The other night Sam and I had one of our worst “fights”. She was being extra difficult, not having slept well the night before and also not having napped that afternoon. She had come from school and done several other high energy activities that by the time we hit 5pm, she was just completely strung out. Everything was a frustrating mess, she would break down over the smallest things, and she in a defiant, disobedient mood. I was tired and worn down too; apart from having to deal with her I also had to continue to care for Jamie. In the end I pulled out the last disciplining hat trick that normally works to get things back on track and threatened Sam with no story before bedtime. Instead of calming down and listening as she normally would, she just lost it. She was screaming at the top of her lungs and she refused to let me hug her. She was quite inconsolable for about 30 minutes. It was the worst tantrum I’ve seen in all her 38 months of life.
Finally as she ran out of steam, I tried to get her to bed. Then she said it: “I don’t love you Mommy.”
A sharp pain surprised me and shot straight to the heart. I was taken aback but I tried not to show it of course. I told her she is allowed to feel whatever she wants, and we could talk tomorrow. I still told her that I loved her though regardless. On top of that, she refused to say sorry for her behavior.
To make a long story short, we were able to patch things up eventually before she fell asleep and soon after that she was back to her normal loving self, the day’s disaster now all just a bad memory. After I had put Jamie to bed, I collapsed beside my husband (who was engrossed in his basketball game), and sobbed uncontrollably. He laughed at me and told me to brush it off, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t! It hurt! Even if he was telling me that she didn’t mean it in the literal sense, I couldn’t get over the fact that she had said it.
I know in my head that all parents and children have those kinds of fights (it’s worse when they’re older I’m sure), and I’m told that it is normal reaction. I’m sure we’ve all done it and “felt” it (albeit temporarily) at least once in our lives with our parents (I love you Mom! ;)), but to have to go through it as a parent for the first time… Ouch! My friend T said that even if they’re just testing the waters to see how far they can take things, it still hurt because it’s very personal. It makes you feel sick and guilty inside, as if you’re a bad parent (When really, you’re not. You’re just doing what’s best for them, really!).
Knowing that it happens though (and will happen again and again) doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, I can tell you that. My husband says I should prepare myself for the years ahead when Sam will probably mean it more and not want to patch things up before bed, or Jamie will learn to say and feel it as well. Ugh! How will I feel about it then?
That’s the tough part about being a parent I guess: inasmuch as you are the object of a lot of love and affection, you are also the target for a lot of anger, hate and resentment of all kinds of intensity. I am learning that one definitely does not come without the other, and man oh man…! What to do about it when it, really and truly.
On the flip side though, I know that our relationship is as real as real can be and for that I am grateful. Looking back at the nightmare of a day, I wouldn’t have changed my end decision to instill some form of disciplinary action, even if I knew how much it would hurt just to hear that she doesn’t love me (in that moment of her life). I take comfort in the fact that what I do, regardless if it is a popular decision or not, I do out of love for my girls.
I told Sam though the next day that she made me feel bad, when we were processing what had happened the day before. She told me she felt bad too, and so we talked about it and how we should deal with things the next time around. I’m not sure about how much of the entire discussion she understood, but I have to try. I am hoping that by talking about these incidents with her openly we will get into the habit of communicating, avoiding such unnecessary drama in the future.