No wonder Moms need downtime!
No wonder Moms need downtime!

No wonder Moms need downtime!

As you may have noticed, I haven’t posted here in over a year. Sure, I’ve shared some tips on vacation rentals with Budget Travel and musings on motherhood with the Huffington Post but this ittle blog has been woefully neglected for the past year plus. Why?

Well, if you look at my last post, which was all about surviving the spring sports season, it’s no wonder I haven’t had time to write!  I even started wishing for rain, just so that instead of the mad dash out the door on a Saturday morning, we could enjoy a little family time.  Down time. But the reality is this:  if I thought last spring was bad, this one nearly broke me. For real.

In addition to balancing (or is it juggling? or perhaps flailing?!) a full time job and a house full of kids, four of those five kids had their tonsils out this spring. And I decided to chair our church’s Spring Fundraiser. And we got a new babysitter. And a new puppy! And, and, AND! Until one recent day I woke up with an eye twitch and a frozen shoulder. For real.

I was hoping the eye twitch wasn’t noticeable; it was. My boss told me so. So did my husband. And my sister. Apparently the cause was stress and fatigue. It was for real.

The so-called “frozen shoulder” was intensely painful, causing over a week of sleepless nights (and I thought they were behind us!) and limiting my ability to do everything from unload the dishwasher to load up on caffeine; I could barely lift a glass to my mouth. Wine glass included!

Clearly there was a problem – and I think the root of it was stress (duh!) and the need for downtime – or at least the permission to give myself a break. Last year, I gave myself a break from this blog. I thought that might help. It didn’t. I enjoy writing and hope/aspire/plan to do more of it. For real.

I’ve realized that “a break” can come in many forms – for me, it might be napping on the train, opting out of an early morning run or skipping a party, no excuse required. Sometimes, you need to just take time for you… a topic that I’ve ironically written about before!

In the end, I suspect we’re all pretty much alike — busy moms trying to do our best each and every day – at home, at work and everywhere in between. That’s why I’m going to try harder to give myself a break this summer – because the better rested, less stressed, more present I am, the better it is for those kiddos we do it all for. Not to mention, that eye twitch looked really weird and the shoulder issue was a royal bummer!  This summer, I hope to squeeze in as much downtime as possible.  And I hope that you do too. For real!

Have a tip? Please share it!

Like many working moms, I suffer severely from FOMS (Fear of Missing Something).  Truth be told, I’ve suffered from this affliction since childhood. Back then, I hated falling asleep first at sleepovers and missing out on the final rounds of Truth or Dare; these days, I’m bummed out about missing class trips to the book fair, field trips to the zoo and daily occurrences like homework.

Homework, you may be wondering? How can you miss out on that? Don’t you come home every night?! Well yes. Yes, I do. I get home from work by about 6:00 each day to a house full of hungry kids and a table full of homework folders waiting for review. Which would you tackle first? For me, it’s the hungry kids. Depending on my dinner plan, I heat up some leftovers or whip up some tortellini and do my best to have dinner on the table by 6:30.

We really enjoy our family dinners – assuming, of course, that we get to have them and our daily opportunity for together time isn’t disrupted by baseball, lacrosse or the sport du jour, as it frequently is. Either way, by the time our clan is fed, it’s almost time for bed. Assuming we leave the table by 7:15 (which is optimistic on most days!), there are three  five-year olds with “just right” books they need to read; a seven-year old who wants to read me a few pages of Matilda, and a nine year old who wants to snuggle and read Wonder.

It’s after 8:30 by the time all the lights are out and the kitchen clean up still looms. By the time the dishes are away and the next day’s lunch is started, it’s well after 9:00 and I have a boatload of emails to return for work. I glance at those five homework folders, exhausted and overwhelmed. And more often than not, I pass them by. I assume that if my kindergarten crew was having trouble, I’d hear about it. I trust that my 2nd grader is conquering the common core and I have confidence that my 4th grader is doing what he’s supposed to do.

