I’m running down the street- enraged and heated. All I can see is red. With tears streaming down my face, I’m screaming at the top of my lungs- a primal, ear-splitting, guttural scream. This is as close to reality as my dreams get, except my screams are muted. This is a recurring dream I’ve had for as long as I can remember. And in these wakeless moments, I always feel an enormous sense of helplessness. No matter how hard I scream, I still can’t pierce that sound bubble. These dreams always end as I surge out of my sleep. My first instinct is to check on my husband to see if he’s stirred from my yelling, only to find him breathing deeply in his own slumber.
I grew up in a noisy household. With three girls in the mix and a set of grandparents, our tiny house was constantly buzzing. But it wasn’t the amount of people that increased the decibel in our house, it was the yelling. Someone was always in someone else’s space, using someone else’s things, or getting into someone else’s business. The loudest one out of all of us was definitely my mom. She had and still has a booming voice. It’s hard to not be aware of her presence whenever you’re in the same realm as her. This was one of the reasons I found it incredibly difficult to discuss anything with her growing up- she was always quick to react and hard to breakthrough.
The yelling in our house was so frequent that it normalized our reality, and I began to believe all families were the same. I never realized how loud we were until the first time I had dinner at a friend’s house. It was bizarre to see how other families communicated with kind words and favourable gestures- a stark contrast to my family sending shockwaves of invectives throughout the house. In our family, if you had something to say and you wanted to be heard, you had to yell. And you couldn’t just simply increase the volume of your voice, no, you had to do it until you got your point across by overpowering the other person’s voice. Sadly, I learned from a very young age that the louder I yelled, the more floor space I took up.
As I grew into my own, I slowly recognized that this behaviour was destructive and ineffective (because you are never really winning any argument so much as creating a barrier for productive interaction). But I still saw it as a problem with mostly my mom and a problem existent only within the confines of my family growing up. I couldn’t see this flaw in myself even though I developed a hot temper and a penchant for always expecting to get my way. In my own distorted world, I always had to be “right” no matter the cost or how ridiculous I sometimes appeared. I saw no issues with how I was communicating with those closest to me. I didn’t recognize this negative trait in myself until I saw my daughter starting to express herself in the same appalling way. My 3-year-old daughter was is still in her terrible two’s and I see so much of myself reflected in her mannerisms (unfortunately in all the intolerable ways). The first time I saw her yell at my husband, I cringed with shame. In that moment, I grasped that the person I had faulted all along, the one I had tried my hardest not to emulate, was the person I ended up becoming- my mother. I felt like I had failed my daughter in the same way I felt my mother had failed me growing up.
The realization that I was directly contributing to this cycle of damaging behaviour with my own growing family was clear. I knew I had to fix the situation and do better. Now, my husband and I make a concerted effort to fight fairly and disagree respectfully. When tempers flare and situations get heated (as they are bound to), we try to avoid getting into it when Charlotte is around. There are slip-ups, of course. We’re still a work-in-progress, but I think recognition and the desire to change is the biggest step of all.
How about you? Do you think we become our parents? Did you grow up idolizing a parent or did you try hard not to become one of them? How did that work out for you?
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