Thursday, December 2, 2010

You Don't Love Me

This morning started out cheerfully, as most mornings do. Breakfast proved a bit dicey, as it always does. I should just record myself and hit play:

"Sit down. No, I will not cut the crust off of your toast. Don't touch your sister. A touch is not a hit. Sit down. I'm not serving candy for breakfast. I don't care that your brother looked at you. The next person who removes their hiney from their seat will enter their schools hungry. Now SIT DOWN."

(I'm pretty sure that I have an amazing opportunity for improvement here, but...I'm so ensconced in the cadence of our rituals that I'm finding it hard to feel the rhythm of a new way.)

Anywhoo, the morning proceeded as usual. I asked them to please just get along. And to get ready for school. Kids went upstairs to brush, comb, wash and dress. Arguing began. Luckily for me, from my perch at the breakfast bar, the floor between us muffled the actual words. Abby then appeared in the kitchen to announce the following transgression:

"Henry stuck his tongue out at me."

As I chewed my cereal, I sat in awe. And chewed on this thought: Really? She's tattling on her four-year-old brother for that? (Side note: I've been encouraging my children to work through these arguments on their own. Another side note: You can see how successfully I've deployed said encouragement.)

So, I told Abby that I thought she was being ridiculous and tattling.

Folks, that's when the wheels fell off the bus.

Her voice went up two octaves. And the rampage began:

"You don't love me as much as you love Henry. (Sob, sob.) Everyone likes him more. (Drip, drip.) You don't love me. No one in this house loves me. I'm going to run away from EVERYONE and from this house."

And my lovely maternal response? Silence.

And Abby screamed, "Why aren't you answering me?!"

So I said,

"Are you done? Cause if you're not, could you go somewhere else and cry?" (Another aside: Does my response seem harsh? Mean? Well, let me tell you, it may have been. But it was better than the response running through my head. Yup. Much better. I am just SO done with the wha wha wha whining. Every morning I'm asked to mitigate some grievous, outrageous event that is neither grievous nor outrageous. Usually totally benign. And I'm done. I'm toast. DONE.)

"NO!", she hollered. "I'm telling you HOW I FEEL!!!! You don't love me and aren't even saying that you're sorry I feel this way." Huge tears continue their descent.

And I responded, "I'm sorry you feel that way." (And I then thought that maybe I should actually feel sorry that she felt that way. But it all seemed so nonsensical to me. Henry's tongue sticking out to nobody loves me? Huh? Maybe this is how hubby felt when I was preggers. Huh. Spinning head. Check. Crazy irrationality? Check. Hormones? CHECK.)

Where does she pick up these theatrics?

The good news? I stayed calm. The bad news: I stayed calm. She saw my actions as insensitive, uncaring and mean.

The storm clouds passed. I offered a conciliatory hug with these words:

"I love you."

When she got out of the car, I told her that there was one thing she needed to remember today: That I love her.

I've spent my quiet hours today digesting her outburst. A ploy? Displaced emotion? Her truth? I'll excavate, gently, trying to find clues providing insight and tender awareness. I'll try my best. I'll look for that different rhythm, a new synchronicity to guide us through. And I'll love her. Whether she thinks I do, or not.


Lindsey said...

Ahhh so familiar. The constant bickering, the fighting over nothing, the quick ascent to full-fledged screaming, tears, whining. I have taken to calling them The Bickersons. It makes me insane. I'm sorry you had that morning but I'm selfishly also glad to know I'm not alone.

Anonymous said...

I'm am fortunately not there yet, but it's coming. Here's what I think for what it's worth. I think you handled it perfectly. Do I think she felt that way. Sure. But I also think as parents the best we can do is NOT step up to their desires. Feelings are important. What's key is helping them learn that the solution isn't to blow a gasket, but rather to let it blow over. Sometimes.

Shannon said...

Oh, I cannot even tell you how many times my teenage daughter has muttered those words about loving my son more than her (she's 16, my son 6). He's the baby, she's the angry teenager. And I so related to your response. It's a regular in my vocabulary. "I'm sorry you feel that way."
Great post!

Anonymous said...

Oh, how I love, love, love this post. Your description of a typical morning in so many homes across America is divine. Made me laugh and ponder. **** Pixie Cake