The Audience That 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!