In this column, Kristen Mulrooney writes letters to famous mothers from literature, TV, and film whom she finds herself relating to on a different level now that she’s a mom herself.

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Dear Mrs. Pike,

I hope all is well in sunny Stoneybrook, Connecticut. The school year is coming to an end and like me, you’re probably gearing up for summer vacation. Personally, I’m feeling pretty anxious about having to keep the kids busy for eleven straight weeks. Summer break with your eight kids… that must be tough, right? Right, Mrs. Pike? Answer the question.

Sorry if I’m coming off a little bit suspicious here, but I can’t figure you out, Mrs. Pike. You have eight kids between the ages of five and eleven, and you’re so relaxed about it in a way I cannot relate to. I first started reading about you when I was in first grade (I know, I was like Karen Brewer–level precocious) and as a child, I never really thought much about you. I barely noticed you, to be honest, but when I did, you were always cheerful, energetic, and laid back.

Anytime I heard about you, it was “Mrs. Pike had to go volunteer at the PTA meeting,” or “Mrs. Pike nursed the pneumonia-suffering neighbor back to health in her free time.” I never heard any stories of you that were like “Mrs. Pike finally reached the end of her rope because one human being cannot listen to eight different people telling her eight different stories at the same time,” or “So then Mrs. Pike saw one dirty sock on the stairs and, for reasons she herself can barely understand, that one dirty sock made her burst into tears of rage.”

Confession: I yell a lot. I never wanted to yell at my kids, because my parents yelled at me, and I hated it, but here I am, yelling at my kids and still hating it and feeling terrible because they probably hate it too. When I bring this up to other moms, they cosign the sentiment. We all yell. We all hate it.

The yelling doesn’t even start from a place of anger though. There are two main sources of yelling:

1. Kids are incredibly noisy. The noise level increases with each child. If you hit a certain threshold of children (and it’s less than eight), you must yell to be heard over the general noise of their miraculous existence.

2. The children’s selective hearing causes them to not hear our gentle patient voices, so we raise our voices each time we repeat a request until we are yelling (at which point it has escalated into anger).

I’m so stressed out. Somehow you are not, even though with some Stacey McGill–caliber mental math, I can tell you that you have 2.66666667 times as many kids as I do.

Okay, I actually used a calculator for that, but only because I don’t have the mental capacity to do any kind of extracurricular math in my head right now. But I bet you could! You’re out there planning summer vacations to Sea City for your family of ten (plus two babysitters) without screaming at anyone or even forgetting a single detail. I can state with near certainty that if I were you and I had to plan and execute that vacation, I would completely forget to ask someone to take care of Frodo while we were gone, and the kids would come home to a dead hamster.

I’m sure the lack of brain space accounts for some of the yelling too. If I had an extra brain byte for some rational thought, I’d take a deep breath and find a reasonable way to communicate, but my thoughts are completely full of family plans, stats, logistics, and their physical noise.

Maybe your lax babysitting standards help? Your eleven-year-old daughter Mallory isn’t allowed to get contact lenses until she’s fifteen, but she and her eighth-grade besties can watch your seven other kids while you and your husband get away for the weekend. Interesting. I’m taking notes.

I think I may have cracked you this morning, though. My middle child is bright and responsible, a typical Eldest Daughter (you know the type). But I struggle to get her out the door to the bus stop in the mornings because she’s a total space shot sometimes, getting lost in her daydreams (you know the type). She’s also, in standard six-year-old form, kind of a silly-billy-goo-goo (YOU know the type). I’ll tell her to go upstairs to get dressed and, ten minutes later, find her practicing headstands, still in her pajamas. I’ll tell her to pack her snack, and next thing I know, she’s twirling around the kitchen, making up a song about the solar system. She doesn’t hear me, so I say it louder, and then louder, and then I’m yelling.

Today was more of the same, starting with me gently waking her up at 7:30 and then my voice raising decibel by decibel until I was yelling by 8:30. As usual, I hated myself for starting everyone’s day like this and for sending my child off to school on a bad note. But as she tied on her little Converse shoes forty-five seconds before the bus arrived, she turned to me and said cheerfully, “You didn’t even have to yell at me today!” She gave me a hug and said, “Best mom!” and skipped happily down to the bus stop, leaving me dumbstruck at the door. “But I’ve been yelling at you for the past twenty minutes!” I shouted after her. She didn’t hear me.

And that’s when it hit me. Mrs. Pike, I know you only through your child’s perspective. I see you only as Mallory, Adam, Byron, Jordan, Vanessa, Nicky, Margo, and Claire see you, which is energetic, kind, and good-natured. It’s not that you don’t yell. It’s just that they don’t hear you. Realistically, you are probably frazzled, furious, and hoarse from yelling, and that is why even though Mallory isn’t old enough to sit in the front seat, you have no problem putting her in charge of the household while you escape.

Realistically, you are probably sitting on the bottom step sobbing into a dirty sock, but none of the kids notice because they’re busy playing the Who Can Talk in the Squeakiest Voice game, and I’m really sorry to say this, but that makes me feel so much better about myself.

So, yeah, good luck this summer!

Praying for you,