The Audience That Matters

What they think matters.

What they think matters.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t have a Nelling problem as much as a general piss off/bad attitude problem; a chronic curmudgeon-ness that sneaks its way into my days and plants its stinky butt on my couch.

I’ve found that when I purposefully speak gently and lovingly, even if I don’t feel that way, it makes such a profound difference to my kids that even if it is a big lie, it’s a lie worth telling.

On the flip side of that, if I bury my anger it will erupt like a volcano with PMS.

So, I’m working on finding that balance between hiding my impatience from my kids and expressing my frustrations in a healthy way. Because there’s nothing worse than a volcano with a fake smile plastered on her face. In fact, it’s downright scary.

That being said, I borrowed (stole, whatever) a great epiphany from The Orange Rhino. She wrote a post about what happened one day when she blew up and didn’t know that a contractor working in her house was listening. She was mortified that he heard her yell at her kids and then realized that she had it all backwards. The contractor wasn’t the audience she should care about. Her KIDS were the important audience and she was putting on a show for the wrong people.

We all cater to an audience. Back when I was drinking, it was really important for me that no one thought I was out of control. I wanted to be perceived as a fun, relaxed drinker (all the time not realizing that thinking this way meant I had a drinking problem). As the end of my drinking days neared, that audience stopped mattering so much. On the day I stopped drinking, I no longer cared what people thought of me. It was either stop drinking or die. I became an audience of one and my opinion of what I was doing was the only one that mattered.

I had a similar revelation with my kids this week. One of the coping mechanisms I’ve used to keep from yelling has been to pretend that I’m in public. I’d never yell at my kids if other people were around because what would they think of me? They’d know I was a horrible mother that couldn’t control her own kids. Instead, I’d put on that fake, sing-song voice so that I’d look calm and together.

I see the big flaw in that thinking now. There’s a big difference between putting on a fake smile for my kids so that I don’t take out my frustrations on them and putting on a show for a bunch of strangers. I shouldn’t care what the people at the grocery store think about my parenting. I should care that my kids know from my behavior that I’m respectful to them, care about how they feel and mirror responsible behavior. They are the audience that matters.

In the spirit of complete disclosure, I broke our child gate in our hallway that keeps the dog from eating the cat poop. I slammed it as I was retreating to my bedroom in an effort to not scream my head off after enduring an afternoon of whining. As I violently fluffed the pillows on the bed, I realized that I should’ve nipped the whining in the bud hours before. My son needed me to help him express his feelings and manage his boredom and instead, I let him whine us all into a frenzy. I have a better idea of what to do when it happens again and my amazing husband was able to fix the gate with superglue and duct tape. My hero!

22 Comments on “The Audience That Matters

  1. Hi Karen,

    I have been meaning to come over to your “house” and have a read, but haven’t gotten to it until today. It was your comment on Sober Identity’s most recent post that had me come directly here… you spoke words directly out of my brain, so I figured it was a sign.

    And I was right!

    This post could not be better timed. I am judging by your beautiful pic that my kids are older than yours (mine are 13 and 10), but they are home for the summer, it is day 4, and I am already pulling my hair out. You words, which I am reading as only one is up, are going to stay with me all day, and I am really going to try to live by them, and see the result. Because for the last 4 days, I have done the polar opposite of “speaking purposefully and lovingly,” and the result has been predictably bad.

    So thank you, thank you, thank you for this post, you may have just turned my entire day around! I can’t wait to read more!

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    • Thank you! It’s hard to put into action but worth it to keep it top of mind. My kids are 3 & 4 but I’ve heard about the horrors of summer vacation. It sometimes feels like everyday is summer vacation for me with having to constantly think of activities and things to do to keep the kiddos occupied. But then I remember what it was like when I was a kid. My mom sent us outside in the morning and we didn’t come in unless we were bleeding profusely or it was mealtime (no snack times back then). We had to be creative and learn to get along or else we’d be playing by ourselves. I’m trying to remember that making my kids fend for themselves for awhile isn’t a bad thing and it makes it much easier for me to speak with kindness when I’ve had some time to myself. Good luck this summer!

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  2. Crazy glue and duct tape can fix about 87.5% of all items, a percentage I just made up. But what a dream team they are, indeed.

    Great post. I can’t add much as I am a pushover. My wife is the discipliner. She is also the one that gets lavished by her boys (dog included). I float nearby and serve fruit 🙂 You sound like you’ve got it much more together than I do – hence reading this is good for me. As all your posts are. Good for the soul. Even punched pillows (arranging them assertively?) bring a sense of calm that no amount of good vibes and succinct, intensive prayers can do.

