome in my book. My mom would scream at us and then go silent for days, pissed. Never an apology, never an explanation. I have always thought this is the one way I will try my damndest to be different with my own kids--when I screw up, I apologize and discuss it. This was a great post.

GuitarGirl said...

I haven't yet read the other comments, but I have the same kind of anger issues. It's my opinion that children need to see real people as their parents. Whether you're able to control your flaws or not, kids see through to your weaknesses and if you continually deny them or act like they are not there, your kids will not know how to deal with their own demons. My mother was that kind of parent and appeared very emotionless and distant (obviously as a way of swallowing her anger, or whatever else she was dealing with) and I have never felt safe enough to reveal my true self to her. We still do not have a real relationship - and if I have nothing else with my children, I want REAL relationships, not "pretty" ones.

You are doing just fine Swistle - your children know you love them and that they are being raised by a flawed human being. As they are growing up, that will make them some very compassionate people.

Go forth and conquer your anger - and then slip sometimes and be pissed at yourself. And be a flawed, beautiful human being.

Welcome to our World said...

I agree with someone else - thank you for writing this. I am like this as well so you made me realize I am not the only human on earth who feels these feelings because I have never had anyone explain exactly what I feel as accurately as you just did in this post.

I always thought I should not be a parent because of this anger short tempered behavior so I struggle with this a lot but I am slowly slowly slowly learning.

I like your discussion with the kids and I hope I can regain my composure and come back to my kiddo in such an excellent way!

And well you have five kids and I have one - something I tell myself often, I think if someone with x number more kids can to do this then I can handle one and it helps me.

SO thank you for having so many kids and being human and tell this story and letting me know I am not alone.

Swistle said...

Jane- Oh, I KNOW! And I hate when people are like, "I'm sorry" a million times, and I'm like, "How about NOT DOING IT if you're SOOOO sorry?" But until I figure out how to stop myself from doing it (and I'm working on that but haven't solved it yet), I can't say I won't do it again, because in fact I will.

Not all kids would like the long talk afterward, and I try to make sure it never goes into Excuseville---but my kids are the talky kind, and they get all excited discussing Human Emotions And Why, so I do that with them. But if they were squirming and uncomfortable, I wouldn't.

I also agree with you that we don't all yell at our kids: I think we DO all have flaws, but not all of us have the anger flaw. I do lose it and yell, but I don't mean everybody does, or that normal = right.

gabby said...

I don't have a temper. I don't struggle with it. However - I struggle with other things & I hope WHEN I slip up I can handle it as well as you did. Because it takes A LOT to apologize to your kids, but what a great thing you teach them when you do!

Sara said...

Oh Swistle! You're not the only one, and good for you for cooling down and talking it out with the kids.

My temper gets bad at times too, and I have those same moments, where I'm observing myself saying something and totally like "oh no you just didn't...." but I do. And it sucks, and I feel terrible.

The explaining and the apologizing is important. So is showing your kids that you're human.

Thanks for posting this....

janet said...

i can relate to the flash temper. when my oldest 2 were young (they're adults now), i could be an angry angry mom. it usually came after i had repeated myself endlessly, though. not that this is an excuse, but it is a reason why this can happen. now that i'm an old-fart mom and my youngest (of 5) is 13, i don't yell nearly as much. it just doesn't seem to be IN me anymore.

one thing, tho, swistle, that i would caution you about. in your apology, don't forget that inappropriate behavior on your children's part was the trigger. remind them also that their actions have a consequence.

Tessie said...

It seems like anger is one of the most common and least recognized aspects of motherhood.

I don't have a bad temper, but I am a total Stewer. I will STEW AND STEW AND STEW in stuff that happened long ago. It's hard to stop.

Giselle said...

I don't have anger issues, but I have major frustration issues, and I have been known to throw quite the temper tantrum. So far, my frustration hasn't been at my kids, but they still have witnessed insane situations like, "Mommy throws the Gatorade bottle across the room because she can't open it".

My biggest problem with my tantrum flaw, is I see myself in my son. He has this same flash of frustration that ends in irrational overreactions. And it is very hard for me to help him, because I haven't quite figured out how to help myself yet. -sigh- Maybe he'll teach me a thing or two someday.

