Monday, September 12, 2011

Have You Tried Yelling?

As anyone who reads my column regularly knows, I have a temper. I don't like it and I am devoted to working on it and when that fails, working with it. One of the ways I've found to go with the flow of my rage, when it's too late to stave it off at the pass, is to do a little impromptu performance art, in which I dramatize whatever I'm feeling so that it's so over the top that it's more entertaining than scary. I call this technique Theatrical Yelling.

I remember my own mother tilting her head skyward, raising her hands in the air and pleading, Dear God, why have you cursed me with such a child as this in my old age? What have I done to deserve this? For whatever reason, I found this hilarious. I never once took it seriously or believed my mother felt cursed. There were three reasons for this: One, I knew she was an atheist; two, I knew in my bones (and still do) how completely she loved me; and three, I was raised to have a sense of humor. It was the only effective way to survive my family.

Recently I was cleaning and running around while "everyone else" (names withheld to protect the entitled), as far as I could tell, was sitting around doing nothing. My daughter dropped something right next to her chair--right next to it--and, instead of leaning over and picking it up herself, she asked me to do it. I was on the other side of the room doing three things at once and I felt my temperature rise. Now, a so-called normal person might say, "I'm busy, sweetie. Pick it up yourself, please." But a person with a temper like mine, well, the first thing that crossed my mind was to throw the pile of clothes I was holding and yell, "Are you out of your effing mind?!" So, rather than fight it, I just kind of went with it.

(One tip. It is more theatrical and less frightening for your child if you mainly address God, and not your child, in your spontaneous outbursts. This is true even if you don't believe in God. And if you do, don't worry. God knows what you're doing.)

I dropped the clothes, raised my hands above my head and made eye contact with the ceiling, "Am I a servant? Is that what I am?!" Pause. I could see my daughter's six-year-old mind thinking, "What's a servant?" But she just watched me in silence. I had her attention. I continued. "All I do all day and night is wait on this child hand and foot and this is the thanks I get?!" Pause. "Is this not insane?! I mean, am I crazy or is this crazy? Sweet. Mother. Of. God!"

Or something like that. You get the idea. Be creative! You can follow your rant with a wink, and a calm "I'm busy, sweetie. Pick it up yourself, please," as you return to what you were doing. In the end, you've made your point, you've made your child think you're a little bit nuts, you've both laughed, and you've expressed your shadow side. Bada boom, bada bing. Now that's what being a bad mommy is all about.