Friday, March 7, 2008

Please be careful

Once, about nine years ago or so when my children were small but not tiny, we were at the home of some friends. The kids were playing happily in the backyard, and the adults were sitting on the patio sipping lemonade or something.

This particular woman ran an in-home daycare.

I don't know how the conversation drifted this way, but at one point she looked at me and said, "I was never a screamer."

I do not know where this came from or why. I felt my face go hot. Was she referring to me? Did she know?

I scream when I open the cupboard and the oatmeal falls out on my head. I scream when somebody jumps around the corner and surprises me. I scream when I hit my thumb with the hammer (or the meat tenderizing mallet). I scream when I stub my toe and when I burn myself getting a tray of cookies out of the oven. I have even been known to scream when, as I sit trying to finish a chapter of Sense and Sensibility (which should be teaching me the value of curbing one's emotions), I suddenly remember that I forgot Shawn's dress shirt in the dryer. Now and then I even scream when the dogs spring into a random barking spree.

And sometimes, to my shame, I scream at my kids when I am angry at them.

I do not like this about myself. I do not justify this. The Lord is working on me, and we are making progress toward less screaming. We really are, but I am afraid to celebrate the victories, because it is such a deep, dark, shaming secret that I was ever a screamer in the first place.

In retrospect, I think the lady probably said what she said because she assumed that I didn't scream, either. I am pretty collected in public. Well, except for the day when Jonno and I were walking through the Wal-Mart parking lot and a motorcycle fired its engine like a gunshot just as we passed. I screamed like a murder victim. Jonno laughed like a maniac after that, and so did the Wal-Mart employee who was taking a break, smoking at the picnic table along the side of the store. But other than that, I am usually quite "in command" in public.

It is when I am out of the public eye that I crash and burn. Why is that??? I hate this about myself. It is the thing I hate the most and the thing I would most like to change.

And you know what? It is changing. But it is changing slower than I would like. God works on us slowly sometimes, maybe most of the time.

Occasionally I wonder if I would make faster progress in this area if I could share my struggles more publicly. On the other hand, I wonder if it is just God's way of keeping me humbly dependent on Him to lead me through a slow process.

It is hard, though, when the "mentor mom" (whom you might have asked to help you and pray with you through this) up and says, "I was never a screamer." Imagine if somebody said, "I only weigh 112 pounds!" Well, who wouldn't like to weigh 112? Who wouldn't like to always be calm and loving and wise and rational with her children?

Some other people we know had recently moved into a new house. They were telling us about their neighbor. "Oh, her," they said, "She's a real screamer. She just screams at her kids all the time. She screams at her dogs, too." They shook their heads. The neighborhood was going down the tubes, apparently.

Do you think people who scream LIKE to scream? Do you think they are going around saying, "More people ought to scream at their children the way I do. Clearly, there is a lack of accomplished screamers in our society." That is not the way "screamers" feel about things.

I'll tell you what it feels like to be a screamer. I know, because I have been there.
  1. It is very embarrassing. You hope nobody hears you.
  2. You feel guilty and ashamed. Well, you should; you are sinning. But you don't really need anybody to point out that you are sinning. You already know that. What you need is someone to come alongside you to help you, someone who will grant you compassion and not judgment.
  3. It makes your throat hurt, and sometimes your hands shake. It is not fun.
  4. You long to call someone, but you don't know whom to call.
  5. You pray and you pray, but God doesn't fix you in an instant--He fixes you slowly, over time. The problem is that it can seem as though others won't accept you in the meantime, not until you are all finished being fixed.
There is a verse in Romans 8--"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Umm. No condemnation in God's eyes, but that doesn't always seem to spread to all of His children.

Everybody has a different struggle. We are all made differently and we have different areas of victory and defeat. Let's try to be very careful not to assume that what we can do is something everybody can do. And let's try to be very sensitive about not discouraging those who might have a battle we were not aware of.

On a happier note: the other day I hurt myself near the stove (yes, this really is a happy story). I don't remember exactly... I think it involved hot, splattering tomato sauce and pain and a mess. I was crying out frantically, "Oh, oh, ouch! Oh what a mess! I hate this! How am I ever going to get this... Oh DEAR!" and one of my children looked up from her book in the family room and said, "Mom, I just love the way you swear."


Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

That is the funniest, and most unexpected last line! I want my kids to say that to me someday. :)

Humor aside, I appreciated this post.

musicmommy3 said...


I have never read your blog before tonight (I found you over at Amy's Humble Musings) but I want to say THANK-YOU for this post. I, too, am a recovering screamer. I remember sharing that particular sin with another young mom one day about 4 years ago and she looked at me and said, "Angela, Don't EVER scream at your kids." I wanted to say, "DUH! I'm working on it and letting God change me but it's a slow process. Do you actually think I WANT to do it?"
What I said as I hung my head in shame (although I was already embarrassed enough at having revealed it to someone who flippently dismissed something they had never struggled with) was, "I know, I'm working on it."

I appreciate your honesty!
- Angela :)