Pat yourself on the back...your kids will remember this in a GOOD way, not a bad way.

Michele said...

I got so frustrated yesterday trying to get my kids dressed and out the door that I broke a wooden spoon. With my hands. Just broke it in half. And one part of me says that it is better than screaming (which I do sometimes) or hitting (which I dont do). But another part of me knows that seeing me break a wooden spoon freaked out my boys. So I need to cut it out. But its is so hard sometimes. I get so mad I cry because I also have a lower tolerance for frustration.

I need to just breathe, but its hard to breathe when you are trying to do too many things at once.

Jess said...

Tears. I tell you it's like you have a little camera inside my head and KNOW what I need to hear everyday. I struggle with many things and as such feel that sometimes I don't deserve to be a mom. Because I make so many mistakes. It's nice to hear that someone who I respect so much struggles from time to time too. Thank you.

Marie Green said...

I am so flawed too. The anger thing, paired with "easily frustrated" makes me go off the handle sometimes too. Only, I don't think I explain myself so well afterward.

Do you constantly worry that you've already messed up your kids? That, no matter how wonderful you are from this day forward, that the damage is done and they are doomed to a life of unhappiness and bad relationships, all because of you? Because I think along those lines ALL the time.

God, I really don't want to screw up my kids. But it's so hard, because as you said, we are flawed too.

d e v a n said...

I have a problem with anger. I struggle and struggle with it and sometimes it wins. I've had to apologize a lot.
I think I love you even more now.

Swistle said...

Janet- Good point, about letting children know their behavior contributed. I get nervous about phrasing, because I want to be careful not to say anything that makes it sound like it's their fault that I blew up, or *shudder* that they "made me do it" (I hate even typing that). But I will say things like, "I was so frustrated when I had to tell you again and again and you weren't listening to me--and that's when I should have [fill in appropriate action here] but instead I [fill in temper-losing actions here]."

Marie Green- I DO worry that! I think, "Maybe it's too late for these talks, because I've already broken the children." But then I think, "Meh. Not like I can send them back to the store. They're stuck with me and I'm stuck with this motherhood job even though it turns out I wasn't the ideal candidate, and we'll all have to make the best of it."

Katie said...

Yesterday in the airplane I was having those same thoughts of watching myself and saying, "I cannot believe you are THAT mom now. That one who says all that stuff that sounds so awful and what must all these people in here think?"

I am sorry this happened, but I am glad that you apologized to the kids. Parents don't do that enough!

Katie said...

"....I felt that little catch being released..."

Also: I have never heard such a perfect explanation. I knew INSTANTLY what you were talking about.

laughing mommy said...

I hated it when my mother yelled at us and slammed doors. I swore I'd never do the same to my kids. But guess what, I do. And it sucks. And I'm so sorry afterwards that I yelled and slammed the door.

I think you handled it very well.

P.S. Your confession that you may have actually damaged the door made me laugh out loud.

Brooke said...

I have the same issue. I have an 8 year old who is an excellent human being. I have two step kids who are less excellent at times. I yell a lot, but only at my daughter and husband. The other night, I was helping my daughter to the potty, because she doesn't wake up in the night to pee, but merely stumbles around her room till it's too late. This night she was very heavy to move around, like a dead body, and in her unconscious state, kept fighting me. I yelled at my INCOHERENT child, who could not possibly have been responsible for her actions, and her eyes woke up a bit and her face crumpled and I thought, "I'm the worst mom ever". She cried and said she was sorry and I felt bad and said I shouldn't have yelled. Seeing that face in my head may prevent further yelling, because it was so awful.

You are not alone, and I think it's awesome what you said to the kids.

BTW, I know the word verification is supposed to thwart spamments, and I appreciate that, but sometimes even I can't read the letters!

Rachel said...

You know, Moxie (of ask moxie fame) said something once that really resonated with me--that parenting is a long conversation you have with your child. I find that so helpful. There are bumps and screwups and whatnot, but what your kids take into adulthood is the gist of that whole long conversation.

