As we drove to preschool yesterday morning, my daughter was screaming at me. She was upset because she didn’t want to go to school and decided to throw a full blown tantrum in the car complete with crying and seat kicking. Her actions bothered me, but the words she was hurling out as insults really stabbed me in the heart.
“I DON’T LOVE YOU!”
She screamed this over and over at me during the 20 minute ride. It was the first time she has ever said these hurtful words to me.
Hearing this come from her mouth for the first time was like the ultimate betrayal. As my eyes welled up with tears I wanted to yell at her, “Don’t you know what I went through to bring you into this world?!?! Don’t you know the mental and emotional anguish I lived through to make sure you could live?!?!” For a brief moment my mind took me back there. Daily shots in my stomach. Reminding myself to take deep breaths through the moments of panic. Praying to God on a daily basis asking for her to be healthy, and unlike her older brother, to be born alive. Letting go of the idea that, ultimately, I had zero control of what could happen to her inside of me.
But, instead, I just stayed quiet. In all honesty, I didn’t know what to say to defuse the situation. She was so worked up and I knew she would need to calm down before I could rationalize with her at all. I also didn’t think yelling back would help.
She has said hurtful things before, of course. I mean, she is three and the epitope of a threenager – all the bad and the good that comes with the age. Up until now the meanest thing she had ever said to me was, “You’re not my best friend.” The phrase was flung out there complete with malic in her voice and a dirty look.
The first time she said that it stung too. However, I managed to put up an emotional shield on this one and recently, I even came up with a response that she seemed to accept.
“Good,” I said back to her.” I don’t need to be your best friend. I’m your mom.”
This seemed to make her think the first time I said it and she hasn’t really mentioned me not being her best friend again. So, I guess, she decided to move on to bigger and harsher verbal attacks.
We were almost to school when I decided to put on a song from Frozen and see if she would calm down a bit. It worked a bit. At least she stopped kicking my seat, but it seems like even Elsa couldn’t help me now. She was still crying and occasionally screaming. And, she added another sentence into the mix.
“I love daddy. NOT YOU.”
Ok, I was over this. I know daddy is often the fun one. He plays while I make dinner, do laundry and feed her brother. Now he often puts her to bed because I’m busy putting the baby to bed around the same time. Since having a second baby in July, I’ve had a difficult time managing my time between the two kids evenly, especially since I have been breastfeeding, but I don’t think that is out of the ordinary.
“Keira, you’re not being nice to me,” I said calmly (shockingly). “Please do not talk to me until you can be nice to me.”
She stopped screaming at me. She was still crying but she stopped yelling. It was a start. I put, “Let It Go,” on repeat and we drove the last five minutes without any yelling.
“I’m hot, momma,” she said.
Well, that I could do something about. I turned down the heat and she eased up on the crying.
By the time we pulled into the school parking lot, her eyes were still teary and she was red-faced, but she was calmer. I took her out of her seat and she asked me to carry her. I scooped her up in my arms as best I could and slowly walked over the ice in heels to towards the door.
As she wrapped her arms around me and held on tight, I knew it wasn’t true. I knew she loved me. I also knew I was going to have to modify my emotional shield for these new, mean words. It might have been the first time she had said them to me, but I knew it wouldn’t be the last.