Why is it that I never see anyone else shouting at their kids? No one else having to drag their kid along by the arm to get to nursery, or anywhere, on time. Everyone else seems to either have kids who are better behaved than mine, or are much much calmer in the face of a grumpy three-nager. Where ever we go, everyone ends up knowing Archie’s name, because I have to use it so much. Some days I may as well call him ‘come-on-Archie’, or ‘Archie-no’, or ‘Archie-stop!’.
I have lost my temper with Archie nearly every afternoon for the past few days, and I haven’t been very good at hiding it! There’s been a lot of shouting, time outs, banging on tables to get his attention, and generally a very unhappy, very angry mummy and boy to greet Daddy Bear when he gets home.
It makes me really sad that I have this seemingly uncontrollable temper, and that I lose it with poor Archie Bear. I am so aware that he is getting older and will be able to remember some of these encounters and interactions, and that kills me a bit inside. I hate that he might remember me as just an angry mum who would end up dragging him down the corridor to time out and unceremoniously shoving him back into place when he slithers back towards the lounge.
I see my friends with their older kids, and they have such a wonderful relationship with their children. They talk to each other, respect each other, have set rules which are sometimes disputed but somehow in a controlled, calm way. Not once have I witnessed them shouting at their parents or vice versa. And every day I lose it with Archie Bear, I think how far away from that ideal we are, and how if I can’t control my temper we might never have that respect for each other and that gorgeous relationship when he’s a bit older.
Some days I do manage to hold it together. I speak slowly to him, rather than rattle off my demands so fast that he can barely catch what I’ve said. I try to understand why he’s behaving the way he is, and I go to him, bend down to his level and talk to him about it, calmly. On those days I don’t know what it different, how I manage it, but I do. Those days are so lovely, we end the day as friends and we are both so much happier and calmer.
One of my all-time favourite books is Little Women. If you know it, or have seen the BBC adaptation over Christmas, you will know the gorgeous passage where the girls’ mother admits her own temper to Jo, who has a stonking one!
“It’s my dreadful temper! I try to cure it, I think I have, and then it breaks out worse than ever. OH, Mother, what shall I do? What shall I do?” cried poor Jo, in despair.
“Watch and pray, dear, never get tired of trying, and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault,” said Mrs. March, drawing the blowzy head to her shoulder and kissing the wet cheek so tenderly that Jo cried even harder.
“You don’t know, you can’t guess how bad it is! It seems as if I could do anything when I’m in a passion. I get so savage, I could hurt anyone and enjoy it. I’m afraid I shall do something dreadful some day, and spoil my life, and make everybody hate me. Oh, Mother, help me, do help me!”
“I will, my child, I will. Don’t cry so bitterly, but remember this day, and resolve with all your soul that you will never know another like it. Jo, dear, we all have our temptations, some far greater than yours, and it often takes us all our lives to conquer them. You think your temper is the worst in the world, but mine used to be just like it.”
“Yours, Mother? Why, you are never angry!” And for the moment Jo forgot remorse in surprise.
“I’ve been trying to cure it for forty years, and have only succeeded in controlling it. I am angry nearly every day of my life, Jo, but I have learned not to show it, and I still hope to learn not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years to do so.”
Please, God, please would it not take me 40 years! I’m going to try to figure out what is different on those days, why it is I lose it on some, and hold it together on others. But I still can’t believe that I am the only mum out there that really shouts at their kid, who ends up losing it with them in public. Please tell me there are more of you out there? And please, any tips that aren’t going to send me more insane like counting to ten, would be amazing.