Shout It Out Loud

Dirty little Mommy secret #412: I yell at my kids.

Sure, sure, I’ve read all the parenting books. I’ve tuned in to The “TODAY” Show to see perfectly coiffed mommy experts spew their momaganda about damaging children’s self-esteem and causing their SAT scores to drop by eight points every time a mother raises her voice. I’m the adult child of a yeller myself. I know it’s not always good for my kids, or for my blood pressure. I know that parents should find other ways to discipline and re-direct.

But sometimes, I just get pissed.

Used to be that mothers yelled — in department stores, at the butcher shop, on the street, at the playground — everywhere. And no one even flinched. (I’m from Queens. Trust me. You have no idea how loud mothers can yell. Especially when they’re competing with police sirens.)

It also used to be that mothers spanked, hit and even whacked little bottoms with wooden spoons. That’s a different matter altogether. That’s a scary place for parents to go. I’m no proponent of corporal punishment.

But I am a fan of occasional yelling. I find it to be enormously effective.

Exhibit A: my husband and children, milling about loudly in the kitchen while I’m trying to do paperwork and write for a deadline. I’ve asked them nicely — several times — to go about their business elsewhere.

But still, there are questions about lunch and when it will be and how soon it will be served and where Dad will be taking them if lunch is not being served by a very busy mother and should jackets be worn if they venture out for a midday meal — and that’s just coming from my husband. Layer that chatter with a video streaming from a piece of iShit far too close to my ears, all about Barbie and her magical koala who farts glittery rainbows and transforms into a prince once Barbie inhales his enchanted flatulence. There’s also lots of tinkly music playing in the video — the kind they play to POWs to make them reveal classified secrets. Now there’s some kind of “dee-deedeedeedeedee-dee” beeping sound coming from my son and his Nintendo DS, just to make things interesting. He’s also kicking the table leg in time to the “dee-deedeedeedeedee-dee” beeping sound. Which is fun. For sadomasochists.

Here’s the cherry on top of the psycho-mommy sundae. Dad and daughter decide to argue as to whether or not she can finish watching “Barbie and the Magical Rainbow-Farting Koala” before they go out for lunch. “But he’s going to fart in two minutes, Dad! It’ll be over as soon as she breathes deeply and gets whisked away to the fairytale castle by Swarovski-crystal-bedecked rodents!” Said forty-two year-old husband is actually engaging in the discussion. Actually asking how long the flatulence will take. Directly behind my desk chair. We don’t live in a studio apartment. We have other rooms. Levels, even.

It’s 1:45 pm. I’ve asked for peace for a half hour. And I’m twitching like an addict after a two-hour wait at a methadone clinic.

Now it’s official. I’m losing it.

“Turn off the iShit! It’s 1:45! Go get lunch before it’s time for dinner! I don’t give a flying F about the koala and whether or not Barbie becomes Swedish royalty! Go, go, GO! Get your damn coats on and go! All three of you — JUST GO!”

And the three people in my family who were formerly committing horrible crimes now look at me, innocent and wide-eyed, as if I’d just gutted the stuffed bear from those creepy Snuggle fabric softener commercials, and worn his fuzzy bear head as some sort of bizarre, ritualistic trophy after the kill.

I’m the bad guy, apparently. Because I yelled.

My tyrannical — albeit off the cuff — plan works, because they scurry out the door — some without jackets — to leave me in peace. For about 45 minutes, until they return home.

I’ll come clean. I yell. I have oodles of patience, until I don’t. And then I yell. Do I yell horrible names at my children or belittle them? No, I don’t. That, to me, is child abuse. But I do raise my voice from time to time, when it seems to be the only way I’ll be heard in my house. (Ask my next-door neighbor. She can barely hear herself think, what with all my voice-raising.)

When did it suddenly become such a crime for parents to lose their temper? Who decided that all parents have to follow the models of PollyAnna and Mr. Flanders? And what kind of medication do they take? Because I’d like to see if I can get the generic brand at Costco and stock up on a lifetime supply.

When my first-born was a toddler, and I was newly pregnant (read: f*cking exhausted) with my second child, I sat and watched “Little Bear” and “The Berenstain Bears” with her for some quiet time in the middle of the day. (My oldest stopped napping the same week that I found out I was again pregnant. The kid’s got great timing.) Maybe I was hormonal in that first trimester, but I was horrified at what I was seeing. Yes, yes, talking female bears in unflattering Amish dresses — but also, momma bears with infinite patience, the perfect answer to every problem, and a preponderance of sage advice, offered at exactly the right time in soothing, soft-spoken words. Dear God. What was I doing wrong? These people — I mean, bears — live in tree hollows, for God’s sakes. Their toilet seats are made out of unvarnished wood. How can they be so…happy? And patient? What kind of mother was I?

Fast-forward a few years, and I’ve come to realize that I’m just the plain-old, good and normal kind. The one who loves her children so fiercely that they never doubt her love for a second. Ever. The one who screws up and tells her children exactly when she’s done so. The one who yells, ashamedly, but apologizes afterwards. The one who isn’t quite as hard on herself as she once was — in those scary, overwhelming first years of parenting. The one who allows for mistakes and doozies — from herself, from her children, from her husband, and mostly, from the dog — and laughs at it all afterwards.

The one who isn’t perfect, and is preparing her children for the fact that no one in life really is.

Take that, Momagandists. When our kids are grown and sitting around a conference table at the office, mine will be whistling Dixie when the CEO starts throwing staplers at the smartboard. Yours will be under the table, cowering and crapping their pants. Who’s the bad mommy now? Hah? Hah?

I know, I know. Just let me be delusional for a minute. At least until they get back from lunch.

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