My son brought home an autobiography. When you’re in kindergarten, an autobiography is filled with pictures. Drawings of his favorite food, a self-portrait, and an elaborate illustration of his family. Each person was characterized perfectly: older sister and younger brother with big smiles, middle brother right in between, and an Abba with a supportive grin. Then, I noticed a caricature of myself. A person with long hair and a wide-open mouth. I asked Zachary, “Why am I the only one with my mouth open?” And without missing a beat he replied, “Because you’re the one who’s always yelling.”
My heart sank. My role in the family tends to be the disciplinarian. Making sure everyone eats healthy food, goes to bed on time, and sticks to routine. And while a parent shouldn’t be a child’s best friend, I don’t necessarily want to be known as the “yeller” in the family.
Noticing my dismay, my daughter offered an ultimate challenge. Whichever parent “yelled” the least would get a prize. By coincidence, it happens to be the High Holy Day season…one in which we attempt to contemplate our behavior and evaluate where we can try harder…where we can do better. And I wanted to win.
When bedtime ran late, I calmly asked everyone to head towards their rooms. When siblings argued and sought me out for reconciliation, I feigned ignorance…claiming I was in a challenge. When someone threw a tantrum and expected me to intervene, I watched, letting the ultimate challenge play out before me. Nothing eliciting yelling or raised voices. With each scenario, my husband looked at me with shocked expression.
Have I completely changed my behavior? Not exactly. But lesson learned. Want to know how the world sees you? Want to understand which part of your soul needs mending? Ask someone you trust; someone you love to draw your picture. It’s not enough to look in the mirror. Our reflection is misleading. Let your loved one’s sketch be your guide for change.
I’m a mom. I will sometimes yell, my mouth open with words of regimen, discipline and routine. But this week has softened me a bit…reminding me of what I hope Zachary brings home the next time he draws a family picture. A mom smiling, mouth a little less wide, showing her children she is capable of change.