Losing my temper: Utah's Young Mother of the Year confesses all
As I lay in bed that night, exhausted, one thought kept returning to my mind. The moment of decision. Because I can recall, even now, just a moment before when I had control — but I gave in to anger, threw the corn and created all kinds of work (and mortification) for myself.
Seven years later, when we sold the house, we were still finding bits of corn adhered to a drawer handle or corner of the cupboard.
I knew I had a problem. But I cried and justified and muddled through until school started in August and I went in the first week for an introductory meeting with my oldest child’s second-grade teacher. The kids had filled out a little “get to know me” page with their favorite foods, movies, books and questions such as “What makes you happy?” and “What makes you sad?”
Under the question “What scares you?” Ben had scribbled, “When my mom yells.”
That night I knelt beside my bed, pulled that crumpled paper out of my pocket and begged God for help. I wanted to be kinder, calmer and less scary. At the moment of decision, I wanted to make the right choice, not the angry one. I was deeply shamed.
Change takes time. I broke my resolve more times than I can count. But I kept praying, practicing calmness and kindness. And I changed.
My two youngest children will tell you I never yell. Not even when the water bottle spills across the kitchen counter — and ruins my laptop — or when my daughter and friends pull all the petals off the rose bushes for a fairy dance.
Oh, they’re wrong. I still yell here and there, especially at cars speeding down our street, but not often enough to remember or loud enough to scare them. I now consider myself extraordinarily patient; it takes a whole lot to ruffle my feathers.
Please understand: I share this not to brag but to encourage. We can change. We can turn our weaknesses into strengths. We are not victims of our DNA or personality type. I often hear people say things like, “She never said an unkind word in her life,” or “She never complained,” or “He always had a positive attitude.” If I’m feeling grumpy, I think, “Well, I’ve already blown that.” I need to hear stories about people who struggled, yet improved.
Maybe, for someone out there, it will be more encouraging to hear, “She was a stressed-out, angry yelling mom but she changed and got better and much happier.” Because we are made for happiness.
As for Ben — what scares him now? Spiders. Big, fat spiders.
He’ll have to get over that on his own.
Writer, photographer, Michelle Lehnardt is raising five future fathers and one little mother. She writes at segullah.org and scenesfromthewild.blogspot.com on building chicken coops, hosting tea parties and missing her missionary son in Russia.
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