I lament (like most people) that there aren’t more hours in the day or days in the week telling myself that if only there were, I’d surely check their homework each and every day. Then I consider my own parents and their commitment to my homework, which was minimal at best. Most recently, I was comforted by an article in The New York Times that suggests parents who hover and help with homework may actually be doing their kids a disservice; it states that “… most forms of parental involvement, like observing a child’s class, contacting a school about a child’s behavior, helping to decide a child’s high school courses, or helping a child with homework, do not improve student achievement. In some cases, they actually hinder it.”

So there you have it –  if there’s a body of evidence giving me permission to do one less thing, to fret and worry about one less thing, then I am all for it!  I am NOT a homework helper and that is a.ok!  Now, if only I could figure out how to get those extra hours in the day, I could use them to go the Audubon Society with my kindergartners’ classes next month — then I’d really be on my way to conquering my FOMS!

I suppose this post is less of a “tip” and more of a “‘quip”… or perhaps, more aptly put, simply the latest in my musings on motherhood….

Last month, the “baby” of one of my good friends turned five.  “Hey,” she said to me, “we made it!  We did it! We don’t have babies anymore.”  Her tone was a bit more sad than celebratory as we both reflected on her words. It was true.  We made it.  We did it! We survived sleepless nights, “terrible twos”, potty training and preschool.   And somehow, that made us both just a little bit sad as we looked at the frolicking five-year olds in front of us.

Two weeks ago, a woman I work with was talking about her son.  Her “baby” is enjoying his first year of college.  In so many ways, she felt like she did it.  She made it.  She survived 18 years of motherhood, the last few punctuated by band practices and college applications.  She raised a responsible young man who is studying at the school of his dreams.  Finally, she can sleep at night.  Until that night when the phone rang.  The road was icy.  The car spun out.  Thank God everyone was ok.  But sleepless nights have returned.  The worry is back.

A few days ago, we took our clan out to dinner. It was the first day of spring, my husband just finished a huge project for work and last but not least, we had five (FIVE!) good report cards to celebrate.  As we ambled into the restaurant, we bumped into friends dining solo – just the parents; no kids.  “They didn’t want to come with us,” he said.  “One is babysitting, one is at a friend’s house and one just doesn’t like to be seen with us,” she said.  This got me thinking.  Yikes.  That could be us one day.  One day much sooner than I expect.  Or am ready for.

Last Monday, I met my parents, my brother and his girlfriend for St. Patrick’s Day – a holiday near and dear to our Irish roots.  We met for lunch, took in the parade and then went to warm up over a cold pint and clever conversation.  When my brother and his girlfriend left, I noticed my mom’s eyes well up with tears.  “What is it Mom?”   “He’s happy,” she said.  “I’m just so glad he’s happy.”   And that’s when I realized, this parenthood thing never ends.

Until, perhaps, the unthinkable happens and it does.  They say no parent should outlive a child, but it happens.  And from what I can tell, there’s nothing worse.

Yesterday, we went to a memorial service.  He was 50; Mom was 80.  Give or take a few years.  It doesn’t matter.  It was heart-wrenching.  Gut wrenching. Tragic.  Wrong. Incomprehensible.  I suppose you might say he was a grown man.  But that doesn’t change the fact that he was a son, her son.  The sad sad scene reminded me of a favorite bedtime story we read when our children were younger, Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch, which has a line that repeats again and again:

I’ll love you forever,
 I’ll like you for always, 
As long as I’m living, 
my baby you’ll be.

These words brought tears to my eyes each time we read it, as they do now.  As they did last night, when I watched a mother say a final good-bye to her son.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve witnessed other mother’s milestones on this journey we call parenthood –  rites of passage: turning five;  going to college; seeking independence; finding happiness. It’s what we wish for our children.  And then it struck me, at some point all of our wishes are for our children.  For their health and happiness.  For their longevity.

It doesn’t always work out that way.  And so, with another mother’s pain etched firmly in my memory, all I can do is try harder to live in the moment as I prepare for the rocky road ahead, for the inevitable twists and turns of motherhood.  Knowing, as I do, that always and forever, my babies they’ll be.

Tonight was one of those nights.  It started with a mad dash from work to pick up my oldest from baseball practice.  No, it’s not spring yet and yes, the season here has already started.  And yes, I am just a little bitter about it.  Especially since signing our son up for this league was my husband’s idea but he can’t pick our fella up tonight because he is working late. Again.

