I just hurt my throat while yelling at my children.
As a general rule, I am not one who screams a lot, mostly because I find it counter-productive. I don't respond well to people shouting at me; in fact, it makes me want to do the exact opposite of what's being hollered in my direction just out of spite.
Via the transitive property, I assume that all other people respond the same way I do. Which is also why I never give anyone licorice during the holidays, because everyone finds it vile.
My dad is not a yeller, either. Yet, as a kid, it was always easy to know when he was displeased, mostly because he suddenly would pick his words very carefully and quietly. This was always four times more terrifying than being yelled at.
My mom, however, yelled to get her point across. Once I hit my double-digit years, I stopped responding, which only made the yelling louder. Or I think it did. I wasn't really paying attention.
Like with so many other behaviors my parents had, I get the yelling now.
Sometimes, you have to shout just to relieve the steam. Call this my parent-as-tea-kettle rule.
For me, the most trying time is during bath nights, which happens every-other-day in our house.
When the kids were still babies, it was a daily occurrence, not because they could get themselves especially dirty but because it broke up the monotony of the day. Plus, there is no better smell than the top of a freshly washed baby's head. Nothing.
But now that they are older and hygiene has become more of a chore, bathing happens less frequently.
Yes, my kids take baths, even though they are more than old enough to shower. It's complicated _ but the short version involves a Boy who showers in his swimming goggles and a Girl who will stay in there for hours if we don't shut off the hot water. Not that we would do such a thing.
They don't bathe together anymore, not because they have discovered what makes boys and girls different (that ship has already sailed) but because they are too big to fit in the tub simultaneously, which always leads to a fight over who has more room. And a fight over who deserves more room. And then a subsequent fight over breaking the agreed upon ratio of bath space to age and/or hair length.
Bathing solo doesn't end the arguing. It merely changes the focus.
The routine begins the same each time. I remind whichever child is in the tub to not get water on the floor. Five minutes later, when I come back in, the ceiling in dripping.
I then remind said child that "no water on the floor" is a general request for not getting water anywhere it doesn't belong, like the ceiling or the bathroom walls.
"But you said 'floor.'"
"I didn't think I had to specify all of the places tub water doesn't belong, which would be any part of the bathroom that isn't the tub," I say. "And, while I'm here, now would be a good time to wash your hair. The shampoo is behind you."
Five minutes later, I come back in. The tub is now full of bubbles.
"Shampoo isn't bubble bath," I say. "And why is your head still dry? And why is there water on the floor?"
It's about here that my voice starts to rise. It's also about here when my kids stop hearing much of anything I say. Yes, I am aware that the two states are related.
Five minutes later, whichever kid isn't currently in the tub is standing just beyond the reach of the one in the water and complaining about how long he or she has been waiting.
At which point I grab the first kid, wash his or her hair, monitor as he or she rubs soap on various parts and rinses off.
Then kid two gets in _ and we go through the exact same series one more time. Except, at the end, instead of one kid complaining about the wait, I come to the realization that the better part of my evening has been sucked up with policing baths. It's at that point that I start yelling in earnest, usually about how simple this whole thing is and how old the kids are and how they ought to be able to clean themselves and how frustrating it is to have to go through the same thing every single time.
It's like their bathing ritual isn't complete until I lose it _ and that they go out of their way to ensure that I do.
And, yes, the fault is mine. I am the one responsible for my response. But, seriously, how hard is it to keep the water in the tub? And how many times must you be reminded to wash your hair? And to use soap.
Adrienne Martini is a freelance writer, instructor at the State University College at Oneonta, mom to Maddy and Cory, wife to Scott, and author of "Sweater Quest." Her columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/parentingimperfect.
I just hurt my throat while yelling at my children.
- Parenting Imperfect
It is in February when the breaking point is reached
If I could edit the calendar, the two months I'd do away with are August and February.
Ibuprofen saved the vacation
Right after New Year's Day, we four hearty souls flew to Orlando to visit my mother, stepfather and aunt.
The write stuff is often hard to find in my household
Now that the kids are older and I sleep well most nights, my biggest parenting challenge is boundaries. The challenge is that I feel like I should have them and the small people refuse to acknowledge such a thing could exist.
Of kids, phone calls and toilet paper
We have reached that golden age when both kids are responsible enough to be trusted alone for short periods of time.
A Halloween message to my future self
I'm writing this column a few days before Halloween. And I'm writing this mostly for my future self, as a reminder of the lessons learned this particular last week in October.
My brain is losing its connection to eyes, teeth
I'm beginning to have grave doubts about my brain's ability to remember things.
Celebrate small accomplishments of best laid plans
My summer plans always seem so reasonable when I make them in May. Come late-August, I wonder what the heck past-me was thinking.
Vacation was great ... until today
Up until today, our family vacation has gone much better than expected. Today, however, was a high entropy day.
Eight simple goals for summer
After a spastic end to the academic year, summer is finally here.
Optimism of the start of the school year is gone
I've got nothing left to give.
I'm relieved it's not just me
For the last few years, I've been convinced that I'm just harder on things than other people are.
A tactical error in the handoff
My kids are lucky enough to have half of their grandparents within a three-hour drive.
A potentially quiet afternoon interrupted by a dog and a balloon
The kids spent most of Martin Luther King Jr. Day bickering.
The dog is a getting to be an expert at training
This sentence took 20 minutes to type.
Bad things can happen when trends are no longer trendy
When I was a kid, it used to drive me bonkers that my mom didn't know anything about the most important things in my world. She had no idea what a friendship pin was or how you'd make one. She couldn't name any good band, i.e., the ones a pre-teen would listen to like Duran Duran or Wham. And she didn't find Robert Downey Jr. nearly as dreamy as I did.
Letting go can be more difficult for me than the kids
And so we enter the silly season, the one in which all of us run around like chickens without noggins.
Despite all the fighting, sometimes the kids get along
Going to church about much more than religious talk
After a good five years of fully intending to go to church but never quite making it out of the house on a Sunday morning, we've been attending since the beginning of the year.
Lessons learned from puppy a lot like those from kids
And so our first summer with a dog closes. Lessons have been learned, as I suspected they might. In case you are pondering a similar addition to your house, here are a few of them.
Summer and the wonderment of caterpillars, butterflies
- It is in February when the breaking point is reached