Thursday, April 11, 2013


I stared at the sidewalk on the way to class this morning, trying to avoid wormicide, to avoid splattering slimy segments up the back of my pants, wishing I hadn’t worn flip flops.  The air smelled ripe and swampy.  Some of them were stretched out long, trying to get to the other side safely.  Some were curled up into themselves, trying to present as small a target as possible for the thumping soles. 

“I wear flip flops on our dairy farm,” said my student.  “I’ve been stepped on a few times and gotten broken toes, but that doesn’t bother me.  I hate worms.  They creep me out.  I think it’s because they slither towards you.  I had to talk on the phone to distract myself on the way to class.” 

Eden made a worm farm in a plastic bucket.  She was so proud, carefully shoveling in dried out mud and adding a bit of water to the bottom.  She dropped her five worm family into the bucket, where they sloshed around and disappeared.  She later cried that she lost them.  We dug around and found half of one and remains of another. 

Isaac collects them in a toy watering can, all piled one on top of the other.  Despite being educated about the optimal conditions for worm survival, he leaves them with only each other.  He later laments that they have “deaded” and aren’t moving. 

“I used to line them up on my grandma’s kitchen table,” said another student.  “I’d give them baths in her sink.  She couldn’t stand it.  I don’t know why I touched them; they’re so gross.  I think I drowned them.” 

I walked back to my car, still staring at the sidewalk.  What worms remained were dried out sticks or slimy shadows, the worms themselves carried across campus on someone’s tread.  A few shiny curlicues slithered still, proving the sticking power of the worm.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

When I'm A Mommy, I'm Going To Use My Nice Words

There’s been an anti-screaming theme in my life lately.  I came across the book Screamfree Parenting on my sister’s bookshelf and was intrigued.  Then one of my favorite bloggers, digthischick, mentioned the book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting.  Then I forgot about those books because I’m stubborn and don’t like to learn new (hard) things. But then my friend Sierra, another of my favorite bloggers, referred to the digthischick book recommendation on her blog.  And that same day, my friend Emily linked via facebook to this Huff Post article by The OrangeRhino

Hmmm…maybe I should pay attention to this theme? 

I gave up my avoidance tactics and got Screamfree Parenting from the library and started reading it.  I read The Orange Rhino’s blog and could relate to so much of what she said. 

And then I had a chance to practice.  It didn’t go well. 

The short version is that we met up with some friends, and all our kids were playing together.  Then there were 3, yes THREE, “accidents” wherein my little innocents injured a little boy (the same little boy all 3 times) to the point of tears.  So we left, and my words and tone in the van on the way home got a little too steamy.  The kids said I was being mean.  I said I was being mad. 

Everyone took a break from each other for awhile when we got home, and then we regrouped to talk it through.  I made sure that my sweet littles knew that we do not hurt our friends, and if we cannot control our bodies enough to prevent “accidents,” then we will have to stay home to protect our friends until we learn how.  We talked about how we would feel if our friends hurt us, or hypothetically, hurt us 3 times in one hour.  We talked about how we might not be too excited to see those friends again if that kept happening. 

We seemed to come to an understanding, we put it behind us, and we moved on. 

Later that day, Eden was playing quietly and said, “When you talked to us in the living room, you didn’t say you were sorry for talking mean at us.  When I’m a mommy, I’m not going to yell.  I’m going to use my nice words.” 

Uh, um, stammer stammer… she was right.  Despite my recent reeducation into the concept that yelling at small people is not acceptable, I hadn’t even thought to apologize.  I was so bent on their behavior that I completely overlooked mine. 

Here’s the thing.  I tell myself that if I’m to the point of yelling, it’s because of my kids’ behavior.  That they have “triggered” me.  That they have made one too many bad decisions and it’s time to rein them in. 

But really, it’s all about me.  Why was I so mad about what happened with our friends?  Well, if I’m honest, I was mostly embarrassed.  Embarrassed that no one else’s kids were beating up on each other and mine were somewhat relentless about it on that occasion.  That it somehow reflected on my parenting and me as a person if my kids made bad choices (or had numerous accidents, by their account).  I was also afraid.  Afraid that these incidents were signs that some insidious bad habits are taking hold, or that my kids lack any shreds of empathy, or that we will never be able to leave our house for fear of injuring others. 

In other words, my “talking mean at them,” i.e., yelling, was about my feelings and my inability to deal with them.  And what I’m learning from the Well-Adjusted People Who Don’t Yell is that I need to deal with my own self, and let my kids deal with their own selves.  They need me to be calm, so they can learn.  When I yell, they are anxious and fearful and will do and say things just to calm my anxiety rather than to learn.  That sounds like some crazy codependence that I want no part of. 

Calm consequences teach.

So the next time I feel a yell coming on, I will step back and ask myself what I am feeling.  And what I need to cope with that feeling.  I will tell myself the truth, such as: I have the most amazing friends in the world who are absolutely not judging me and have my back.  And, if my friends saw insidious habits developing in my kids or had genuine concerns about my parenting, I think they would talk to me about it.  And, my kids are normal and have their moments of violence but also have their moments of sweet caring and nurturing. 

I apologized to Eden and Isaac, and they forgave me, as kids do, quickly and totally.  Kids are awesome at forgiveness.  And when I was tucking Eden in that night, I told her that I was going to try really hard to use my nice words when I was angry and yell less.  She looked at me and said, “Less?  You shouldn’t yell at all!” 

“Um, right, yes, I will make it my goal to not yell at all.”

It’s a high standard.  And my kids are worth it.