In fairness, he rarely works late but for the past three weeks, he’s had a big project that has left me consistently home alone.  Well, not truly alone but, alone with our five kids on hectic weeknights and busy weekends.  I think I”m burning out and if tonight is any indication, our kids are too.  This is how it unfolded…

The baseball pick up was seamless.  I was on time and we were on our way home in no time at all.  Then the gas light went on.  No, we didn’t run out of gas but yes, it was another pitstop on the way home to my four other children, all of whom greeting me at the door like this:


OMG, I thought to myself, this is going to be a doozie.  My daughter was coming down the steps bawling that she had just “bashed” her head into the wall.  One triplet was screaming and holding his hand out.  It revealed a very swollen finger that had apparently been slammed in a door by the young lady with the head wound.  With my coat still on, I went to the kitchen for ice packs.  When I opened the freezer, another triplet demanded frozen berries.  When I said “No, sorry buddy, we have fresh berries so let’s eat them first and save the frozen ones for another day,” he went off the deep end.  “I WANT FROZEN BERRIES!  FROZEN BERRIES, FROZEN BERRIES, FROZEN BERRIES!”, he wailed, adding to cacaphony of the wounded with ice packs.

At that point, my oldest asked (again), if he could go play basketball.  He hadn’t had dinner, hadn’t taken a shower, hadn’t finished his homework and had already asked twice and been told no.  I felt like screaming at him but knew that if I joined in the din, things would only get worse.  So, I said yes, under the logic that having one less kid in the house during this most witching of all hours would only be a good thing.  So he left. And then there were four.  And me.

I didn’t know what to do.  Three were screaming and one was scheming, whispering to the Berry Boy that he should just go ahead and help himself to those frozen berries.  I was exhausted; they were out of control.  It was 6:47.  “It’s time for bed,” I said, not knowing what else to do.  The wailing persisted as we went upstairs but quieted down as the library books came out and we read about baby bears, a platypus and a mouse named Geronimo Stilton.  At one point, as I was getting their toothbrushes, I looked out at the setting sun and thought “this too shall pass” as I took a deep breath.  And it did.  Thank God!

By 8:00, four of them were in bed and sound asleep.  My big guy was back from basketball, showered and together we ate dinner.  We talked about his day and he revealed that he’d gotten his report card.  We took a look together and it was good.  Very good.  He’s a good kid.  They are all good kids.  And, like all of us, they have bad moments and we have bad days. And nights.

Tonight was the exception, not the rule.  Our house, like most, I believe, is like that old nursery rhyme, “When it’s good, it’s very very good and when it’s bad, it’s horrid.”  Tonight was horrid.  But it’s over.  Tomorrow the sun will rise again and a new day will begin.  And, like most days, I suspect it will be very very good.

When you have tired, hungry kids to feed, dinner time can start to feel like a real drag.  Especially since it typically coincides with the “witching hour” — that hour (or two), when your kids whine, you long for wine and the notion of #winning is replaced by a dreaded sense of #fail.  Well, fail no more my friends.  Dinnertime, like most things that involve the kids, is always better when you have a plan.  Since coming up with the plan is the hard part, I thought I’d share a few of our go-to weeknight dinners.  I’m even throwing in a few bonus Sunday Suppers for good measure because if you start planning on Sunday, you’ll have some leftovers to power you through Manic Monday and all the days that follow.  Without further ado, here’s what we’re serving on any given night in the Lyons Den:

Sunday Supper:  Sundays are ideal for roasts.  This “fix it and forget it” approach lets you pop dinner in the oven early in the afternoon so you can go enjoy the day/watch the game/carpool to the birthday party/cheer from the sidelines/take care of the kids while dinner takes care of itself. The best part is how easy this is.  I’m not including or linking to recipes here because you really don’t need them.  Rub your pork loin with olive oil and put some sliced garlic and herbs on top.  Treat the chicken the same way.  Or maybe add some rosemary and pop a few lemons or onions inside.  You really can’t go wrong.  And that’s what makes these two choices sinfully easy:

  • Roast pork loin with roasted potatoes and kale
  • Roast chicken with mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts

Meatless Monday:  Mondays are tough.  It’s not easy to drag the kids out of bed and your butt back to work. Or wherever your day takes you.  Knowing the day will be hard, dinner should be easy.  Our picks are yummy, speedy and crowed pleasing.  After all, after a long day back at the grind, the last thing you need is that annoying chorus of “I don’t like it!”  Try these — they’ll like it!

