Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Hurtful I-Hate-You's

My Daughter's Self-Portrait

Everyone seems to warn you about the terrible twos, the endless why’s, and the troubled teens.  But nothing I have ever read, discussed, or imagined prepared me for what I have come to call the hurtful I-hate-you’s!

My 5-and-a-half-year-old daughter has always been my sweet little princess.  She stole my heart the moment she looked up at me with those big brown eyes as I was holding her minutes after she entered this world.  She was my cuddle bunny, snuggling up with me every opportunity she could get and wrapping me in the softest hugs I have ever known.

Her smiles and giggles have brought so much life and happiness over the years.  And her silly sense of humor has filled even the worst days with laughter.  That’s why I was totally unprepared for the change that has taken over my lovable little girl.  Just about a month or so ago, in a fit of anger, her tiny little voice rocked my world with her first “I hate you, Mommy!”

Even though some time has passed, I still remember it like it was yesterday, the sting of her words keeping the shocking incident fresh in my mind.  One typical weekday morning, not long after the end of my children’s winter break, I was hard at work preparing for my kids’ cyberschooling.  My children were eating breakfast and watching cartoons in the living room.

When time came to begin the school day I told them to turn off the TV and go change out of their pajamas.  My son, without a fuss, turned off the television and went straight to his room to get dressed.  My daughter, on the other hand, starting pouting and complaining because I was interrupting the episode of Dora the Explorer she was so intently watching.  Despite my reassurances that it was a Dora rerun and readily available on Netflix for them to finish after school, she exploded.  She began yelling at me that it wasn’t fair and that she hated school—that it kept her from doing the things that she wants to do.

Taking the typical mother’s position, I sat her down and explained that school was necessary and that sometimes we all have to do things that we hate.  I suggested that she find some way to tolerate and get through it each day, so she could have more time to do fun things.  Well, that just infuriated her more.  I tried to reason with her again, to no avail.  And finally, she glared at me with her little mouth twisted into a sneer and screamed at me, “I hate you, Mommy!”

In utter shock and hurt, I sent her to her bedroom for a timeout—for both of us.  I went to my own bedroom and cried.  How could my sweet little girl hate me so?  Just a few short days before, we had been best friends.  We had a girls’ night in, taking turns styling each others’ hair and painting our nails together.  How could things change so drastically in less than a week?
Over the next few weeks, her fits grew worse and worse and the I-hate-you’s were used more and more.  I was at my wits end and so emotional that I didn’t know what to do!

In the end, it took a lot of soul searching and thinking before I finally got up the nerve to sit down with her this past weekend and talk to her about it.  After another I-hate-you incident, when all was calm and normal again, I called my little princess to sit next to me and we had a little heart-to-heart conversation.  I asked her how she felt when someone says mean things to her.  I allowed her to gone on and describe what she thinks and feels when such a thing happens.  And then I revealed to her what her heated words do to me.
She immediately frowned and told me that she doesn’t like when other people cry because it makes her sad and then she starts crying.

After that I asked her directly why she tells me she hates me during these situations.  Her tiny face scrunched up for a moment, as she mulled it over in her head.  Finally, she looked at me and said, “Mommy, I hate school.  It isn’t any fun.  And I think it is mean for you to make me do it.  I don’t get to play enough, so I hate when you tell me I can’t play.”

Confused, I asked her, “Does that mean that you don’t really hate me?”

Immediately, she replied, “I love you, Mommy.  I just get mad at you.”

You would not believe the relief I felt.  My daughter didn’t really hate me!  Since our little talk, the I-hate-you’s have stopped…for now.  I know that with the tumultuous moods my princess gets into these days chances are these hurtful words are bound to surface again.  But if they ever do, I’m prepared.  I now realize that this is only a stage she is going through—not the product of some poor parenting on my part.  And I now know in my heart that she still loves me, no matter how much she rants and raves to the contrary.

For those of you with young children who might be going through a similar phase, don’t take your little ones’ words at face value.  Young children often don’t have the ability to properly express and deal with their emotions.  And this is just a product of that immaturity.  Just do what you can to weather the storm and hold the beautiful memories and happy moments close to heart.  It will pass soon enough!

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