I yell at my kids.
I yell at them because I’ve made myself angry over something they’ve done or not done. Sometimes they’ve known better. Usually I have.
Friday I threw a fit because I couldn’t get a cabinet door closed. Littlest Pet Shop dioramas and chokable paraphernalia peeked through the gap. I got into the cycle your brain does: nudge the door, watch it pop open; close the door, watch it pop open; slam the door, watch it pop open. Curse! Slam the door open and start grabbing and flinging all the plastic crap that offends me. My sensible self cringes in the corner with my children. My thumb runs straight into the frame like hammered concrete. A few more furious grabs and flings empty the storage space. A classy finish foot-shoving the scattered bobble-headed dogs, cyan barbershop chairs, and unprobable treehouses concludes the main event.
One’s holding back tears because she knows that showing those would piqué my guilt which would immediately escalate the embarrassing rage. The other’s pointedly not sucking her fingers. Both are waiting for the tidal wave to attenuate and the waters to recede. They’ve seen this before and know it will.
In a practiced calm tone I say, “I’m going to the other room to say good-night to your sisters. When I come back I won’t yell.”
Surely some psychological professional has labeled what happens next—maybe it’s light temporary but functional multiple personality disorder—I’m a different Father in the next room. My smile, my voice, my words, my peace are genuine. These two are spared my anger, my guilt, and a memory they don’t need.
I return down the hallway to where I left the anger soaked children toweling off. I draw a deep breath before I cross the threshold into their room. They deserve an apology and I deserve a spanking. Air fills my lungs mixing oxygen and contrition with guilt.
The apology belongs to them so I won’t detail that here.
Three days later my thumb still aches.
348 words on day 514