  • Veggie quiche (make or buy over the weekend — store bought is a.ok!) with roasted (or grilled, if you prefer) asparagus
  • Cheese Tortellini with pesto sauce (also ideally made or purchased over the weekend) & spinach sauteed with garlic and oil

Tuesday Taco Night:  It’s Tuesday. Two days down, three to go.  Why not celebrate with a hands-on meal that makes mouths happy?  You’ll be happy too given that tacos are super fast, super fun, super easy and can incorporate your leftovers from that Sunday Supper.

  • Chicken tacos: toss in some frozen corn when you heat up the meat and serve with avocado for extra nutritional punch
  • Pork tacos (or fajitas) served with peppers (roasted or raw — whichever meets the least resistance!) and a side salad

Wacky Wednesday:  They call it “hump day” for a reason and the good news is that you’re almost over the hump!  Mix things up with a perennial kid favorite: Breakfast for dinner.  And I’ll be darned if the notion of pancakes at 6:00 pm doesn’t put a smile on your face too.

  • The Egg-cellent Option – Whip up an omelet, scramble them or serve them over easy.  Add some whole wheat toast, fruit and milk and there you have it — a dinner of champions that will make Mom a big winner. a
  • The Sweet Option — Pancakes, waffles, or french toast served up with some yogurt and fruit.  Syrup mandatory, whipped cream optional.

Pasta Thursday:  Now you’re in the homestretch, just a hop, skip and dinner left before Friday arrives and the weekend begins. Why not plan a pasta night to carbo load you and the kids through the remainder of the week?  Again, it’s quick, easy and almost objection-free when it comes to the junior set.  Our top picks:

  • Spaghetti and meatballs; make them yourself or let Trader Joe/Giotto do the trick; with both beef and turkey varieties in the frozen section, it makes this weekend dinner a snap!
  • Penne with sausage and broccoli.  Enough said, right?  Yum!

As for the weekends, Friday night is almost always pizza night in our house.  It gives us all something to look forward to — especially when accompanied by Family Movie night, which gives us  the much-needed opportunity to cuddle, snuggle and unwind after a long week.   Saturday night is really a free for all – maybe we go out, maybe it’s take out, maybe it’s time to empty out the fridge for what we (rather unfortunately) call “Garbage night” — a great way to use up any remaining leftovers so you can start anew again on Sunday… bon appetit!

Now that all five of our kids are in school, our family schedule resembles a MetroNorth timetable; there’s always someone inbound and someone outbound.  In and out, back and forth.  Someone needs a ride, a haircut, a gift for a party, a visit to the dentist.  A friend recently asked how I keep track of it all.  The answer, as with most questions I get is, “sometimes better than others!”  With so many balls in the air and kids on the go, some are bound to drop. Balls, not kids, that is.  But, I’ve become a fairly good juggler and on most days, keep most balls up in the air and most kids firmly grounded.  Here’s how:

