Last night I saw half an hour of 'Terms of Endearment' on one of the HBO channels. I was completely struck by the accuracy of a particular scene. Do you remember the sequence where John Lithgow helps pay for Debra Winger's groceries? They leave the supermarket together and start to talk, but Winger's older son can't stop complaining. She tells him sweetly: "Go wait by the car." He keeps whining. "Go wait by the car," she matter-of-factly repeats. But he just continues to whine. Finally, she yells: "GO WAIT BY THE CAR! GO WAIT BY THE CAR! GO WAIT BY THE CAR!" And then Lithgow deadpans, in a completely earnest way: "Sweet kids. You're really great with them."
I thought the moment was brilliantly acted, because honestly, what mother hasn't had to resort to the same kind of repetitive yelling? Now, I'm not a huge yeller, like my eldest brother, but I've definitely had to, in a raised voice of utter frustration, repeat the same instruction half a dozen times. Mostly because I'm certain my 4.5-year-old has an inner-ear infection that prevents him from hearing the first three times I ask him to do something (anything, really), unless it's to eat dessert. I feel guilty when I raise my voice. I have close friends who never seem to, and I'm in awe of them. But then again, their mother never yelled at them. My mother, however, still yells at all four of her children and we're 29, 39, 41 and 43. So, it's sorta in our blood to raise it up an octave now and again. I think I strike a balance, but I hope one day to not have to yell, but what are the odds?