I heard my first I hate you tonight, wedged between minestrone and bedtime, like a tiny, piercing sliver of “ten years from now” wedged deep between layers of skin, one that I thought I’d be better equipped to handle. I didn’t expect it to sting quite so much.
We sat at dinner, our typical battlefield of late, tonight was not to be a pleasant respite from the chaos like some nights are. I’ve learned to mine for moments of bliss within the chaos like a careful geologist sifting through sediment.
I wish they would shine out more often.
You didn’t want to eat your dinner, you didn’t want to taste your dinner, you didn’t want to be at dinner, you wanted to see how hard you could poke the bear before it roared.
You “humpphhed”, and rolled your eyes, in response to my attempts to “help you to be successful” (this is Mommy-speak for “I tried to keep the shit from hitting the fan”). Then you maxed out on the fresh mouth meter, and stuck your tongue out at me. I saw white, but quietly and evenly told you to go upstairs to bed, that there would be no dessert tonight.
You screamed and cried and stomped your way up the stairs, begging and pleading for one more chance. I stood firm in my punishment, and followed you up. I scooped you off the floor, a puddle of remorse and indignation, that your SIBLINGS should get dessert and more time to play. I undressed you while you first flailed limbs and then went limp. I pulled on your pajama top and as the neck band passed over your head your eyes flashed with fury and I took a tiny breath, preparing for what your eyes told me was coming.
“I HATE YOU!” You screamed, and then you said it again, in case I wasn’t listening.
At once I was 13 again, in the bedroom of my parent’s house, having just told my own mother the same. I remember her words to me that day, and I will never forget them, or the look on her face. “You are the first person to ever say that to me. You have no idea how much that hurts.”
And I didn’t… truly… until tonight.
After you calmed down, I tried to help you to understand the power of your words. I wanted you to see that once you say something out loud, you can never ever take it back. You stared at me, the baby shining through the face that was just a second ago contorted in rage. You said, “Mommy, since I’m crying will you sing Rock a Baby?”
I climbed into your bed, and cradled you in my arms, and sang to you the songs I haven’t sang in months. I gripped tightly onto the moment of bliss among the chaos, all too aware of how fleeting it was. I stared at your face, inches from mine, and thought about the years to come. So much love, so much joy, so much pain and sadness dangling out there… just beyond our vision, just beyond our reach… ready to nourish and shape and pierce.
I need to grow a thicker skin.