I haven't hit the real patience-testing stuff yet since my daughter's only 11 months (okay, so I would've sold her for cheap during the colic phase, but I mean since then...), but I KNOW I will blow up from time to time...

Bunny said...

You are amazing. I find myself hitting those lightening poitns, too and it is so hard! Because I know I have to answer for my behavior to my kids. You did an awesome job talking to them. I think you really get your point across and that they understand. Motherhood is HARD and sometimes we have tantrums.

Beth Fish said...

I think I'm going to bookmark this post and read it over occasionally so that when the day comes that I totally blow my top at the kids I will remember what to say to them about it afterwards.

Jennifer aka Binky Bitch said...

You described that anger so exactly how it happens here with me, too. Exactly. I have to apologize occasionally for my outbursts. It's something I work on, I always say it won't happen again. Sometimes I can go weeks without yelling. Sometimes it's minutes.

The way you described the thoughts in your head and how you almost watch as a spectator...yes, me, too.

The second time this week I'll say to you, I think this is the best post ever.

el-e-e said...

You're such a good teacher. Back a few months ago when I had my own version of this with my 3-year-old, you told me just this very thing, that it's okay, and it's best to apologize.

I've since had one other difficult outburst and used that very tactic, and even though he's only three, he totally gets it when Mommy says, "I'm sorry I yelled." I even think it helps when HE tantrums, and I say, "I'm sorry you got so upset." And he's learning to apologize, too, when he displays anger inappropriately. It's interesting.

So thank you.

caley said...

I have had those moments. And I hate myself afterward for having just acted like a two year old TO my two year old. I think you handled the after-situation well, and I will use some of what you said the next time I need to have that kind of conversation/explanation. It is nice to know I'm not the only one who loses it every once in a while like that.

anatomist said...

you are amazing swistle. i worry and worry about how i am going to handle my anger and frustration when jack is old enough, i'm here thinking you have some magic characteristic that makes it easier for you and you never get mad at them. and then i read this and i realize that you do get mad, but you also have some magic.
i'm printing this up and keeping it to read when jack gets older.

Tina said...

Swistle- as humans, I think we have to just keep trying and show our kids that we can recover and mend things....you handled it well, kiddo. You actually had a dialogue with your older kids and they related to your struggle. My sister was like that times 100- but ALL THE TIME with her kids. They are great(grown up) kids, regardless. Personally, I am MUCH better with my zoloft, though. My husband thinks I'm the "same woman he married 10 yrs ago". That is priceless to me.

anita said...

So what you're basically saying is that you're human, just like the rest of us? I don't know anyone, okay, well, maybe one person, who doesn't yell at their kids at some point in time...i love how you handled it!

Alissa said...

I screwed up in this exact way last night. I handled it much like you did, although possibly not as well.

Thank you for your honesty. You've made me feel so much less alone today.

Erica said...

I battle with anger, too. I have a wicked short fuse and I tend to be on the rage-y side of things. My anger is like flash powder - brilliant and short-lived.

I tend to lash out at our pets. Take my frustrations out by yelling at them, as though that's better than yelling at a human.

I'm terrified of scaring Maddie with these temper tantrums as she gets older.

Jen said...

I appreciate your story. I need to work on my frustration levels sometimes, too, and it's good to have ideas of how to handle it when you mess up, because it will happen sometimes. Thanks for sharing.

Stacie said...

I remember a useful bit of advice I read someplace which helps when I know I've screwed up: if you do this parenting thing right 70% of the time you're beating the odds.

No one is perfect. Besides, think of your future daughters-in-law. How could they possibly be expected to cope with a super-human perfect Swistle?

Jen4 @ Amazing Trips said...

Yep. I have a flash temper. A red hot, scorching temper. It is the one thing I am the least proud of about myself and the one thing I would have "magically" changed, if I ever found a genie in a bottle. I ask God for guidance and struggle with it, DAILY. (Oddly enough, I never struggled nearly as much with my temper before I had children...)

The thing that scares the crap out of me is that my children are always learning. They are watching me and observing how I respond to situations. When I see them get frustrated and SNAP, I think "Oh NO, they're mimicking me. They're mimicking the monster that can so often be their mother. They are going to grow up handling frustration the same bad way as I do."

