His eyes filled with tears.
His lip trembled.
“You yelled at me, Mama. You scared me.”
In that instant, my anger receded.
The whirlwind died.
And my world snapped into focus.
Did I yell at him?
Yeah, I guess I did.
I had an explanation, of course. We were running late, and I had struggled to find an outfit to wear. As I was nursing the baby, the boy was going to the potty and started bouncing on the toilet. A plumber came to our home THE DAY BEFORE to repair a broken seal caused by—you guessed it—bouncing on the toilet. When my son wouldn’t stop bouncing, I had to put the baby down and carry him out of the bathroom. As the baby screamed and he flailed, milk soaked through my shirt, the one I struggled to find earlier.
It was the last straw of an otherwise long morning.
And I lost my temper.
I’m not sure it was truly “yelling,” at least as an adult would define it.
But I was sharp and frustrated.
Pissed off, even.
From his perspective, I’m sure it seemed like I was yelling at him.
That’s just semantics.
I don’t want to be a mother that yells.
Even when her children push her.
So his words stopped me.
They scared me.
Two days later, they still scare me.
But I’m trying to learn from them.
To focus on what matters.
Does it matter if we are a few minutes late for preschool?
Does it matter if my outfit isn’t as put together as I would like?
Does it even matter if a healthy baby howls for 30 seconds while she waits for milk?
Those things don’t matter.
But other things do.
His perception of me matters.
His self-esteem matters.
Our relationship matters.
Nothing is more important.
In twenty years, none of us will remember the small insults. Not the milk, not the shirt, not the screaming baby.
And not even the toilet.
But he’ll remember if he thinks I’m the kind of mother who yells.
He’ll never forget that.
Something in the equation of that morning didn’t work.
And that something was my reaction.
Because a little boy who’s almost three is incapable of acting like he’s twenty-three.
Let’s face it—he’s probably going to bounce on the potty again. Maybe even tomorrow.
So I’m trying to change my expectations.
Set us both up for success.
Plan to be a few minutes late, build time into our schedule for the inevitable delays of our lives.
Accept that I may have rumpled clothing.
That he’s going to test limits.
Treasure my children.
I won’t be a mother who scares them.
That’s not me.