My mom was a yeller, and I know she hated it. I remember one day when I was in second grade: she came to school in the middle of the day to tell me she was sorry for yelling at me that morning. I don’t remember the yelling, but the midday school visit has stayed with me ever since. We were doing some independent activity, so there was a fair amount of noise and activity in the room. My teacher quietly came over and told me my mom was out in the hall and wanted to talk to me - now that I’m thinking about it, I wonder how long she had been there waiting for the right moment to take me aside without drawing attention to me. She told me she was sorry and we hugged each other and she cried. And that was it. All that effort on her part just for a couple of minutes with me, to make sure I knew she loved me. Probably also to assuage her own guilt.
If I were to show up at my daughter’s school today to apologize to her for yelling at her this morning, not only would she not really connect the two things, but the visit would totally throw her for a loop. Why are you here, Mommy? Wait, what? You’re LEAVING again? Not an option. I will not lie - I feel an urge to do this, to tell her I am sorry, so that she will remember that I am sorry and not remember that I yelled. But in the case of a three-year-old, this move would be entirely about me and my feelings and my guilt. It would probably only make her day worse (and ultimately mine too).
That’s the thing about yelling: I can’t know how it affects my three-year-old when I yell at her in the morning before school. I do know how it affects me: I feel scummy after I yell. I know how pointless and unkind it is, and I know that it also doesn’t actually speed anything up or make us less late. Three-year-olds don’t care about being five minutes late. “Late” to Ros is what you call it when it’s dark outside. Lateness is not a thing that she sees her actions causing or affecting. She is not good at hurrying, because she is three. And I can’t make her care about my schedule or my needs.
So here’s what’s going to happen: I am not going to yell anymore. Cold turkey, à la Rebecca Lavoie. I have a no-yelling accountability buddy, and we are going to keep each other honest. I am going to get frustrated and I am probably going to screw up a few times. Like the parenting confidence journal, this will be a practice that I will have to work at every day.
Tell me: do you yell? Does it work? Do you wish you didn’t? I am always open to having more accountability buddies!