Friday, October 1, 2010

"I Hate You, Mommy."

"...I don't want to live with you. I want to live with Daddy."

Those were the words of my 7 year-old daughter the other night.

This was no temper tantrum-fueled parting shot screamed from the doorway of her room, punctuated by the sharp crack of a slammed door. No. This was a calm comment with a follow-up list in response to my question, "What's wrong, honey?"

With those carefully enunciated words, "I hate you, Mommy," I saw my world fall apart for a second. I saw all the work I had done to limit the most negative effects of this separation and divorce on my children count for nothing. I saw a world turn against me and label me a Bad Mom. I saw my worst fears come true, that somehow, I would lose my children, that I would lose the love of my children.

After taking a deep breath, I asked her why she didn't want to live here with Mommy and why she hated Mommy. Here is her list of grievances:
  1. She doesn't have a bunk bed like they have at their dad's house.
  2. Her mattress springs hurt her back a little bit.
  3. Things in the house are ripped up, like the couch.
  4. I don't have a big tv like their dad does.
  5. We have a lot of spiders here.
  6. I don't let them play on my laptop.
  7. I yell when I scold them.
I had written down her list and divided the complaints into two columns House and Mommy. Then we sat down and very calmly addressed them together. I explained why certain things were unlikely to change, and which ones we could both work on together to change.

1. The bunk bed situation is not likely to change since I really do not have the spare cash to buy her a new bedroom set. Of course, if I bought her a new bedroom set, wouldn't I then be obligated to buy her sister one too?

2. Yesterday when I switched over to the warm flannel sheets, I flipped the mattress over and covered it with a thick mattress pad. When she tried it out at bedtime last night, she said it was wonderful. There. Problem solved.

3. Ok, we have a cat, a cat named Cheetah. Cheetah still has all of his claws, because I didn't have the heart to de-claw him. As a result, some of the furniture has taken quite a beating from him, specifically the sides of the couch.

Now, eventually, it would be nice to have nice stuff, but what parent of small children reasonably expects her house to look like an interior designer's showcase? Kids wreck things, intentionally and unintentionally. I've been waiting to replace the couch, (and the area rug, and the recliner, and the coffee table...) after the cat has "moved on to a better place." What's the point of getting a brand-new couch only to have the cat treat it like a brand-new scratching post? Also, with money the way it is, I can not afford a new couch right now.

4. Apparently their dad just bought a huge HD television, while mine is just a measly 27 incher or something. It works just fine, so I don't need a new one. I really resent the idea that there needs to be some game of "Who's Got All the Cool Stuff" between the parents, because really I am losing there. They have an XBox, a playstation and satellite radio at Daddy's house. When they go to the girlfriend's house, she has full cable, a Wii, and two kids there.

I have tried to play on my strengths and give the girls other things to do. We have books, a lot of books - an obscene amount of books, actually. Plus I have a fully-stocked art studio, including plenty of kid-friendly art supplies. The girls frequently ask me to break out the clay or the paints or the poster board and glue and have a big Mommy-Daughters Art Project Day, and I am always willing to oblige.

5. Spiders. *sigh* These kids and spiders, I tell you. I don't have some $800/year to pay exterminators to treat the house for spiders like my sister does. So for now, we ignore them or kill them and remember that spiders kill all the other bugs out in the world.

6. My laptop is almost sacrosanct to me, so her complaint is true. I have a lot of important stuff on here (like the novels I am slogging through, not to mention all of my finances) and I don't want anything happening to it, sorry. They use the desktop computer upstairs, though I guess we need to create a better-defined schedule for sharing the computer up there so that they both get equal time.

7. I do yell sometimes, but I try not to blow my top. I count to 10 before yelling, sometimes counting to 10 in as many languages as I can when I am really mad, but for Pete's sake, sometimes I get angry and I yell. But, when I yell, I don't scream, I don't get abusive with the language or the body language.

Honestly, am I the only parent who ever blows her top and raises her voice? I sure as fuck recall my parents, both of them, yelling when they got angry with us.

My calm thoughts:

I know that the kid is only 7. I also know that kids can read a situation and see their parents' fears and guilt, especially in a divorce situation. I know that sometimes children will manipulate these feelings to get what they want.

I have encouraged the girls to share their feelings with me openly and I do not punish them for their feelings. I want them to come to me whenever they need to and know that I am not going to come down on them for their feelings. The problem is that her use of the word "hate" is unacceptable. I have to find some way of dealing with this without having her think that I am punishing her for the substance of her thoughts, but she needs to learn that expressing feelings in a hateful way is 100% unacceptable.

Ok, so that's the rational part of this argument, time for the melty part:

I am crushed that she would say something like this to me.

Throughout this heart-wrenching situation, I have clung desperately to the knowledge that at least my babies love me. Sure, they may not appreciate all that I do, because kids rarely do, but they love me, even though their father did not love me anymore.

Yet again, I am being punished. I did not ask for this divorce, I did not ask for this disruption to the family. No, but I am the one to bear the brunt of the meltdowns and the outbursts.
I've had both kids beg me through tears, "Take it back, Mommy! Tell Daddy you're sorry! Make him come home!" No, I did not want this divorce but I still have to deal with it.

They see that one day Daddy lived here, and then the next day he moved out. They see that Daddy has new furniture and expensive toys and Mommy still has the same old crappy shit that she always had. Some days it feels as though they regard Mommy nights as a punishment.

Despite all that, until the other night, I rested safe in the assumption that I was Mommy, and children love their Mommies. When they are sick, they want me to take care of them, fetch them ginger ale and saltines and make my homemade Sickie Soup, which is just the standard chicken noodle soup made with lots of love... and homemade stock. When Lucy wakes from a nightmare in the middle of the night, she comes and crawls into bed with me and burrows into my side, knowing that she is safe there.

Never did I expect to hear the words "I hate you, Mommy, I don't want to live with you. I want to live with Daddy" from the mouth of my baby. The rational part of my brain can explain it all reasonably well. I understand that it's enmeshed with the allure of "things" and prompted by her anger at the family's being ripped apart. It makes sense.

Nevertheless, I am reeling and hurt.


Allison M. Dickson said...

I am so sorry you had to hear that. When they say kids can say the darndest things, they can also take a few little words and make them feel like a million razorblades on the skin.

I agree with everything you said about letting her know that the word "hate" is unacceptable. That is a word I have tried to discourage the kids from using as well. And I think it's also possible to let her know that her words hurt you, without it being seen as a "punishment." Kids need to learn early in life that words have power, and that although we should always try to be honest with our feelings, we have to find better ways of expressing them that don't hurt the ones we care about.

You deserve a million and one hugs right now for everything you've been dealing with.

B said...

Thanks, Allison.

We had a long heart-to-heart yesterday during which I let her know just how much she had hurt me with her words, without being passive-aggressive, because I hate that, it's just emotional blackmail.

It was a good talk, all told. We'll see how it goes.

eof777 said...

Following you from the Bloggy Mom blog hop. Have a great week ahead!

B said...

Thanks, Elizabeth, same to you.