Friday, February 22, 2008
"I feel sorry for you because your Mom yells at you". It was a comment that I overheard my daughters friend utter one night. I had spent the evening with my 2 sons, my daughter and her friend. We had gone to dinner and a movie, and for the life of me, I could not recall one unpleasant moment. I never raised my voice...in anger.
I will admit that in general, it is true. Yelling is never my plan, but at times - I raise my voice when talking to my kids. Nothing 'mommy-dearest' or anything, but I will 'yell', when I deem it necessary.
But when I overheard this friend of my daughter share her opinions on my parenting. I had to stop and think. Had I been handling things incorrectly?
After dropping the friend off at home, I asked my daughter about the overheard comment. She confirmed that our evening had been great - and didn't know what the friend was talking about.
Still, it bugged me. I started to examine the minutiae of the evening, recalling every detail of the night to figure out what this girl had been talking about.
Slowly it all came back to me. I hadn't yelled, as in screamed, but I had raised my voice several decibels- many times.
When one of my boys was listening to his MP3 player in the car as we were driving to dinner, I raised my voice (so he could hear me through the ear phones) to remind him that the volume of the player should not be so high that he could not hear me when I needed to speak to him.
Once we arrived at Chick-Fil-A, my other son started to throw a medium sized temper tantrum over not being allowed to order a dessert instead of a dinner. I raised my voice to tell him to knock it off.
At the movie theater, my daughter and her friend, in a fit of giggly girly-ness, darted into the parking lot without looking for oncoming traffic. I raised my voice again, to get over their din, reminding them to be aware, and stay with me as it was dark and we were in a public place.
And after we had gotten seats in the theater, all four kids started loudly begging for different snacks, and expressing displeasure over one anther's choices. I again spoke, more loudly than normal, informing them in a firm tone that they would get what ever I selected, and they would then say 'thank you'.
But I never yelled. Not by my definition.
A few days later, the comment was still bugging me when I went to pick my daughter up from this same friends home. While there, I overheard a conversation between the girl and her mother. It was about 9:00 at night and the girl was begging her mom to let her start a movie. The mom said no. This went back and forth for many minutes while I waited for my daughter to find her shoes. The Mom had many reasons why there was not time and why the girl needed to be in bed - and the girl kept begging. As my daughter came to the door with her footwear, we said goodbye. On our way out the door I heard the Mom say "Oh - all right. But you have to go to bed right after."
In my house, when I say NO, that's it. I will not entertain anymore conversation on the disputed topic. And if my kids try to press an issue, I will firmly, possibly a bit more loudly than normal, remind them - "Your Mom said No."
As I drove home, something clicked. I had been worrying over this girls perception of me. Feeling self conscious that some random nine year old percieved me as having parental defficiencies. I was concerned that I was an embarrassment to my kids, but suddenly, I saw the light. If this is the type of parenting that my daughter's friend was used to, than I would indeed by viewed by her as quite a loud and tyrannical authoritarian.
When I think back on the night of dinner and a movie, I am fairly certain that I spoke firmly on more than the few occasions I can recall. That is my style. My number one job it to be my kids disciplinarian. And if you look up the definition for the word discipline you will find that it means 'training to act in accordance with rules.' I am their advocate second, friend third, but their push-over? Never.
In the car, on the way home, after listening to the mother/daughter exchange, my own daughter said: "Can you believe how she was begging her mom? That is totally not okay. And I can't believe her Mom actually gave in! You would NEVER do that!"
No. I wouldn't. And apparently, my daughter knows who is in charge in my house.
So, here is to all of you Mom's that 'yell'. May we produce a more responsible, respectful generation.