My yelling’s smallest victims

My heart was so heavy as I tucked the boys into bed tonight. 

Charlie has been detached lately. I’ve tried to chalk it up to growing up, but I fear it’s something more.

He came home today in fits of uncontrollable sobs. He was worried about a project that’s due next week and he doesn’t think he’ll finish in time. I tried working through a solution with him, but I still couldn’t calm him down. He snapped at Henry and Tallulah, which isn’t like him. He lay on the couch still sobbing with the blanket pulled over his head. I curled up next to him and said, “What is it, baby? We will work it out together. You are not alone in this.” When he didn’t respond, I asked, “Are you sure there’s nothing else bothering you?” I always fear he is being bullied at school or having trouble with friends.

He said, “It’s home.”

I said, “What about home?”

Biting his lip, he said, “It’s just that you and Daddy are always so frustrated.”

I was horrified.

He was right.

I am so frustrated.

I am so embarrassed to admit it.

I could have a million excuses, but none of them justifies my crying child on the couch.

I swore I would do better when I vowed to stop yelling at my kids and I have failed in every possible way.

When Joe saw that I was going to try to stop yelling at them, he questioned why I would do that to myself. He said I was going to bottle up my frustration and drive myself crazy. He felt I was putting too much pressure on myself to be perfect. I didn’t see it that way. Perfection is never my goal. I just want to stop feeling guilty every time I put my head on the pillow at night.

I have tried. I started writing down my triggers (like Orange Rhino suggests). I’ve found that I yell when Finn hits one of his siblings and when everyone is crying at the same time (don’t laugh, it happens a lot!) I was working on it, but then I just gave up. I slipped back into old habits.

I can’t seem to get a handle on my anger. When the twins are crying and pulling each other’s hair and then Finn freaks out because he refuses to get a wrong answer on his homework, who could possibly keep a level head in that situation? Certainly not me. (Have I told you that I’m not perfect?) But I also have to concede that I am also the one causing some of that stress. My frustrated response escalates their frustration and sets a bad example. Do you know how many times I have yelled at them to stop yelling? Ugh. Worst of all, I fear that Charlie is the one who suffers the most. He suffers because he either forces himself to be a helper or he sacrifices his own needs to avoid burdening me with another request.

It has been said that autism parents have stress levels similar to that of combat soldiers. (I’ve always hated that analogy.) But, if that were true, what does it say about the stress levels of autism’s siblings?

Charlie has always had a light about him. He is a leader. He has a moral compass unlike that of many 8 year olds. We’ve always said he is an “old soul.” He always chooses right over easy, but lately I fear it’s becoming harder for him to choose happy over sad.

My little extrovert playing the role of "Hansel" in his theatre company's summer play.

My little extrovert playing the role of “Hansel” in his theatre company’s summer play.

He cries himself to sleep on Sunday nights. Some mornings, I can barely get him to get out of the car and onto the bus. He seems disinterested in his friends. I fear he is depressed and I don’t know what to do. What’s worse is that I fear he is depressed and there is something I can do.

I have to stop yelling at them. 

In my head, I am justified when the explosion comes out of my mouth. I’m pretty sure 9 out of 10 moms would do the same thing in my situation. But it still doesn’t make it right. I need to be the beacon in their storm, not the storm itself. This is not the mother I set out to be.

When Charlie was a newborn, Joe and I were walking him on the boardwalk in his stroller. We saw a Mom with a crying four year old. The child was hysterical; the mom clearly at her wit’s end. She yelled at the child, “Stop crying!” I recoiled. I couldn’t believe this mother could be so insensitive to her child who clearly needed her comfort. I remarked to Joe, “Let’s never tell Charlie to stop crying like that.”

Oh, karma, you are a cruel mistress.

Now here I sit wondering how many times I replaced anger with what should have been comfort– parenting from a place of frustration instead of compassion.

Well, once again, I say “no more!” I am recommitting myself to parenting with purpose. I don’t know that I will NEVER yell, but I have to try for Charlie– for all of them and for me.

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9 thoughts on “My yelling’s smallest victims

  1. Hey Shannon, Is there a way your husband could take the kids out one day and you and Charlie could be in the house…just the two of you? I know it’s probably easier for someone to take Charlie out for some one of one time but maybe give him a chance to enjoy your home for an hour or so by himself. Just a thought. Hang in there!

  2. Hey Shannon, as always I am moved by your honesty and the depth of your love. Has Charlie ever read any of your blog posts? Dare I suggest you read this one to him? I know that everyone says that Charlie is a mini Joe (Cuban and all), but there is so much Shannon in him. And that’s a good thing.

  3. Wow I can relate to this. I am blown away by how much actually. Cooper whines nonstop. He is nonverbal so it is his only way to communicate. In my sane moments I can clearly explain that he whines because he can’t talk. But when It is 6:30 am or earlier and he has been whining for hours because he wants to watch TV and is bringing my remotes and DVD’s and Sawyer needs a bottle and I need to pee all hope is lost. Straight up survival mode. I get it mama. I know it’s easy to say and hard to do but cut yourself some slack. The fact that you recognize this shows what an absolutely amazing mom you are. And as I am finishing up typing this Cooper is pushing the remote between my fingers and they keyboard. Gotta run! Again. LOVE THIS!

  4. have you ever tried putting yourself in time out? I used to do that when I felt I was going to lose it- my kids ended up giggling and it made a potentially harsh situation no big deal….

  5. Hi, my name is Genevieve and I could have written this myself – even the part about Orange Rhino which I found a couple months ago. I know how difficult it is, recognition is powerful, and letting Charlie know that you are listening is even more so. Good luck, my thoughts and prayers are with you on this journey to less yelling!!!!

      • You are certainly not alone and you admitting it gives me comfort that I’m not the only mom screaming at my kids like a crazy person. Thank you for that 🙂 It’s so hard when things escalate to keep a level head. When the girls melt down and it turns chaotic that’s when I lose it myself too. Sometimes I try mimicking them and then laughing hysterically. It usually stops them (probably because they think I’ve gone completely cuckoo) and sometimes I’m doing one of those laughing but sorta crying at the same time laughs but hey, if it works you gotta do what you gotta do, right?? Lol!! Sending love and hugs and patience your way 🙂

  6. You are not alone and thank you for your honesty! I shall take a leaf from your book and parent with compassion. It’s so easy to get frustrated. Gorgeous boy you have and I can relate to having a son with an “old soul”. Popping in from Bloggy Mom March Blog Hop. What a gem of a blog I’ve found.

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