the corn story

  • May 6, 2013

For years, two embarrassing stories in our family carried a $2 (per person) penalty for the telling. And since my kids earn about $10 a year, the threat was enough to keep my ignominious corn story under wraps (the second story belongs to Stefan and only he can share it).

But I no longer find it shameful or humiliating. Time to come clean. And, no, I’m not paying $2 to each of you.

The summer after Xander was born I was completely overwhelmed. With three little boys racing through the house, one little needy one in my arms and Erik traveling nearly every week, I was a frazzled wreck. And I got into the habit of yelling. Too much. Too often. Out of control.

Even as a little girl, I knew I had a fiery temper. I remember watching the extraordinarily sweet singing leader at church and knowing I had a different set of DNA. Sweetness did not come easily to me. Courage and smarts, yes. But not sweetness. I envied and emulated my mild-tempered friends. My Primary teachers taught kindness and I listened and did my best.

My best was enough for a long time. Until that summer.

Friday night: Erik gone on business. Xander crying and dinner on the stove. I was shucking corn in the kitchen, watching the boys on the back porch, while using my toe to bounce Xander’s little baby seat. My arms were full of corn to rinse in the sink when the boys began banging on the glass kitchen door. The door wasn’t locked, but their arms were full (of what? I forget.) as were mine. As their pounding increased, I feared the door would break and in a burst of anger I threw the corn on the counter. Hard. Seven or eight ears.

Do you know what fresh corn does when you slam it against a hard surface? You probably don’t because you’ve never lost it like I did that night. It EXPLODES. The same force you see when kernels pop over heat, but wet and slimy and all over my kitchen.

Every surface was covered with sticky yellow bits of corn– counter, walls, stovetop, oven, floor, my arms and clothing, even poor baby Xander’s chubby tear-stained cheeks. I stared in horror at what I’d done, began to cry and called my best friend.

For hours we scrubbed the kitchen. Corn starch serves as a substitute for glue in all kinds of fun crafts and all that smashed corn was glued to my kitchen. We gave the kids cereal for dinner, laughed and cried and scrubbed and finally gave up– deciding I’d just have to tackle the job a bit at a time.

As I lay in bed that night, exhausted, one thought kept returning to my mind. The moment of decision. Because I can recall, even now, the moment before, when I had control, but I threw it anyway and created all kinds of work (and mortification) for myself.

Seven years later, when we sold the house, we were still finding bits of corn adhered to a handle or corner of the cupboard.

I knew I had a problem. But I cried and justified and muddled through until school started in August and I went in the first week for an introductory meeting with Ben’s second grade teacher. The kids had filled out a little ‘get to know me’ page with their favorite foods, movies, books and questions such as ‘what makes you happy?’ ‘what makes you sad?’

Under the question ‘what scares you?’ Ben had scribbled “when my mom yells.”

That night I knelt beside my bed, pulled the crumpled paper out of my pocket and begged my Heavenly Father for help. I wanted to be kinder, calmer, less scary. At the moment of decision, I wanted to make the right choice, not the angry one. I was deeply shamed.

Change takes time. I broke my resolve more times than I can count. But I kept praying, begging God for help, practicing calmness and kindness. And I changed.

Gabe and Mary will tell you I never yell. Not even when the water bottle spills across the kitchen counter (and ruins my laptop) or spatter cake batter all over the kitchen.

Oh, they’re wrong, I still yell here and there (especially at cars speeding down our street), but not often enough to remember or loud enough to scare them. I now consider myself extraordinarily patient; it takes a whole lot to ruffle my feathers.

Please understand, I share this not to brag but to encourage. We can change. We can turn our weaknesses into strengths. We are not victims of our DNA or personality type. I often hear stories about ‘she never said an unkind word in her life’ ‘she never complained’ ‘he always had a positive attitude.’ And if I’m feeling grumpy, I think, “Well, I’ve already blown that.” I need to hear stories about people who struggled, yet improved.

Maybe, for someone out there, it will be more encouraging to hear, “She was a stressed out, angry yelling mom but she changed and got better and MUCH happier.” Because we are made for happiness.

