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June 19, 2008

"I don't like you, Mommy!"

J0202020 "I don't like you, Mommy," shouted my usually sweet son yesterday afternoon. These are the words every mother dreads hearing and every mother thinks her children will never utter.

I could not believe it when my darling son said this! My first reaction was "What the...!? Are you kidding me!? After everything I do for you? Schlepping you back and forth to preschool (WHICH by the way I bent over backwards to get you out of a preschool you hated to one you love), then to picnic lunches at the park where I lug your bikes out of the back of my truck and hang out for a couple of hours so you can have fun, to surprises I get you sometimes when I'm out doing errands, to ticklefests, to hugs and kisses and "I love you's" on a regular basis. I mean how dare you?  After everything I do all day every day, I make one mistake and you don't like me!? (you can tell I'm still naive about this mothering thang)

Then the hurt started creeping in. Ouch! How could you say such a thing to your own mother!? And at the young age of 3! I mean, I could see if you were 8 or 16. But 3! And then, of course, guilt snaked its way

up my emotional spine and I began thinking "Of course you don't like me! Just think of all the mistakes I made when you and your sister were babies...I didn't hold you enough, I was so overwhelmed with caring for twins by myself all day that I didn't sing to you or rock you enough, I paid more attention to your sister because she was the clingier one with colic, I didn't practice attachment parenting and sleep with you until you were 2 (I would have if there had been only one of you, I just couldn't swing it with two of you since we only have a queen size bed), I didn't breastfeed you because it was just too much between all the midnight feedings and pumping every 3 hours and early morning feedings and daytime feeings (did I mention pumping every 3 hours night and day!)....yeah, I can see why you wouldn't like me sometimes."

Those words--"I don't like you, Mommy"--really sting. They tap into feelings about not being a good enough mom, which sprouts feelings of guilt over every mistake I've made, resulting in an endless downward spiral into "mother hell" as I chew on the apparently very real possibility that I have already ruined my child's life.

Suddenly everything I'm doing as a mother is wrong: I don't give them enough one-on-one attention, I give them too much attention, they have too many toys, they're rebellious and stubborn not because they're three but because I'm not consistent enough on daily schedules or consequences, I'm too hard on them sometimes while hovering at other times, and the list goes on and on.

I try to act like it doesn't bother me, but I've always worn my heart on my sleeves so I'm not very good at it. Instead, I act more like a child myself, distancing myself from him emotionally, ignoring him, you know, all the things I should be big enough NOT to do. I should be big enough to shrug it off as the irritability of a 3-year-old, or the fact that he's so sensitive, or the 100's of other reasons an innocent preschooler might make such a statement. And, of course, the more I react the more he learns that ("Hey, I really got to her! I gotta put this in my arsenal of how to put mommy over the edge!). But it smarts, and I let it be known.

Maybe some day these words won't hurt me. Oh who am I kidding? They'll always hurt me. Why? Because I love my kids so much that when they say something like this I'm so shocked that it's like a jolt of electricity shooting through me.

I know that one day he'll say "I hate you, Mom!," and then "I don't like you, Mommy" will no longer seem like such a big deal. And tomorrow he'll say that he loves me. Such is the fickleness of preschoolers, as I've been learning since they turned 3. Tomorrow I'll put it in perspective and forget about it. But, today it hurts.

Original post on 50-something Moms Blog.

Cheryl also writes at:
New Mom Central
Silicon Valley Moms Blog
Betty Confidential
Type-A Mom

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