Monday, January 25, 2016

Three Words No Parent Wants To Hear

It was directed at my husband and not at me, but I still felt it.The words flew like shrapnel, grazing against my skin, the shock of the pain causing me to draw in my breath. 

"I hate you!"

His little fists flung out wildly and he fired the words again as my husband carried him to the car, his pajama shirt still on under the school t-shirt we had wrestled over his head. It took both of us. He is six years old. 

"I hate you!"

It's the first time he's said those words, but it won't be the last. Nor are we the first parents to hear them from the mouth of a child. Does he really hate his dad? Of course not. He's angry and he's lashing out the only way he knows how. The transition between home and school on Monday mornings is tough. We wake up prepared for battle. We know it's hard for him. But this morning his words hung in the air long after the car pulled away, swirling with the icy January wind, just as sharp. I went back into the house and looked at my three-year-old happily playing with his PAW Patrol trucks. I wonder when he'll say it for the first time. 

Let's be real, here. Parenting is not a popularity contest. Tough love is not fun. If we're doing it right sometimes our kids will hate us. They might hate us when everyone else's parents are letting them go to Sue Ellen's party but we'll say no because we don't know Sue Ellen's parents but we're pretty certain they weren't invited to the party. They'll hate us when we push them, try to motivate them, set hard limits. They'll hate us for not being the cool parents, the exact thing they'll love us for later. Or so I tell myself.

Sometimes our kids will hate us. Sometimes they'll tell us. We'll hate ourselves too, sometimes. Sometimes we might even hate them a little bit, but we know enough to keep it to ourselves.

People say that parenting is the most rewarding job in the world, and this is true. It is slightly less PC to say that parenting is the most painful job in the world, but this is also true. Like I've said before, having a child with unique struggles amplifies both the victories and the fall outs. My husband sent me a text to let me know that as soon as he was in the car he took his words back. I knew he would. His remorse is always deep and sincere and unprompted. Almost before the words are out of his mouth, almost before his fists stop swinging he realizes that he's been hurtful. He does not lack empathy, he lacks self-control. 

Even in the midst of his mind storms he's in there trapped under a tangle of synapses, wires that have gotten crossed. The people we love have the ability to hurt us the most and there's no exception when these people are our children. It's more than getting our feelings hurt, though. It's heartbreaking to see your child struggle. But that's why we're here. We'll help our children understand that we care about them and want the best for them. We'll help them understand why they have to do things that "aren't fun". When they don't understand we'll make them do it anyway. We'll give them love and support, we'll guide them through the landmines in life. Sometimes we'll have to let them step on one so they learn to be more careful. Sometimes we'll say no. Our love for our children is unshakable and we know they love us too. Even when they hate us.

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