Being a parent brings a person's flaws to the surface unlike anything I've ever experienced. But it also provides us, if we accept the huge task, the greatest opportunity for growth.

Thankfully, the world doesn't end when lightening strikes. But it certainly leaves a mark.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

The darkest part of motherhood for me has been finding out that I have my father's temper. As Zoe gets older and inevitably pushes my buttons more and more, I will struggle more and more with this. I have had years of therapy and have taken the edge off of it but it's still there.

I agree that the best we can do as mothers is be honest. To take responsibility for what we suck at. To model how to make amends and to work on being a better person. We are NOT superhuman.

Courtney said...

Your last sentence, "That being flawed human beings does not mean we're not qualified to be mothers," made me cry and cry and cry. Thank you for that, Swistle.

rebcram said...

You handled it just great. Moms are people too and I think it's good for kids to see that you are human, and even though you make mistakes, that you recognize them and are not above apologizing.

Omaha Mama said...

I've yelled so loud my throat got raw. And at times, used physical prompting when I'm angry (an arm squeeze, even a spanking a couple of times) and just try harder the next time to be more zen. I don't think anyone is perfect. I just think you are a bad ass for putting it out there to discuss. You go!

And you know what, your boys will be better men for it. You got anger? Fine. But own it, work on it, and take it out on a door, not your wife. :-)

I hope you have a peaceful night at home. Where only little Henry gets to be in the swing (that hopefully still works!).

Misguided Mommy said...

i do this same thing now and then and i feel so bad afterwards but sometimes it just has to come out or your head will burst

samantha jo campen said...

I'm totally crying.

Thank you. Just, thank you for this raw and perfect post.

the new girl said...

I think it's an awesome life experience for kids to hear their parents say those kinds of things, acknowledging weaknesses, mistakes and making appropriate apologies.

We all have our shit, Swistle and it's in the fixing that things get stronger. This is such a great 'truth in motherhood' example of that.

I also love how well you know your kids and what appeals to them, etc. in a situation like that. That is such a barometer of loving connectedness.

Thanks for sharing.

mpotter said...

AWESOME.
thanks for that bit of humanity.
it takes a big person to deal with it as maturely as you did.

GREAT JOB.

Karly said...

Oh, Swistle, I can so relate to this. Totally. Especially the part about sitting back eating popcorn and being shocked at the things coming out of my mouth. You'd think that would be enough to stop the tirade, but that little person inside my head enjoys the show and on and on it goes until I finally realize that WOH DUDE you are freaking NUTS and then I apologize and feel horrible.

The anger sucks, but you do not. You're a good mama. Lots of parents don't bother to apologize and admit that the freaking out had not a lot to do with the kids and more to do with the mama.

Erin said...

Thank you Swistle.

coffee stained laura said...

Swistle, you're awesome. You handled that situation in a way that I only wish I could, which is truly inspiring.

I struggle with anger and I only have one toddler to deal with. I find, that especially when I'm PMSing I can't keep my temper under control. Every time I yell it makes me feel better, but then infinitely worse.

Shelly Overlook said...

I didn't know how much anger I had until I had a kid who tried my patience daily in a way that was completely new to me. Sometimes I hear myself and wonder who the hell I am or what have I become. Thank you for being so honest. It's comforting to know I'm not alone.

Amnesia said...

Thank you so much for sharing this...and holy cow, how do you manage to dig out of that hole? You are my hero. I wouldn't have come up with any life lesson...I would have yelled and felt bad and not known what to do.

Feener said...

wow 62 (now 63 commments)

I am the same EXACT way. My father had a temper and yelled and I do it. I will be upset about something else and then the girls don't listen and i blow up. i see my oldest run away...she gets scared as she should. i know it is wwrong but i can not help it. i lose it. this was a great post. you are normal !!! you are a good mom and an honest human which helps others out there. thanks

Julia said...

Thank you, for putting it all out there. The rawness and not making it all pretty. It really helps to know we aren't alone.

I'm also a yeller and sometimes I will hit the table to make a point. I'm not proud of it, but it happens. Its so stressful being a mom, that sometimes the kettle boils over. I always say I'm sorry. I just hope that someday I can over come it and the kids will not remember anything!

