Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Old Yeller


The carpool pickup line is often where I find frustration, but deep breaths help. The more I don't lose my shit, the better for everyone in my life.

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I didn't dare move him from the changing table. For whatever reason this was the only place he wouldn't scream and cry. Was it the fuzzy cover pad? Was it the cradled shape of the cushion? Was it the view of our popcorn ceiling? I didn't know and I didn't care... he was quiet and that's all that mattered.

Paul was quiet as well. He was sitting in the rocking chair next to the dresser staring off in the distance. Even though I had been consumed with the colic nightmare of our newborn son, I could always tell when something was bothering my husband.

"What's wrong?"

"I... I just can't take this anymore."

"Take what?"

Paul gulped and I could tell he was afraid to answer. An outsider would have confidently concluded that he was referring to our son's colic, but I knew better. Communication has never been our strong suit and the fact that he was diving into a serious conversation was a sign that something was pretty far gone.

"You," he said and looked up at me.

"What do you mean?" I asked even though the answer was blaring in my head.

"I know it's been hard with him being so fussy... but the constant yelling and snapping at me... I can't take it. It's too much." His blue eyes were watery, his tone careful and controlled, no doubt bracing for my reaction, which lately hadn't been careful or controlled. I looked at him and the guilt came crashing down on me all at once.

"I'm sorry," I choked out.

"It's like everything I do just pisses you off and I'm just trying to help." His voice was low and shaky and my eyes prickled with tears. Dammit, I'm f*cking this up too. The funnel of my frustrations with the baby was aimed right at him, and lately it had been overflowing.

He went on to tell me a story about the night before his biological father left his mother. Standing at the top of the basement stairs as a child, he heard the fight between his parents. He was too young to remember what was being said, but what he did remember was the yelling and how desperately he wanted it to stop. We had been together for 11 years and it was the first time I had heard this story.

"If this doesn't change... I don't know. I mean, the doctor says the colic could go on for weeks and..." he closed his eyes.

"And... I need to deal with this better, I know... I'm so sorry," I said.

Choking back tears, he looked up at me with mild relief that I admitted how unbearable I had become. I mean, I couldn't deny it. The difference in our temperaments was well known by both of us, but this was the first time I could see it unraveling our relationship... and it would be all my fault.

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I come from a yelling family. My parents were both hot-tempered people and unfortunately that character trait doesn't seem to skip a generation. What would start out as a regular chat could quickly escalate into a loud argument after an eye-roll or dismissive head-shake. It was as normal as watching Jeopardy every night. My parents constantly bickered and we kids were no different. I was more severe than my brother, that's for sure, but we all had that fiery temper that would get the best of us.

My husband grew up in the exact opposite environment. Things were discussed in a calm tone and everyone was patient with each other. If there were disagreements, they just, like... talked about it. When Paul and I were in that tell-each-other-about-our-families stage of dating, I would casually mention some big fights between myself and my parents. Paul would look surprised and ask, "You'd yell at each other?" I'd be confused at his confusion, "You didn't yell at each other?" I'd respond.

Mental Parental

Sigh, I've yelled at my kids more times than I'd like to admit. I yell and I immediately hate myself.  But, it happens because my nerves can only take so much on certain days. When I thought about being a parent, I vowed to be like Paul's mother who is this embodiment of calm and patience. I've never seen that woman raise her voice or get visibly annoyed. "Yes, that's how I want to be.. I don't want to be a yelling mom." Cut to a few years later when I'm running late for work, my husband is traveling for business, I have to pack everything for daycare and my 1-year-old daughter won't stop whining and squirming out of her coat. "COME ON!!! JUST LET ME PUT ON YOUR COAT! GOD!!!" Her little face turned to mine with a look of horror. "I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry," I said as I hugged her tight. Ugh, so much for being the zen mom.

I wish I could say that I've found the magic formula that quells my penchant to lose my temper, but alas, no such luck. I do employ deep breaths, yoga, meditation, which does help, but there are times where even 1,000 deep breaths will not do the trick. The yelling is usually about not listening, hurrying up, cleaning up, too much whining or the rare occasion when they have broken a house rule. I've never insulted them, called them names or belittled them in the least. It's the normal cliché sitcom mom type shit. I regret it every time, which is why after the situation has settled, I sit down and have a calm discussion about why I yelled. Is.. is that better? I don't know... probably just trying to save face here, but I think my explanation to my kids as to why I get upset helps them. Believe me, I'm working on the scenario where the whole yelling part doesn't even happen, but until then, I do my best to be openly vulnerable in front of my kids about my faults.

Paul's temperament has helped me tremendously throughout our relationship, especially as a parent. His approach with the kids is very different and much quieter. I know observing his patience has drastically helped me flip many situations where I would be inclined to lose it. I've also learned that coming from a non-yelling household has it's downsides as well, like rarely expressing your emotions and keeping them all inside. We agree that we both are works in progress when it comes to communication, and further agree that we want a household where our kids can feel comfortable discussing anything with us.

Yell Hard, Love Hard

I'm afraid I've painted a picture of my childhood where we are all yelling constantly, flipping tables and slamming doors. Nope, not accurate. We fought and argued, yes, but that was balanced out with so much love and affection. I never faulted my parents for having short fuses, it was just a part of who they were and as weird as it sounds, I kind of appreciated the emotional release of it all. That's very hard for people like Paul to understand, but I guess that's the beauty of family. None of the unconditional love we felt for each other was lost in our arguments. Reflecting back on my childhood, I am now aware of so much stress that both of my parents were going through that I couldn't fathom at the time. Plus, I was pretty damn bratty... I needed some of that yelling, trust me.

Some of you reading this may be surprised to learn that I have this temper since, well, for the most part I reserve my baditude for the ones closest to me. The ideal scenario would be to harness the calm I easily demonstrate to friends and strangers, and apply it to my loved ones. It's not that I don't get annoyed with people other than my family, but I suppose that societal decorum takes over and I handle myself in a much better way. Why are we harshest to the people we love the most? Seems like it should be the opposite. I guess it's the security of their love that makes us feel we can get away with it? Or all the rage we've held inside while out in society has to be released somewhere. Either way, if I snap at you... it probably means I love you!

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I've come a long way with my temper and Paul is a huge part of that improvement. Conversely, I honestly think I've shown him the benefits of expressing his frustrations every now and then. I still get annoyed and impatient with things pretty often, but I'm trying to meet those circumstances with an intention to calm the F down and express myself in a productive manner.

These things don't change overnight, BUT I'M GETTING THERE, DAMMIT!!!!!!!!!

1 comment:

  1. Sheevani, Reminds me of an incident.. Shivani was coming to Cinti for a break.. All that could go wrong with her flight went wrong including her luggage not arriving.. She called and was whining and moaning about it to me.. I was doing my usual uh-huh uh-huh. And then she suddenly started laughing and said you know I am 23 years old and in most places act like an adult but when I come back to Cinti I revert back to being baby Shivi and call you when anything goes wrong.. so that is part of the unconditional love thing and part of the loud expressive Desai gene.. And hah the "eye-roll or dismissive head-shake" - don't even get me started on that..

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