Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Confessions of a World Class Yeller

I grew up in a house with yelling.

My mom was a yeller. When she was mad at my father, which seemed to be a daily occurrence, she yelled. It didn't matter if he was in the same room, or on the other side of our apartment, or out in the yard. If she was unhappy, everyone knew about it. The same went for us kids. If someone was upstairs, once we moved to our house, she would look at the ceiling and yell, as if she could see through the floor to who her anger was directed at.

My father was not a yeller. In fact, he was a very quiet man. Mostly he ignored my mother when she was mad at him, aside from the times that he would answer her back with snarky comments. All of the above just made my mother more upset. When she was done yelling, she would resort to stomping. Her stomping was accompanied by ranting. She would stomp around, ranting out loud at no one in particular until she felt she was finished, or she went to bed, but we all know who her rants were directed at. Mostly we just tried to stay out of her way.

The Boy™ grew up in a house with no yelling.

His parents not only didn't yell, they didn't fight in front of the children. "My parents never fought," was what he told me one day when we were having a heated disagreement and I threw out that married people fought and he was just going to have to get over it. The look on my face must've said everything because he stared at me for a good few minutes after that not saying anything. So he grew up, not only without yelling, but without learning how people resolved disagreements in a more healthy way.

Then we got married.

You always vow when you are growing up that you will not turn out to be like your parents, or do ________ (fill in whatever terrible thing they did here), but in the end, we are products of our environment and we learn what we know.

I became a yeller. I can't say that I am proud of that, but it is what it is. In my mind, I felt perfectly justified with my yelling. I yelled because I felt whatever I was yelling about was important. That because I had reached a level of frustration with whoever I was dealing with, and clearly they weren't listening to me, that I had to yell to get my point across. That if I didn't feel so passionately about whatever it was, I wouldn't have to yell, but I did, so it was OK.

It was not OK. I couldn't see it then, because I was too caught up in my own selfcenteredness to notice.

Just in the past few months, The Boy™ yelled at me for the first time, ever. After I got over the shock of it, because he is not a yeller (he doesn't even raise his voice when he's upset, which is hardly ever), I had a startling realization.

Being  yelled at feels lousy.

You would have thought that I would have remembered that from my childhood. You would have thought that years of having been yelled at myself, and knowing how rotten it makes you feel would have stayed with me into adulthood. You would have thought that as a result of that, I wouldn't be a yeller. You would have thought wrong.

Until that day, I had somehow forgotten what it was like to be on the receiving end. How small and awful it makes you feel when someone raises their voice at you. How disrespected and unloved you feel in that moment and the ones that follow. It was a very sobering experience.

I had already made a decision before that day that I needed to do less yelling. That it wasn't benefiting anyone, myself included. One day I yelled at Corey out of frustration and when I apologized for it he replied, "It's OK, I deserved it." I said to him in reply, "Your actions are frustrating me, but that doesn't mean you deserve to be yelled at." I realized that I had come a long way, but I still had a way to go. I don't think I have yelled since that day. I try to make a conscious effort to keep my voice level calm when I am feeling extremely frustrated, and if I feel like I am going to really lose it, I walk away for a while and take a break.

My hope is that I can teach my kids that there are better ways to handle your frustration then yelling. I pray that it's not too late.

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