  • Write it down. Right away.  Whether it’s a class conference, first day of little league or last day of school, put it on your calendar pronto. As in immediately, when the details are hot off the presses and before that piece of paper with all the critical details gets lost in the clutter, put out with the recycling or perhaps even burned in the fireplace. I speak from experience in all three scenarios and can attest that the best way to keep your family’s future plans from going up in smoke is to put them on your calendar the first chance you get.
  • RSVP.  Right away.  I used to have a file labeled “Remember Me”.  I filled it with birthday invitations I feared would fall off the fridge and baby shower invitations I didn’t want to lose.  Well, I didn’t lose them.  They are all still right there in that “Remember Me” file, completely forgotten!  When you get an invite — be it online or in the mailbox, don’t file it. Don’t stick it on the fridge or in a basket.  Respond. Right way.  The day you receive it.  And if you say yes, put the date and all critical details on your calendar.  As a bonus, add a calendar reminder to buy a gift the week before so you won’t be scrambling on the way to the soiree.
  • Share your calendar. With your husband. Your sitter.  Even with your kids if they’re old enough. I recently made the mistake of sharing mine with my boss, which I don’t recommend but, at least he now has an appreciation for all I am juggling!  Our family has a monthly calendar so we can all see the big picture and then I print a calendar each week that includes not only the details of the theater class, play dates and baseball registration but also our weeknight dinner plans. This helps us all to better manage the flow of inbound and outbound traffic while eliminating the panic (mine) and whining (theirs) of what’s for dinner.  And that my friends, will be my post for next week!


You may recall that one of my goals for the year is to yell less.  I’ve realized over the past month that if I’m going to achieve that goal, I really need to choose my battles.  This, like most things, is much easier said than done.  I’d like to think of myself as a lover, not a fighter but the reality is, with my Type A personality, I find it hard to resist a good challenge and I’m wired to want to win — even if that “challenge” comes in the form of a five year old who doesn’t want to wear his mittens.

This is not something to be proud of, this innate sense of wanting to control another person simply because “I said so.” Granted, as it relates to the mittens, it is cold outside but the reality is, after explaining the frigid weather to my wide-eyed tyke, it really boils down to “I want you to wear those mittens because I TOLD YOU TO!!!”  And there you have it.  I’m yelling again.

We made a pact a few weeks ago.  All five kids and me.  We agreed that we wouldn’t argue about wearing coats/hats/mittens/boots/etc. until March.  We agreed that it was cold outside and that it was in their best interest to stay warm.  We made a deal. No more arguing, no more yelling, no more being late to the bus due to quibbling about outerwear.  And that was that.

But of course, that wasn’t that at all.  Because life isn’t that simple and children aren’t that agreeable.  And frankly, the majority of mine don’t know what month it is even if they do know it’s noble to honor a promise.  Just a few days later, I found myself asking my oldest, a fourth-grader with a beaming grin and good intentions, “do you know what month it is?”  “Um, February?”  “Yep.  And do you remember what that means?!”  “I’m supposed to wear a coat?”  “Yep!”  “But Mom, I’m not cold!”

He’s not cold?  It’s freezing out.  Literally.  Icicles hang from every roof and mountains of snow surround us.  But apparently, it’s not cold to him.  I felt the yell start, deep inside.  An insatiable urge to show him the thermometer, to PROVE to him that it is indeed cold.  He is wrong; I am right.  So there.  And then I caught my husband’s eye.  “Give the kid a break”, he said without saying a word.  And so I did.  And I’ve been trying to ever since.

Last weekend. four out of five weren’t wearing underwear, but they were wearing pants.  As the temperature hovered near fifty and the snow began to melt, they took off those pants and put on shorts.  And short sleeved shirts.  And went OUTSIDE!  It was freezing, though no longer literally.  I wanted to yell. To win. To force them to put on pants, sweatshirts, heck, even some underwear!  But I didn’t.  Because you have to choose your battles and you can’t win them all,  I figure I might as well save the good fight for the ones that really matter.

Rules.  As parents, we remind our children daily to follow them –  or at least we do here in the “Lyons Den.”  We have to. With five kids and no rules, chaos would prevail.  Where would we find the homework folders?  Where would they find their mittens?  How would we ever get out of the house?  We need rules.  They are guideposts, guidelines, our guide for daily living.  They remind us that homework folders get lined up on the table for easy review by Mom and Dad when we get home from work and that mittens go in each kid’s respective little cubby.  Rules help us get out the door each day. They minimize the inevitable chaos of our lives.  They teach responsibility and ownership.  And they can be really really hard to follow.  Even for us.

