A long time ago in a living room far, far away, two little boys received lightsabers for Christmas along with an explicit warning not to use them in the living room because, like Bobby Brady once said and all the other moms in the world have echoed, “Mom always said don’t play ball — or have lightsaber fights — in the house.”
Well, guess what? One wintery evening those two little boys ignored that explicit warning and proceeded to have a good vs. evil fight in the living room where they knocked over not only a lamp, but Mommy’s glass of wine.
Mommy, who was typically a good sport, lost her temper, sent them both to bed and put the lightsabers on a high shelf for the rest of the weekend.
Yes, I was the mean mommy in that scenario and the two little boys are now grown men, but they haven’t forgotten the one and only time I yelled at them. I know this is true because the other day, our dog Rocky knocked over my cup of coffee and I snapped at him. I felt guilty immediately and gave him a dog treat to make up for his knocking over my coffee. But the incident triggered a memory in Hank, our younger son, who happened to be in the room.
“Remember the time you yelled at us for knocking over your wine?” he asked in a pleasant tone of voice that told me he wasn’t too traumatized by the incident.
“Do you remember the reason I yelled at you?” I countered.
“We weren’t supposed to play with our lightsabers in the living room. I didn’t want to, but Joe made me,” Hank replied, agilely throwing his older brother under the bus. “He said you didn’t really mean it when you told us not to play in there and that we’d have more room to move. We were having a lot of fun until the lamp broke and your wine got knocked over and you yelled at us.”
“I would say that getting yelled at by your mother only once in your entire life is pretty amazing.”
Hank shrugged. “I guess we were good kids.”
They were good kids, but that wasn’t why I never yelled at them. Or, more accurately, why I only yelled at them that one time. I didn’t yell, even when I had good reason, because not only do I hate yelling, I hate the aftermath even more.
Way back in the 1970s there was a lot of talk about Type A and Type B personalities. The thought was that if you were a Type A personality — highly organized, competitive, ambitious, and very often quite LOUD — it was good for you to not hold all that energy inside and express it by yelling whenever you felt like it because, if you repressed it, you might wind up with major health issues including heart attacks and strokes.
Type A personalities generally had a lot to yell about since the rest of the world was made up of Type B personalities (laid back, easygoing and flexible folks, the kind who quickly drove Type As to the very edge of their patience limits).
Later research has produced mixed results on whether or not encouraging Type A’s to let it all out is a good or a bad thing. Some health professionals think learning how to control that hair-trigger temper is a wiser course of action and that blowing your top whenever the mood moves you is not such a wonderful thing in the long run, especially for the people who have to live or work with you.
I can attest to that. While I know I’m a Type B all the way, the few times I’ve seen red in my life have resulted in massive feelings of remorse on my part as well as overcompensation to the yellee that more or less negated any life lesson that might have learned, such as listening to your mother in the first place. I have found that it’s best to bite my tongue in half rather than overreact and wind up feeling about as low as a caterpillar’s toenail.
That said, I still think it’s pretty amazing to have yelled at my offspring only one time over the past three decades. I think it would be even more amazing if they’d forget about it already.
Nell Musolf is a freelance writer based in Mankato. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.