Today I didn’t yell at my kids.
I don’t yell at them, really. Except for the occasional “Come back!” or “Stop!” if a child is about to get hurt... or maybe a rare “NOOOO…” if the contents of a very dirty diaper are about to be spread onto the carpet. But I can tell you in all honesty that yelling in anger is something I just don’t do.
It’s not that I think an occasional raised voice would ruin my children forever. And I certainly wouldn’t think ill of you, dear friend, if I passed you in the grocery store and saw you lose your cool for a moment. For this mama, it’s just a personal conviction…
It’s just that I don’t want to know what yelling tastes like on my lips.
I want neither a sip, nor a swallow, of anger to hit my tongue… nor do I want my children to know what an angry mother sounds like.
You see, before I was even married, I decided something: It will stop here. It stops here.
And yet, there was a time…
A time when I was terrified I would repeat it all. Afraid that I was powerless to break the pattern, the habits of what came before. A time when I stared at an ultrasound photo, knowing the mother I wanted to be, yet afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it.
A time when the sound of my own children yelling, even in play, could start a stream of my own tears. All I wanted to do was curl up in a corner. Some call that posttraumatic stress. I call it the Fear of the Past Coming Back.
A time when I was afraid of my own brokenness, because doesn’t motherhood do that to us? Scrape us raw on the inside and expose what’s hidden deep? Doesn’t motherhood peel back the layers of the onion and reveal whatever bitter lies within?
There are still moments when I feel like yelling. Like when a precious child does something that frustrates me, on a day when I’m already overwhelmed… it doesn’t matter what, really, they’re just children, and it’s not their fault… but I feel a little lump rise up in my throat, and I know I could yell at them. But I don’t. And I won’t.
Because I remember: I get to decide who I will be.
And I remember forgiveness. It’s the only way to be free.
And I remember trust. My faith has taught me that “all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27, NIV Bible). Day by day, little by little, with His help, I’m learning what it means to be a kind wife and mother.
And I remember self-care. It’s not always easy, or possible even, with little ones underfoot. But doing what I can, for a moment or two, to get filled up again—even if it’s just listening to a favorite song, talking to a friend on the phone, or going for a walk around the block—can make all the difference in a day. All the difference in the love I can give.
And I remember this thing about time. I’m not a pastor, or a counselor, or a teacher. But I’ve learned something about the past. It’s passed. And there’s this funny thing about time: you see, it only moves in one direction. So whatever you’ve walked through before, it’s over. It’s over. You don’t have to live in it anymore.
And I remember to struggle. You hear it everywhere like it’s a bad thing. I’m struggling. At church, at playdates, in the movies, it’s usually said with a sigh, and downcast eyes, and a heavy heart. But try it like this: I’m struggling! I’m holding my head up high, and I can look you in the eyes, and tell you that I AM STRUGGLING. Struggle is a verb, and I will keep on doing it, I will keep on fighting, until I do not have to fight anymore. So if you’re struggling… don’t stop.
But wait. I was telling you about Today.
We were running late, but still we paused for butterfly kisses while I buckled them in their car seats.
We went to the arts and crafts store to plan some fun fall activities, and we dawdled through the aisles (I have pictures of my girls trying on feather boas to prove it).
Later, we took a walk to the park, and noticed that for the first time this year, leaves of gold and yellow decorated our path.
Today I lived, and loved, and felt the arms of their love around me.
Tonight I tucked them in with a hug and a kiss and a smile, and gently brushed tangled hair, and hugged and kissed again when they got up out of bed late at night.
Do they know what a battle it’s been?
They do know that I read books “to learn how to be a good Mommy.” They certainly know how far from perfect I am. They certainly know my many flaws.
They don’t know all the tears, and prayers, and heartbreak it’s taken for this mama to let go—to simply give them what they have today.
They do know that they are safe. And they do know that they are loved.
And it may not seem like a big accomplishment to you…
But today I didn’t yell at my kids.
Looking ahead together,