March 8, 2012

Earplugs are saving our family

The lady at the bank gave her some suckers.
She cried the whole way home because I only let her eat one.
Hence the blue mouth and teary eyes.

Last week found me short of temper.  Very short.  It was not a pretty sight.  There were moments where Ellie was scared of me - and I was scared of myself.  Who is this fiery dragon woman who screams at a toddler?  I tried again and again to stay calm for longer than 30 minutes, but was continually failing.  I'm embarrassed to admit that I simply could not keep my cool.

Cue the earplugs.  In they went, and it was seriously a miracle.  I felt safe inside a bubble of muffled noise.  I could still hear my toddler's incessant demands,  but it no longer felt like she was delivering them through a megaphone.  I was aware of the baby wailing next to my face, but her cries weren't loud enough to make me feel anxious.  Instead I found myself finally able to meet the needs of my children with a calmness that had eluded me all day.

Yes, I can answer the same question a million times.
Yes, I can carry you around until you are calm.
Yes, I can read you countless stories.

I can do it all, because I've got magic earplugs!

While wearing them, not only is all external noise greatly decreased, but the noises I make are super amplified.  So I could really hear myself breathing, reminding me to take more deep breaths.  My own voice sounded very loud inside my head.  So when Eleanor needed correcting, yelling was not an option.  I simply spoke to her in a quiet and firm tone and was surprised by how well she could hear me.  The breathing, the talking softly, it all resulted in a noticeable drop in blood pressure.  Finally, I was in control.

I've been trying to read a bit from the Bible each day and the earplug experience reminded me of a scripture found in Proverbs 15:1 - a soft answer turneth away wrath.  I never would have guessed that the wrath I could turn away was my own.  My temper is like a fire: The more I feed it, the hotter it burns.  This simple act of popping in earplugs when I feel at the end of my rope has made a huge difference in my relationship with Ellie, my ability to feel the Spirit in my home, and has led to a real boost of confidence about my mothering.

Ellie noticed my earplugs and asked, "What those?"
I thought about explaining to her everything I just told you, but decided instead on a simpler answer.
"These help Mommy to not yell."
She seemed satisfied and ran off to play.

It's the small victories that make this fight worth fighting.


  1. Whitney, you are definitely onto something. And I can't believe the timing on your post... I've never been a hot-tempered person but the last few days (could it have anything to do with the husband being out of town?) I have really struggled to keep my cool with a certain little boy's afternoon whining sessions. So at dinner tonight when I was about to explode, I put my fingers in my ears like a 5 year old and turned away from him. I took a deep breath and immediately felt SO much better, and not even 5 seconds later he had stopped! The silence is great for mom, and sending that visual message of "I am seriously not listening to you" also gets through to the kid. I'm thinking big fuzzy noise-cancelling earmuffs?

  2. Maybe I should try this. Sounds like a miracle cure for the baby/toddler-induced lack of patience in my life.

  3. Couldn't help but laugh as I read about your short temper. I, too, have had yelling wars with my son and it only gets fueled by his laughter...yep, yelling is funny to him. And whatever gave you the idea of earplugs is awesome. Way to go Whitney!

  4. Thank you Whitney! Timely post, and inspired. I think a good set of earplugs will do wonders for Jack and I!

  5. I love this story. And you.

  6. That is a great idea. I understand how you feel--- I have a short fuse and then I literally feel like I'm on fire. I often cover my ears when they're crying/screaming, basically doing the same thing as earplugs. Great advice!!!

    Good luck. You're a great mom, even on those bad days (or weeks). Keep reading, keep praying.

  7. That is an awesome idea! I think I'm going to start giving earplugs away at baby showers. And congrats on Cornell!! When are you guys planning on making the big move?

  8. I'm wondering if this would also work with 8th graders.....but maybe alittle bit hard to explain at school. ....