And Ben, what scares him now? Spiders. Big, fat spiders. He’ll have to get over that on his own.

May 1, 2013
May 8, 2013

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14 Comments

  1. Reply

    Dovie

    May 6, 2013

    I had a similar experience. When my children were young after a sobering episode like what you describe, I prayed hard that I could know when my anger was brewing but still small enough that I could choose a different path that he would let me know so I could recognize and choose, so it wouldn’t rule me and ruin my relationships. It was hard work it still is sometimes hard work, but I believe I’m a different person now.

  2. Reply

    FoxyJ

    May 6, 2013

    Yep, same thing here, different kinds of incidents. I’ve also had the experience of realizing that I was reacting badly to things at work and needing to change that–anger can be a bad habit and a hard one to break. But, I am a better parent than I was 5 years ago and I hope I will continue to get better. Sometimes I feel a little bad that my youngest will have better memories than my oldest, but that’s just how life goes and I know the Atonement can work for her too.

  3. Reply

    RFamily

    May 6, 2013

    This is me. Mine are 3.5 and 1. I don’t know if I’m capable of the type of change you experienced, but this makes me want to try. Thank you.

  4. Reply

    Sharlee

    May 6, 2013

    Oh, thank you, Michelle. I needed this today. I am trying to change too. Yes, at 52. *sigh* But I’m not dead yet!

    And I love this:

    “We are made for happiness.”

  5. Reply

    Emily M.

    May 6, 2013

    I needed your corn story too. Thank you.

  6. Reply

    annie

    May 7, 2013

    Love this. I think all parents have had “bad parenting” moments. There is just no way to be human and a perfect parent. I have always thought about the prophet, I think it was Hinckley who said that when he was called as prophet, his children were astonished. It helped me to hear this. I realized that awesome, inspired Pres. Hinckley was a real parent too.

  7. Reply

    jen

    May 7, 2013

    I think we all have these stories. I know I do

    I also notice that Stefan’s missionary blog is up on the sidebar. I was going to ask about that!

  8. Reply

    Linn

    May 7, 2013

    Thank you for sharing this Michelle. Like others, I have had a similar experience and have been so grateful for the Lord and His help to get me where I want to be as a mother–not perfect FOR SURE, but so much more calm and peaceful.

    And then this May happened. Moving across the country, pregnant and already having contractions too early, trying to sell our van and build a house…well, let’s just say I have fought grumpiness a lot the past few days. I thought I was past it, but I guess when the stress really escalates, I’m not as good as I want to be. I’m grateful I’m not yelling and being angry, just really overwhelmed and grumpy.

    *Sigh*

    I guess I’ll just see it as an opportunity to keep trying. After all, I was “made for happiness.” That I believe.

    Thanks friend.

    And PS. Ben is in good company with Ron Weasley. Awesome company indeed.

  9. Reply

    Lori Conger,

    May 7, 2013

    Great story! I think that’s what motherhood is all about–evolving into the mother we really want to be. And to do that, we have to make all kinds of mistakes and say sorry over and over. But when the change happens and you feel yourself becoming a bit more like that marvelous woman you dream of, it’s so worth it. Especially when your children love you through it all.

  10. Reply

    kara jayne

    May 8, 2013

    inspired post michelle…truly.

  11. Reply

    Lisa

    May 9, 2013

    Goodness I love the honesty of this post. Don’t we all have Corn Stories of our own? Love that you stand up and “own” yours. And have I told you how much I adore the new photo at the top of your blog…it’s amazing!

  12. Reply

    moo

    May 9, 2013

    … I am that someone out there. Thank you for sharing!

  13. Reply

    Anne Marie

    May 9, 2013

    This is so hopeful and empowering. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Thank you for your beautiful vulnerability. Sharing our stories is one of the best gifts we can give each other, especially our stories of imperfections (we all have them!).

  14. Reply

    heathermommy

    May 13, 2013

    This story gives me so much hope. Thank you.

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