We are not all perfect and I'm so happy to know that there is somebody out there like me.

Its so hard when they don't listen or do things you've told them not to. Its so hard to have enough patience to go around, seems smeared a little too thin these days.

Thanks! I needed this post today!!

Woman with a Hatchet said...

"Sickeningly exhilarating."

That's it exactly.

I think you did fine. You're human and a mom and our kids know exactly which buttons to push. Good on you for using it as a teaching moment.

I know you can hear me... said...

You are amazing. Seriously amazing.

I think that everyone has those moments - but few are as graceful about it as you.

amber said...

I think it's admirable that you could almost immediately realize your mistake, and then have the grace to explain everything to your kids the way you did. I've seen countless mothers, including my own, lose their tempers the way you did and then just move on, leaving their kids quiet and wary until things blew over on their own. Cheers to you, for being who you are and doing what you did. Your kids are lucky, and someday they'll thank you for it.

Sam said...

I think you were immensely adult about this whole thing. You made it a teaching moment, and by doing that, you reassured your kids that no, Mama has not totally lost her mind. It's always scary when Mama gets mad (I remember that feeling from being a kid, don't you?) but you handled the aftermath with total grace.

Recently, I had a total breakdown moment. Fortunately, baby T will not remember it, but unfortunately, I always will. I'm still trying to figure out how to write about it.

desperate housewife said...

Wow. This really got me thinking about mom flaws in general. I may have to do my own post, or this will become less of a comment and more of an endless run-on sentence.

Jennifer said...

My mother was a Yeller to beat the band and never apologized for a single thing. She didn't have to. We were little assholes and deserved every bit of it. We turned out just fine and I'm sure your kids will too. Shoot, if I had five kids I'd be on the news, so I think you're doing a terrific job.

tulipmom said...

Thank you for this post. I needed it this week.

Lis said...

I think you apologising to them is a huge deal - you're teaching them that it's okay to be wrong, it's important to say you're sorry and acknowledge when you make a mistake and that even adults don't always have all the answers and aren't always right.

Nowheymama said...

I'm late to the party, but I just wanted to thank you for putting my feelings into words yet again. Wonderful, wonderful post. Thank you for being so honest.

Farrell said...

I don't have time to go through all of these comments, but I do want to say:
1. I love that you say "dude."
2. I love that you were honest and that you talked to them about it afterward.
3. With 5 kids, I don't know how you don't get like that every day.
4. I too struggle with anger.
5. Rob said, "You know what helps ME, is I read a book for a few minutes. Cutest thing ever.
6. You rock.

Angie said...

I know how that feels. I was frustrated yesterday, what with a damn mouse in my car. I was already crying and my toddler whining and wanting me to help her with something, as I was driving, did not help. I ended up yelling at her and feeling terrible, and then crying some more.

Michelle said...

All I have to say is that you are my hero.

jen said...

Seems like I Yell all the time and don't apologize for it. I think kids need to learn when they've pushed the edge of the boundaries of basic human tolerance. I do have good days where I say I'm not going to yell. Mostly though I wonder how much my neighbors can hear through closed windows and whether or not the nosy busybody next door is recording me over her baby monitor for the cps case.

Stephanie said...

I think you handles the situation awesome. I think that the way you explained it to the kids was perfect and you did it in a way that they understand. I am new at this whole "mom" thing since I am with a guy with two kids, so it is very reassuring to read things like this and learn from other people. I think you for sharing your experience.

We all suck some times, but you definitely handled it great.

Anonymous said...

My father yelled at us kids frequently. He was an angry man. He NEVER apologized to us. He never talked to us later about the blow up. He never made us feel that it wasn't our fault. I feel scarred because of that. I wonder what my relationship with him would have been if he had talked to us about that anger!

cardiogirl said...

I think if every mother were honest every mother would say what I am going to say: I have been there too many times. And I have apologized to my children after as well.

I think it's important for children to know adults get frustrated too. And we do the best we can to figure it out in real time.

Screaming or no screaming.

Jess said...

