Subtitle: Finding Peace in Our Morning Chaos
“Mommy, when I grow up, I am going to yell at my kids.” Cue: a 1000 daggers into my soul. Of all the things I have taught my daughter in five years, this is what she hangs onto? I respond and say, “No sweetheart, you must be kind to your kids. Yelling is not right.” When she asked me why I yell in the morning, I told her it was because I was tired and that humans have very high cortisol levels in the morning that cause mommy to talk loud. I know, excuses, excuses.
But the cortisol struggle is real. Quick Wikipedia run-down: Cortisol is the stress hormone that wakes you up. It increases by about 50% 20–30 minutes after you wake up. This rise is superimposed upon the late-night rise in cortisol which occurs before awakening. While its purpose is uncertain, it may be linked to the body’s preparation to face anticipated stress. Yup. That anticipated stress for me is: getting everyone ready in the morning. I also read that your cortisol levels start to decrease around 8 am. Which just so happens to be the time when everyone is out of the house. Hmmm, coincidence?
Maybe this is why I am like this in the morning:
Some more perspective or excuses as to why my voice is elevated in the morning: I grew up in a very “animated” Italian family with people who were not afraid to voice their opinion of you, themselves, and life in general. Then I married my sweet, peace loving husband who hates when I shout to him from another room, even if it is for an emergency like getting me a roll of toilet paper. Even though we used to shout in my household growing up, I knew that I was loved. That is just how we were. We just talk loud, especially when we’re anxious. And in a hurry. But my husband is not that way. And my kids obviously do not see it that way. They are little. And oh so impressionable. Those little darlings.
Every day when I load my kids into the car, I give them kisses and hugs and wish them all the best at school. I see them drive off and then I sigh. I sigh with relief, exhaustion, and a little remorse. I think about the bumpy road leading up to sending them off to school, realizing that my actions may not have been as loving and peaceful as they should be. Sometimes, I yell so much my eyes hurt.
I just really want my kids to have a good start to their day. Since many of my fellow writers are talking about peace on this blog this month, I challenged myself to five days of no yelling in the morning. I did not know how I was going to do this since there really was no accountability accept for scarring my kids for life. But that probably wouldn’t fully manifest for another decade. Just kidding! Anyway, I was just going to do it through consciousness and will power. I was going to write what happened in a journal given to me that says: Live every day with intention. I was going to do just that for my family – be more in control of my emotions and more conscious of how I communicate during chaotic moments such as the morning rush.
Here’s how it went:
Day 1: Mia woke up crabby and on the wrong side of OUR bed. Somehow she woke up in the middle of the night and ran into our bed. I didn’t notice, but my husband did since he was practically falling off the side of the bed. I was already awake with the baby who woke up several times during the night. The baby is so happy to see sister he starts head butting me and attempts a nosedive to the ground. I yelled “LUKEY!” But quickly stopped myself and felt bad I had yelled only 5 minutes into this experiment. Hubs right away congratulated me for realizing it so quickly and calming down. God I love that guy. The rest of the morning was spent biting my lip and talking in a calm tone. Even when they were having a tea party on top of the table, ignoring our pleas to get in the car:
Day 2: Today is a big day because we have all the things going on: Dance class, arranging for my husband to pick Mia up from aftercare for the first time (this involves instructing him on special parking, buzzers, pins, signing out), Meet the Teachers night at school, and getting the order form and money in to school for the book fair. I go through the millions of papers in her school folder. Oh we also got the order form for picture day happening (already?!?!) next week. Why do I leave all these things for the morning when stress levels are high? Because I am a procrastinator. At 6:54 I uttered a growl because I almost tripped over a giant sombrero in the middle of my kitchen. How the heck did that get there?! Ok, calm the cortisol. I am annoyed, but contain myself. Then the baby walks over and puts the thing on and well, how can anyone be mad at life when there is a little person walking impishly around my kitchen sporting a pink sombrero? Even Mia seemed cute as she refused to get dressed and protested the “gross” almond butter toast I made her for breakfast.
Day 3: Yup, I yelled some. I could not help it. I was stressed. I checked my phone late in the morning and saw the nanny texted she was sick. Uh-oh. So now that means scrambling for last minute care for my son and packing another lunch if there is room for him in the daycare center. Did I mention I woke up really, really late? My daughter’s backpack was forgotten at school and we can’t find Mia’s school shoes. And we realize it’s Mia’s turn for show and tell. What in the world do we have in the house that begins with the letter “O”?! Otoscope! Mia told me someone else already did it. Rats! A stuffed ostrich! Mia poo poo’d it because it was pink and she thought it would be mistaken for a flamingo. Jeez! Then I remembered my bag of crystals and I had an Onyx!! Woo hoo. Then we found out Luke’s daycare could take him. Lunches were packed. Another backpack was found and filled and we threw the kids in the car. And I found the shoes in the car! Relief. And while I think the kids had (some) breakfast, I know they did not brush their teeth. You win some, you lose some. As I kissed my daughter good-bye she kindly reminded me that I yelled a lot this morning. I said I was sorry and would try better next time. I totally blame the cortisol and waking up late. The bright side – I was lucky enough to not have any afternoon meetings so I was able to pick her up from the bus stop to make up for it.
Day 4:Oh hi 7 am. 7 am?! We are totally late already! Was up 3 times during the night with a croupy, coughed baby. I wake in a daze to find all four of us squished in one bed again. How do these little
buggers darlings manage to sneak in here? I plead, calmly and with desperation in my voice, for my daughter to get dressed. Then I hear “Mommy I won’t get ready until you say please 100 times.” Say what? The baby is wrestling me during his diaper change.Can you see how well they are cooperating?
Somehow they left on time with clothes on, food in their bellies and lunches and snacks packed.
And I didn’t even yell. I begged, pleaded and negotiated, but I did not yell. It was a good morning that had the potential to go very, very badly, had I not been practicing the art of biting my lip all week. I was starting to get used to not getting worked up over small things. Even hubs commented that he noticed a difference.
Day 5: Same story. Late, late, late. But no need to stress out. I am over it. Stay calm, and love on. By the end of the 5 days, I didn’t want to expend the energy to raise my voice.
Over the past few days I have had several revelations:
*It is not just the tone of my voice, but also the words coming out of my mouth.
*No rocket science here, but going to bed early and waking up earlier is the magic formula for our family to have a somewhat peaceful morning. Except this just does not always happen. The baby has been up with a cough twice a night consistently over the past few days and the only comfort he has is mama’s arms at 2 and 4 am. So getting up early, even after going to bed early, is tough. But even if I just open my eyes, there is no need to jump right out of bed. Giving myself enough time to wake up at my own pace I noticed lead to feeling less stress, less hurrying, and decreased frustration.
*I look at the pics I took and see two little kids who adore each other, having fun. They are not teenagers trying to manipulate, or do things simply to annoy me. Sure they know how to push my buttons, but they are sweet kiddos living in their own world.
*I am not even lying when I say that after boycotting yelling for a few days, my attitude was kind of like this:
Also, looking at those pictures made me think of this quote:
“One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eyes.”
I saw what I had been missing when blinded by the stress of trying to do it all perfectly. The kids may be late to school, I may be late to work, and maybe someone will forget their lunch, but it is OK. Taking small steps and being less angst-y in the morning while letting go of my ideal as to how a systematic morning routine should go is going to take some practice. I also noted that it is important for my children to run around like banshees for a little bit and have some quality morning time together. I noticed by letting things slide and being more relaxed had a profound effect on my state of mind for the rest of the day. I have come to terms with the fact that our mornings will always be a roller coaster. But I am learning to enjoy the ride more without screaming my head off.