To the Mom at Practice Who Yells at Her Kids,
I see you at sports practice during the week. I don’t even know your name. You come tearing into the parking lot in your mini-van. Your three kids come pouring out. Usually. Sometimes one of them lags behind or forgets something. You are usually a minute or two early, although I can tell you think you are going to be late by the way you jump out the car and hustle your kids along, biting their heads off in the process.
Oh, it’s obvious you feel harried by the way you yell at them in clear earshot of everyone else at practice. Your words are cutting and harsh. Your tone is biting and rough. You don’t just say, “Hurry up,” but you lecture. The words keep pouring out of your mouth until you have had your say and the kids have run over to the practice area.
I caught myself thinking terribly judgmental thoughts about you several times since the practice season began. I was obviously a better mom. I definitely have my act together more than you do. Gracious, lady, your kids are kids. How could you forget that? And my goodness, how in the world can you yell at your kids in public!
Why, I never! No, I would never do that… ever. I completely, totally, always remember that my kids are merely kids. And I’m definitely too good a mom to yell at my kids… in public.
And then, the judgmental thoughts came to a screeching halt today as I really thought about what I witnessed today in the parking lot, and yesterday and last week…. You yelling at your kids as the doors to the mini-van opened.
It suddenly was clear to me… as if a mirror had been held up and I saw my reality isn’t terribly different from your reality. My judgmental glances morphed into eyes cast down in shame.
I, too, come tearing into the parking lot in my mini-van. My three kids come pouring out. Usually. Someone lags behind and someone forgets something. I’m always a minute or two early, despite the fear of being late, and I jump out the car hustling my kids along.
The difference – I bit their heads off in private. It seems each day before practice I find us rushing out the door, me yelling at my kids – before the door opens – because they dawdle and forget things. I’m biting their heads off, lecturing them on being more put together and essentially why they should be mini-adults and not kids. You know… the conversation you had in the parking lot with your kids in an extra loud tone? I had a similar one behind the closed doors of my van as we drove down the road.
My harsh words? My rough tone? My endless lectures? All in the privacy of my home or my van.
I have no right to feel superior to you. I apologize for the holier-than-thou thoughts. See, you are at least real and present who you really are to the world. Me? I hide behind a mask of mommy perfection, not wanting the world to see the warts and ugliness underneath.
I felt great conviction today. I keep wanting to watch my tone with my kids. I want to be able to put a positive spin on what they do… catch them doing good things instead of constantly pointing out their faults. I jokingly say all the time I know they’ll need a therapist of their own one day, and then I secretly wonder if it will because I’m not always a nice mommy.
And honestly, I can tell you love your kids. I see it in the way you celebrate the good things they do at practice. I’ve seen you snuggle one of your children. But like me, you are a harried, weary mom. We all know that by late afternoon kids are just plain tuckered out, as are we. And yet, you and I both yell. We both snap. We both – if we are honest – wound with our words. I wonder if you beat yourself up over your reactions like I constantly do. I wonder if you look at your sweet children as they sleep and silently promise you’ll try to do better by them tomorrow.
So in a weird way, thank you… thank you for being honest and real and not giving a damn about what everyone thinks as you yell at your kids. I needed to hear today what I sound like in private at times. I didn’t like it. And I certainly don’t have any room to judge you over it. I have no room to look down my nose at you feeling like the superior mother. Instead, what I overheard today – that image I glimpsed in the mirror – humbled me. Maybe like me, you’ll eventually realize you need to reign in your frustrations and control your words as I so badly realized today I need to reign in mine and speak life into my kids instead of negativity.