One rule is to eat your dinner.  No complaints and no made-to-order meals here.  As we sat down tonight, one little “Lyons Cub” snarled at me and pronounced he  “hated” his dinner.  That’s a major no-no in our house for several reasons, not the least of which is to be grateful for what we have.  So, I gave him three warnings and told him that if we got to #3, he’d have to go to bed without dinner.  Not five minutes later, he shouted as he pouted for the 3rd time “I DON’T LIKE THIS DINNER!!!!!”   I sighed as I looked down at my own plate.  I did like this dinner.  In fact, I like almost all dinners.  Dinner is my favorite meal and the one time during the day I actually get to sit down and enjoy my food.  And my family.  I love to loiter over dinner as we share tales of our day and ponder what might be for dessert.  Putting this surly little Lyon to bed would mean missing that.  My dinner would be cold when I returned and dinnertime — family time — would be over.

Did I have to do it?  Did I have to get up to put this pint-sized pesky person to bed?  I really really didn’t want to.  But I had to.  I had no choice.  I made the rule and if I didn’t follow it through, how could I expect them to?  How could I hold them accountable?  What sort of example would I be setting?

So I did it.  As four other sets of wide pint-sized eyes observed (five, if you count my husband, whose look revealed an odd mix of humor and pity), I got up, hugged him tight and nudged him up the stairs.  “It’s over buddy,” I told him.  “Tomorrow is a new day, you can start over.”  As he kicked and cried and resisted, I continued to nudge him upwards.  After brushing teeth and settling in with a book he looked me in the eye and said, “Sorry Mom, I don’t feel good. I don’t want dinner. I’m sorry.”  And kind of like the Grinch on Christmas, I felt my heart grow three times in that moment.

It would seem our rules are working.  This little fella understood he was wrong – and he had a good reason for it.  He didn’t feel well, he was tired.  And that’s ok.  I’m tired too.  But I sure am glad I got up and followed the rules.  They get it. Deep down, kids actually like rules.  Maybe we all do. They provide structure and set expectations.  And though they are made to be broken, in the end, they give us all a chance to shine… and if we’re lucky, maybe even get out of the house on time.

labels for organizing hand me downsI’ve always been a bit of a frugal fannie… keeping (and eating) leftovers a few days past their prime, squeezing every last bit out of the toothpaste tube and collecting coupons and discount offers like it’s a sport (one of the few I’m actually good at!).  It should come as no surprise then, that I am quite handy with hand-me-downs.

I saved our firstborn’s clothes for our second and even though #1 was a boy and #2 was a girl, she wore his pajamas, snow pants and other gender-neutral essentials.  When we found out that #3 was going to be triplets, my hand-me-down instinct kicked into high gear and that’s where it’s been ever since.  Here’s how I handle the bins, bags, and boxes that keep our clan of five covered, clothed and warm.

  • Ask.  Yep, you heard me.  Don’t be afraid to ask your friends, cousins and playground pals if they want to swap, share or hand things down.  Many moms will offer but if they don’t, don’t hesitate to ask.  Most people are thrilled to see their tiny favorites worn again by someone else’s little tot and even gladder to see bigger ticket items like highchairs and cribs get “recycled” by people they know.
  • Sort.  I have a good friend—several in fact – who routinely drop off a bag or two of clothes for our clan.  I am grateful for all of it.  But I can’t keep ALL of it.  My daughter just won’t wear frilly dresses (which I’ve finally come to accept!) and thrifty l as I am, I’m not sending my kids to school in torn t.shirts or putting them to bed in stained pajamas (unless they actually created that tear or stain in which case, it’s fine!).  As a general rule, I go through items as they come in and put the “keepers” in clear labeled bins (BOYS 5T SUMMER or  GIRLS SIZE 7 WINTER or COATS/BOOTS – a catch all for seasonal items) and put the “gifts that keep on giving” into a bag for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, who I then call to schedule a pick up.
  • Store.  With a house that’s over a hundred years old, closet space is minimal while basement dampness isn’t.  What’s a gal to do?  Put shelves in the basement, run a dehumidifier always, label with care, and put a moisture-wicking packet in each and every bin.  It works, I swear. Oh, and two ideas for labeling — try these adorable free downloadables from ButtonedUp or invest in a label maker and let your inner Type A shine.
  • Just say no.  There will come a point when you may realize, as I recently have, that there can be too much of a good thing.  Remember all those people you asked?  Well, they do too.  Which is lovely.  But there is just no way I will ever need eight pairs of size 5T snow pants or boots.  So, there’s come a time when you may have to just say no.  Don’t be afraid to – I can assure you there’s a mom down the block who would be happy to just say yes!

