I was walking along the pavement to school with the kids this morning, when I had one of those heart-in-mouth moments. My youngest, playing ‘It’ with his sister, dodged away from her on the pavement and stepped into the road, narrowly missing a car.
I have a loud voice. It’s the sort of voice which can perforate eardrums, and shatter windows.
In full fishwife mode (and I don’t mean Sweet Molly Malone), I bellowed at them both to “Come here NOW!” The entire street appeared to freeze, and then a couple of kids whom I’ve never met started to gravitate towards me obediently. There was even one harassed-looking man in front of me, who turned and, for a nanosecond, started to move towards me too. He just managed to stop himself in time, but our eyes had already met and registered our mutual embarrassment.
My children, of course, were the only two people in the street to take no notice whatsoever.
The problem is that I have continually ‘raised the bar’ in terms of the volume I use to address the kids. They take no notice of any instruction issued in a moderate voice. Therefore, for anything to get done, I need to shout to add the necessary emphasis. This has continued across the years, with the amplification gradually ratcheting up. When it got to intolerable levels, I made a major effort to go in completely the opposite direction, and say things so quietly that they were forced to listen. However, this resulted in me talking to them in the menacing tones of an East-end gangster, and was equally ineffective, although it certainly frightened some of the other mums.
More recently, I have concentrated hard on not shouting so much, but the trade off is that I have to repeat every request ad infinitum. The result is a pressure cooker effect, where I am determined to maintain a calm control of my voice, but am forced to breaking point by the repetition. The longer I try to maintain control, the messier the subsequent explosion.
There seems no way back from the Mummy As Shrew scenario. I want to wipe the slate clean and start again (if I had a penny for every time I have said that as a parent.....I would have £19.73).
I think I might try and start tomorrow by communicating with them in whispers. I reckon we will be back to full Godzilla roaring within the week.
I am not drinking any wine tonight as I am going to a workshop for parents on bullying, organised by the school. I can guarantee they will say that if you want your children to avoid being bullied, DON’T SHOUT AT THEM!