I know my children can hear the sound of it a full mile away. They hear it, drop whatever they are doing and start fighting, yelling or acting up. And demanding my attention, of course.
What is the sound, you ask?
It’s the sound of me dialing a telephone.
This morning I had to call Verizon because we are having trouble getting a dial tone on our land line, and I needed to talk to someone in repairs and customer service. Customer service calls are the bane of my very existence. I hate the automated aspect of it all, and I have no extra time or patience to sit there and wait until an operator can help me. My children were all happily playing nicely together in the playroom, a full level away from where I was dialing the phone, so I decided it was the perfect time to make such a call.
I wasn’t even on my cell phone a full minute before a heard a distant wailing, and then feet running up the steps, frantic to find me.
Oh crap. It’s another Attack of the Tattle-Tales.
Despite the fact that I have repeatedly told my children: a.) don’t interrupt Mommy when she’s on the phone unless you are bleeding, throwing up, or are seriously injured, and b.) tattle-taling is strictly prohibited unless someone has made you bleed, about to make you bleed, or is about to do something dangerous or destructive to him/herself or others; my kids choose to ignore these rules and bother me when I am on the phone anyway.
Expectations a little high, Clare?
So I did what any self-respecting mother would do: I quickly ran to our office and shut and the doors. I had to finish the phone call, and the sounds of the cries were more whiny than injured, ruling out the presence of bleeding children. I made the decision to hide, at least for a few minutes until I could finish my phone call. Is that too much to ask for?
Apparently it is, because they were banging on the office doors, screaming at each other, name-calling, and just being plain, old obnoxious. The customer service rep could even hear it and said, “Oh, do you have kids? Four of them?!? Wow! You sure have your hands full!”
Understatement of the year.
Just as the agent was describing what I needed to do to determine the problem and set up a repair, I heard a noise that sounded like a body-slam (or two) and yelling that was getting persistently louder. I abruptly said to the customer service rep, “I gotta go. I’ll call back later,” and slammed my cell phone shut.
To say that I was steamed is yet another understatement.
I threw open the doors of the office and screamed, “SHUT UP! EVERYBODY JUST SHUT UP! CAN’T YOU SEE THAT I WAS ON THE PHONE?!? YOU ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY TODAY!!!”
Whoops. So much for composure.
I hate it when I lose it like that. I regretted the words the instant they left my throat. Bill and I do not believe in spanking our children, so that’s never been a problem, and name-calling falls under the same category of spanking and something else we just don’t do, but yelling? Well, you got me there. Push me far enough and I have been known to yell about it a time or two. Or twelve. Or twenty five. But really, who's keeping track here?
Why am I telling you this? I don’t know. Maybe I just need to vent. Maybe I just need to confess this so I feel better. Maybe I just need to know that I’m not the only mom out there that occasionally goes all loudmouth on my kids. Right? Right???
Bill is as cool-as-a-cucumber, even when he’s really mad, but I just can’t help it sometimes. Being the mother of four kids, it takes a lot to push me to the edge. I'm used to the verbal sparring they occasionally have with each other, especially Henry and George, who act like an old married couple on the verge of a bitter divorce. (I didn't say I like it, but I am used to dealing with it on a frequent basis.) But when I am absolutely fed up, the yelling just comes out of my mouth like high-volume verbal diarrhea.
But “shut up”? Ugh. Put those two words together in our house, and you’ve got a swear word. That’s how much we are not allowed to say those two words in succession. And I’m the adult here, so I should be in control of my emotions at all times, right? So telling the kids they “are driving me crazy” is just a little immature, don’t you think? Ironically, I am constantly telling them not to scream and yell at each other, but there I was, screaming and yelling at them. I guess I must have figured, when in Rome....but it doesn’t make it right.
Seriously, I’m so disappointed in myself.
Deep down I know I’m a good mom. It’s not that. I know that because occasionally I get overwhelmed and yell at my kids, it doesn’t make me a bad person. I am not perfect, (shocker, I know) and I don’t strive to be. But I sometimes feel so guilty, like today, after a diatribe, that THOSE kinds of moments will be the ones that my kids will remember when they look back at their childhood. I worry that THAT will take precedence over the fun dance parties in the kitchen, the little adventures we take together, the fun days playing outside or at the pool, the times I let them help me cook a meal, and all the other great, memorable moments. I worry that they when they look back on their childhood, all they will remember is screaming Mommy the Shrew.
Maybe that’s totally dramatic of me, but if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I tend to lean toward the dramatic. This is the most important job a person can do. I get one shot at it, and if I screw it up, it’s not like I can just say, “Eh. I gave that the old college-try, and it didn’t work out, but oh well!”
This job entails helping to mold and shape people here, not painting a room or baking a cake.
I am beyond lucky to be the mother of these children, and I know it. I make sure they know it too, and I never shy away from the opportunity to tell them how much I love them and how special they are to me. It already feels like time is flying by way too quickly, and I went from being pregnant with my first child to HOW THE HECK DO I HAVE AN EIGHT YEAR OLD AND THREE OTHER KIDS NOW? I never, ever want to take these kids or this moment in time for granted. So is it worth it to scare them and set a bad example because of a phone call to Verizon gone awry? Most definitely not.
But that’s the crazy part about being human and all. Humans make mistakes.
And this Mom made a doozy of a mistake. I’m sure it won’t be the last time, either.
At least I’m woman enough to own up to it. I apologized, of course, for my childish behavior and for yelling. I reminded them how much it hurts me to hear them call each other names. They weren’t totally off the hook, however, and they still got punishments for their bad behavior.
I’m not that big of a guilt-ridden sucker.
Tonight I was snuggling in George’s bed with him and hunting for objects in his “I Spy” book. All traces of the morning madhouse around here were long forgotten, except in my own guilty mind. As we were looking for the picture of the yellow school bus, George leaned over, kissed me on the cheek and said, “I love you Mommy. You’re the bestest mommy ever.”
Guilt be gone. I'm guess it's time to take myself off the hook now.
As cliché as it sounds, I take great comfort in the fact that tomorrow is a brand new day.