I failed today.
Today was going to be THE day. Just like yesterday was going to be the day. As was the day before that, and the day before that, and the day before that.
The day I went an entire 24 hours without yelling at my kids.
In my defense, I went longer than I did yesterday. So, I guess that counts for something.
But not enough.
Because I failed. Again.
I reached my limit and snapped. I couldn’t take it anymore, and I yelled.
I thought I would feel better by releasing those emotions, but all I felt was regret and shame. And it didn’t even do any good. Not only did I act unkindly toward my kids, but I reinforced their already entrenched belief that they don’t really have to obey until Mommy yells. And I taught them that yelling is an acceptable way to get your point across.
But you know what else I taught them? Remorse. Taking responsibility for your actions and owning up to your mistakes. The importance of a heartfelt apology (which I quickly gave).
I taught them that we own up to our own behavior. We don’t try to blame our poor choices (and yes, yelling was a poor choice on my part) on others’ actions. Their behavior may have been bad and needed correction, but that doesn’t excuse my reacting with bad behavior of my own.
I also taught them that while Mommy isn’t perfect (nor will she ever be), she’s at least quick to say “I’m sorry.” She can’t take back what she did or said, but she can do her darnedest to repair the relationship. And she can work at making it a less common occurrence.
I’m not excusing my yelling. I’m not justifying it or saying it’s OK. It’s not OK. It’s unkind, it’s hurtful, and it does more harm than good. It shows a lack of self-control and sets a bad example for my kids.
Yes, I definitely need to keep working on controlling my anger.
But I also need to stop being so angry with myself.
Because a failed attempt at a perfect day isn’t a failed day. And it certainly doesn’t make me a failure.
If I’m intentionally trying to stop yelling, I haven’t failed.
If I yelled less today than I did yesterday, I haven’t failed.
If I took longer to reach my breaking point than I used to, I haven’t failed.
If I remained calm when I wanted to lose it, I haven’t failed.
I may have bad days, ugly moments, and difficult seasons. But if I look back over the last few years and know I’ve made progress, then I. Have. Not. Failed.
Because I haven’t really failed until I’ve stopped trying.
And, as I continue to work to defuse my anger and yell less, I know that even my seemingly “failed” moments are never really failures at all. Not if I use them as exercises in apology and forgiveness. They are at least partially redeemed in that way.
In light of all that, when I think back on my day, it’s no longer the few times I lost my cool that stand out. And with the harsh spotlight of shame on those few moments removed, I’m freed to see all the golden opportunities to yell I didn’t take. The times I responded in love. The moments I remained in control.
And it becomes clearer to me that there were more of those moments than there were yesterday. Or the day before that. Or the day before that.
So, you know what? I suppose I didn’t fail today, after all.
And tomorrow, I’ll fail even less.
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