I remember deciding long before becoming a mom that I would never yell at my kids. It was a ridiculously unfair construct to create for myself, a childless young woman who struggles to close a cupboard door without slamming it or say hello to a friend without tackling them. I live loudly and that includes my booming voice that can fill my home with everything from impromptu blues lyrics about taking the dog out to pee to warnings that it’s time to get ready for school. I’ve been a parent for 10 years and have long since giving up on my crazy rule. I yell. I’ve always yelled. I always will yell.
But I haven’t stopped paying attention to what I yell. The words I say today will be the voice in my children’s heads for the rest of their lives.
I’ve blogged about this topic once or twice in the past, but as someone recently told me, I like to talk about tough topics like a rock skipping across the water. I think I’m out there, but I’ve not really broken the surface. The truth is that the voices in my own head sometimes fill me with paralyzing anxiety and fear, pain that I don’t want to ignore anymore. Right now my biggest anxiety is a friendship that I’m afraid I’m going to ruin because I’ve somehow convinced myself that that’s what I do. I’ve come to care strongly about this person and for me, that’s dangerous territory with a strong threat of having to dive deep. The result is fear that once this person gets to know me – the real me – they won’t want to be around me anymore. And what I do next – what I always do next – is exactly the wrong thing to do. I become the nervous child who stops playing every few moments to look for her mother, worried that she’s left and isn’t coming back. I check in again and again and again. Do you hate me yet? How about now? It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as I drive away the very people I’m so worried will leave.
As I walked this morning, lost in thought in the early morning sun and cold, I felt the anxiety creeping up over me, my chest beginning to tighten. I thought about this friend and worried that it was already too late, that I had already gone from that wonderful and exciting place of discovering an incredible person and the joy of realizing that they want to be in your life, too, to becoming overwhelming, annoying, and then, unwanted. I watched the birds flitting around on the ground, looking for a stray seed or a worm brought out by the rain, and suddenly I saw not birds in a field, but kids playing in the grass. Some I had known for years, others I had just met, and we were all enjoying the summer sunshine, sitting on inner tubes and towels and talking, just children, maybe ten years old. And then I heard the voice of someone incredibly important to me sound this warning, “Is she bugging you guys? You’ve gotta’ be careful. She’s like a fly on shit. You can’t get away from her.”
The voices in my head that fill me with anxiety sound like my own, but they’re not. Those aren’t my words. I just can’t stop repeating them.