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Monday, November 14, 2011

Old Yeller

I grew up with a Mother who was a yeller. She could scream until the veins stood out in her head, scream herself into a coughing fit if it was cold and flu season. Once, she screamed so loud and so long at me and my brothers, she got lightheaded from the rise in her blood pressure. I learned very early on that you can't outscream a screamer. It's an exercise in futility. So I perfected the cool-as-a-cucumber defense, pasting a blank look on my face and staring at some point right between my mother's eyes because God forbid I should not be looking at her when she yelled at me.

I had the calm and controlled thing down to a science, and it came in handy with the man I ended up marrying, who was himself a screamer. And when the kids came along, I used to back off and let him do the screaming, standing in the background, smug and self-assured because I wasn't the one screaming. I wasn't the one losing my temper. The Queen of self-control.

Then he left and suddenly, I'm not a queen, but another Disney-esque character: Old Yeller. When the temper goes and the calm, controlled voice of reason gets me nowhere with children who have disobeyed my request five times in as many minutes, I can go from zero to screaming in seconds. And I hate it. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Sometimes, I think I yell longer because I'm so mad at myself, it just overflows.

All the while, my logical mind tries to reassure me that I don't really yell that much. It's certainly not an everyday occurrence, and it's certainly after being provoked. Some would even call it deserved when it happens, but I disagree. I don't think any child deserves to be yelled at unless they're doing something that will endanger their lives or irreparably harm another person or their property. Their father used to scream "Why do you make me yell at you?" And I used to think "They're not making you yell. They're making you angry. You're choosing to yell."

I need to figure out why I'm choosing to yell. And what else I can try that might work better. All my old soft-voice attempts at reason are failing me when they get out of hand, and it's making for a really stressful environment on occasion. I know it's part and parcel of having a pre-teen drama queen and a child with autism, but some days, it's overwhelming.

And I have no one to lean on anymore.

What strategies do you use to keep from screaming the house down? I could really use some pointers.

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