It's not the yell that is silent, but the silence around yelling that I'm thinking about today. Last night I heard Devra Renner speak. She's the author of "Mommy Guilt" (one of the co-authors, actually, of this mom group effort). Guilt, Devra said, is like the vinaigrette that pulls together all the specific points of parenting, like breastfeeding, or how we get our kids to sleep. I'll add, and she'd probably agree, that guilt keeps us preoccupied and focused on small details, and makes it harder for us to feel empowered and confident and ready to ask for real social change to make our lives easier. I've blogged about it at the other blog. But here at Playground Revolution I want to raise a different question.
What intrigued me about Devra's presentation is that apparently, yelling is the number one thing we worry about, we feel guilty about as parents. No one wants to talk about it. When she asked our group what guilted us out, we answered with topics like breastfeeding, daycare, working outside the home, and things like that. We gave her the hot button issues.
These are all public issues. They resonate. We're used to talking about them. If we're on the right side or the wrong side we can feel self-righteous, and like we're holding up the world with our correct practices. Breast, bottle, home, paid work: each of these things have pros and cons, they're all more complex. And they are public. Yelling, on the other hand, is intensely private. Few people ever hear us raise our voices at our kids. It happens at home, or in the car. And it's hard to talk about, since aside from an extreme case, like yelling to get your kids out of the path of an oncoming car, there's no real reason for it.
I was touched by her comments. Even though I've read through her book, it didn't quite hit me that it was about yelling. I'm interested in what we're doing that keeps us focused on small detail when we need to see the big picture. In my family, I want to stop yelling, even if it's the smallest part of what I do. (Perhaps we should make up no-yelling charts to hang on the refrigerator, similar to the potty charts and clean-up charts we make for the kids?) It seems to me that the stress of being with our kids, the stress of responsibility, of all our different desires for them, and for us, adds up. I want to get that stress where it belongs.
What if everytime I felt like yelling at a child, I instead picked up the phone and called Rick Santorum's office, and Arlen Specter's too. These are the men who represent me in the US Congress. Redirect that anger where it belongs. Think about what would happen then? It'd be a start at incorporating an every day political practice into my life. And just think: I'd be happier, my children would be happier, and Rick's office would be annoyed and have to hear from me.