On day nine of my personal 30-day No-Yelling Challenge, I slammed a door so hard I shattered it.

I was having a really, really bad day. My marriage was crumbling, my husband was angry with me all the time and I hated a whole lot about myself. Plus, my youngest child refused to put his shoes on, and we had to go.

So, trying really, really hard not to yell, I set him outside next to his big brother, placed his shoes beside him, then slid the sliding glass door shut. Hard. One of the glass panes broke, and a web made of a thousand cracks formed in an instant and kept snaking in every direction at once. We all froze in horror and fascination. I could hear the cracks traveling up and down and all around. My boys became blurry.

There was a split second where I willed and hoped and prayed that I could turn back time and undo this moment. Please, please, please I prayed. Can I un-break this door?

No, I could not. Watching and listening to the glass break was mesmerizing, but now pieces of the door were falling in front of my two boys, one nugget of glass at a time. Ka-plink, ka-plank, ka-plunk. This was the sound of six months of rage and depression and confusion and disappointment and frustration thrown into one magnificent and horrible mistake.

The door shocked all three of us. I understood why my boys were crying. They just saw a strong bulwark against the outside world shatter and become something they couldn’t recognize. I’m talking about the door, sure, but also about me. I was their bulwark, and I had been falling to pieces for months. When I broke the door, I snapped out of my rage, and looped back to reality.

I slid open the door, joined them outside, dropped to my knees and clung to them. I told them over and over: I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

And then, I started to pick up the pieces of the door, and myself.

This happened four years ago, before my youngest child’s memory even turned on and started working. But his two older siblings so regularly demand that I “tell the story of you breaking the door, Mom” that my youngest child seems to remember. The breaking glass continues to reverberate across time.

Why do they want to hear this story over and over? I always sigh, embarrassed at having to recall my Worst Mom Moment. But I tell it. Setting aside the cause, I tell the effects: how the door sounded, how long it took to break, how long it took to fix, how much it cost to fix. I recite these facts over and over. They ask me, “Why’d you break the door, Mom?” Great question. I understand their need to know. I explain, again and again, that I was having a really, really bad day. I took my anger out on a door, which turned out not to be shatterproof, just like me. With enough pressure, any one of us is bound to crack, even if we do our best to hide the fine fissures. And when we do crack, we have a choice. Do we sweep up the pieces and pretend it didn’t happen or be honest with ourselves and our loved ones about what just happened?

I chose the latter — treating my depression, channeling my frustration, improving my marriage. My door honors that work, although buying a new one was a lot easier than putting myself back together. I’m embarrassed that I took my anger and frustration out on a door, but I’m proud to say that my marriage and I are now more stable. I’ve worked to decrease the depression, rage, and frustration. I’m on to new mistakes. No more breaking glass doors for me.

As for that 30-Day No-Yelling Challenge, I started over again the next day.

Schwarz is a children’s book author who has also been published in Elán and Washington FAMILY Magazine.

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