Last but not least, enjoy… and occasionally splurge!  You know how those cute catalogs arrive in your mailbox each spring and fall?  The ones featuring happy smiling kids with the latest swimwear or snow suits?  Well, they put me in a panic.  “Crap!” I think as I do the mental math on how much it will cost to buy five new bathing suits (and swim shirts to cover their fair skin) or winter coats, boots and gloves times five.  Then I pause, sigh, and head downstairs to the hand me down bins.  More often than not, everything I need is in them.  And if it’s not, well, it feels great to open up one of those catalogs and get everyone something new. With all the money we’ve saved over the years, we deserve it.  They deserve it.  And when they’ve outgrown it, I will be more than happy to hand it down!

A few weeks ago, with resolutions top of mind and a renewed zeal to be a better me this year, I came across a great article on the Huffington Post about yelling.    About why we yell, the negative impact it has on our kids and how to stop yelling so much.  You should check it out.  The author, Rachel Macy Stafford, has a lot more street cred than I do.  She has a Masters in education, is a certified special-ed teacher, an author and I’m sure a whole lot more.  But like me, she is a Mom.  Unlike me, she is a Mom who has found a way to stop yelling.  I’m not there yet.  But I’d like to think that I’m on my way.  It seems that Rachel has crossed the finish line to a yell-free victory party and I’m just approaching the starting line.  But really, what better place to start?

Her article got me seriously thinking.  Why do I yell so much?  Many of the reasons are the ones she cites — we’re about to miss the bus or we’re late for soccer/baseball/basketball/lacrosse/church/the dentist,/the doctor/etc.  Or perhaps the kids opened a gift meant for a birthday party (which happened just last weekend).  Maybe they splashed water out of the tub or spilled a glass of milk/water/juice.  In short, like Rachel, I often yell when our kids are just being kids, doing the goofy, inevitable things kids do.  This is a huge realization for me.  They are just being kids!  And I’m sure yours are too.  Maybe you don’t yell as much as I do, but the next time the eggs hit the floor when a budding baker is just trying to help, I’m going to think twice and remember, “he’s just a kid.”

Of course, it’s not that easy.  If I think about why I really yell, it’s not because I’m mad about the box of Cheerios on the floor or the sopping wet bathroom.  It’s because I am tired.  Exhausted.  Frustrated.  Overwhelmed.  At my wits end.  I’ve been known to stoop down to their level, the level where on a good day, I look them in the eye with empathy and understanding and provide an encouraging word or a hug. But on a bad day, well, it’s really bad.  And I’m not proud of it.  I’m not proud of looking a little person in the eye and yelling with all my might.  It’s not pretty.  It’s ugly.  And it’s scary. And I don’t want my kids to be scared of me.

That was Rachel’s ah-hah moment – the moment she realized she was scaring her daughter.  I know I’ve scared mine.  And my four sons too.  But still I yell.  I do think there are different types of yelling — quite frankly, sometimes I have to yell to simply be heard above the din of our clamoring clan. Although, I’m sure an expert would say that’s no excuse.  And it doesn’t change the fact that I’d like to yell less.

Going cold turkey is unrealistic but a little (and hopefully one day a lot) less yelling is my goal.  I want to stop, for so many reasons.  For starters, it’s mean.  Rotten, mean and nasty.  And generally speaking, I’m not.  Or at least I’d like to think I’m not.   Then, there’s the aftermath of the “Big Yell”.  It’s not over when it’s over.  They remember. I remember.  And we all feel crappy.  I don’t want us to all feel crappy.  Happy beats crappy any day, right?  And last but not least, while the snow blows and wind howls today, in just a few short months, those windows will be open.  And I don’t want to scare the neighbor’s kids either!

So, before winter turns to spring, I’m going to do my best to yell less.  To take a breath. To walk away.  To remember they are just kids.  And they won’t be forever…