I think this is a really amazing post. My mother had angry fits like that a lot when I was growing up, except that she didn't get over them quickly, and she never apologized for them or said they shouldn't have happened or had any sort of conversation like that with us. And reading about the way you handled this with your kids makes me wish so badly that my mother had been able to do the same thing. I remember all the times that we felt tense like your kids were after our mother had a tantrum. It would have been such a relief to hear the things that you said to your kids from our mother. I think you did a really great job.

Heather said...

Thanks for sharing. It was probably hard to rehash all of those feelings. Your kids sound pretty awesome.

Indigo Children said...

Thanks for this post. I needed this lesson. I too have an anger problem, and I do not control it enough or apologize enough or am ever as honest as you were about where it comes from. My oldest is entering thirteen and it gets harder as she gets older to apologize. I enjoy the anger way too much. I need to be honest with myself and with her. Thanks for your honesty.

Badness Jones said...

Yep. I've done it too. Thanks for making ME feel less like a freaky bad momma!

TZT said...

I really admire the way you handled this. That kind of self-awareness speaks volumes. Thank you for this post. Glad it got an award and I was able to find you!

Kelly said...

Awesome. Love this.

I know as a mother, I lose my temper over the littlest things and it's HARD to not want to just throw stuff across the room LOL.

Great post, it's good to feel "normal" and I hope your children understand that. I'm sure they do ;)

baby~amore' said...

Awesome... though not in the way you would have planned it.Very honest and great comments. I screw up to0 - every day 24/7. I am bookmarking this.
I suck too and my older son cops my yelling and fault picking - does he deserve it ? probably sometimes but the raw anger NO.
I struggle with anger - you have made me feel like I should deal with it better.Thank you.I really needed it.

Veggie Mama said...

I fall into the #1 reader category, "I'm so glad I'm not the only one who sucks." It's good to be reminded that, when I do blow up, it's important to calm down and apologize and reiterate that it's Not Okay. I know my childhood had something to do with that part of my personality (though I'm by no means letting myself off the hook there, I'm a grown up and responsible for my own behavior), and I worry what I'm doing to Q and if I'm perpetuating that vicious cycle, if HE'S going to grow up and have kids and face this same struggle. I sure hope not.

Tracey said...

Got here through swistle, and I agree: it's a great post.

I struggle with flash anger, too. It sucks. But the important thing is admitting your problems to your kids and apologizing. And then actually working on it... which is hard... my eldest and I had a conversation (last night, actually) about how we are so similar, which is why we get along so well and fight so awfully.

Christy said...

While I think you did the right thing in apologizing afterwards, and I know you felt terrible for yelling, I just can't believe how everyone is just jumping to say "that is normal" or "you're just human" If this is really not an exaggeration, if this a cycle of repeated behavior, then it's not normal. If you continually lose control of your emotions, and then offer a long complicated, almost above their understanding explanation, which is going to stick in their memory? If you have anger control issues, you need to speak at length with a counselor, not use your kids or your blog as therapy.

Swistle said...

Christy- You are going to have to trust that I know to talk to my children so that they understand what I'm saying, and that I would not give them an explanation that was too complicated, or over their heads. When I'm writing a blog post, I'm writing to adults; when I talk to the children, I talk on a child level.

Also, I read the comments differently. I read some people saying "I do this too" and some people saying "We all have our flaws to work on" and some people saying "I neither struggle with this nor understand it." I don't get the feeling that anyone thinks "normal" means "right."

Debbie said...

I haven't read all the comments, don't have time. But I do want to say that I relate to this post from the perspective of a child. My dad was extremely angry and verbally abusive (sometimes physically abusive as well, though not so much to me because I was the only girl) as I was growing up. As a result, I have sometimes crippling self-esteem issues. He never once apologized to us kids, never once acknowledged how his actions affected us. I understand him a little better now - he had a father very much like himself. I sometimes wonder how different I would be if my dad had had the courage to face his flaws and try to do better as you are doing. No one is perfect, but it is so great to see a parent who admits her flaws and tries to do better. If you keep on that path, your kids will be okay. Hell, I'm okay, and my flawed dad clearly wasn't half as good as you are as a flawed mom. Your kids will be awesome.