    Keep it up 🙂

    Paul

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    • Thanks Paul! My dad used to “sew” buttons on with super glue so I think your stat is right on! Being home with the kids, I spend the majority of the time with them but there’s nothing like saying, “Wait until your dad gets home,” to get them to listen to me.

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  3. Boy, can I relate. Yesterday I was beyond tired and just a real crabby b*. I heard my angry and annoyed tone with my kids and even I didn’t want to be around myself.

    When I’m tired or distracted or anxious, I don’t nip anything in the bud. I’m not proactive, I feel put upon with every request, and as a result the requests and whining come on harder and faster. The kids know my attention is elsewhere and they want it (rightfully so). I know I can’t always have good days, so yesterday when I caught myself being a grump, I forced myself to be patient and kind, even though I wasn’t really feeling it. As a result, I feel better today about how I handled myself. Plus I’m not grumpy, so yay!

    As always, a timely, thoughtful post I will continue thinking about. Reading about your No Nelling challenge has helped me a lot as a parent. I thank you.

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    • I don’t know how kids know that we’re not on our game but they always do! I remember pressing my mom’s buttons and driving her crazy when I was a kid. I’m glad that sharing some of these wild moments are helpful to you! I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about being a kinder mom and they’ve given me a lot to think about.

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  4. Dearest Glamgirl – according to my mother, it’s all about what the neighbors are seeing and thinking 🙂 –
    However, we know better – and you hit the nail on the proverbial head. It’s TOTALLY the kids that matter – but most parents understand the mortification of realizing that you lost your cool in front of other people that don’t know everything that is happening. We are all of us human doing the best we can with what we have. I’m trying hard to keep the negatives out of my ‘advice’ to my kid – and now realizing I need to stop giving advice and let him manage his own behaviors b/c really (for me) it’s about trying to control his behavior and make him act like someone he’s not. OH BTW – I LOVE the new name of your blog “Mended Musings” – you are so clever-clever.

    Ever feel like you’re going Up the Hill Backwards? Yes, me too.

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    • I know what you mean about not managing kids to make them act like someone more acceptable to society. I have a hard time when Cash wants to hug and kiss total strangers but at the same time, I’m proud that my kid isn’t afraid to show his emotions. Everything that kid does is done with passion and I don’t want to stifle that sweet spirit, even if it embarrasses me sometimes. Up the hill backwards, I’m ok, you’re so-so, wink-wink. 😉

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  5. This post is profound. You are such a great sober buddy for me. I simply love following your thought process. There is still so much for me to learn. I love it. Thank you for being a mom in sobriety that shares the hard stuff. I will read this post often.

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    • Thanks for that Lisa. I hope I don’t come off sounding like I have my shit together and have all the answers because I don’t. The funny thing is, I don’t want to be the mom who never yells or shows emotion. I just don’t want to shame my kids. These last two weeks of this challenge have forced me to look at a lot of things I don’t like seeing. By the way, I reference your book a lot! It’s my sanity check. 🙂

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      • Thanks for the kind words on the book. For me, you sound like a healthy woman trying to live a better life. I often get side way comments regarding my blog (sober cyber community) and I take it in stride (I hope). I don’t have all the answers, I have some. (I still get to work on my sober self). You’ve been a strong mom voice for me and I just wanted you to know that.

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  6. Such a gifted writer you are. I can relate…your experience (as usual) resonates with me. Thank you for shring your ESH, girl. I hope you have a wonderful day!

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  7. That was a perfect post! I could relate to every bit of it! We should be MORE concerned with how we behave in front of our children, than in front of strangers! My kids are older than yours now, and so I was flashing back to moments when the whining was too much or their begging for candy at the store was excessive. How did I handle that? I remember telling them my expectations of their behavior “before” we stepped foot in the store, or to Grandma’s house and that worked when I followed through with what I said to them. If I caved in to their puppy dog eyes, they remembered that and did it over and over. Oh but believe me, we have left full carts in the store because of temper tantrums. Our kids know our weaknesses and what buttons to push on us, just as we know them so well. I do remember putting myself in a ‘time-out’ to calm down many times. Parenting is tough work and it’s 24/7! Hugs!

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    • Whenever I see a parent having a hard time in public, I try to make eye contact and give them a smile because you’re right, we’ve all been there! My kids are definitely at the age where they’re testing me on purpose and staying consistent is my biggest challenge. Thanks for sharing your experience with me!

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