It has happened. One of my children has told me that they hate me. I knew that this would happen. I also know that it won't be the last time.
The circumstances don't really matter, but I told my children "No." I tell them no all of the time. No, you cannot ride your bike to school. No, you cannot dig a hole in the backyard to trap Mothman. No, you cannot wear that out of the house. No you cannot have ice cream for breakfast.
But in this instance, I told my daughter that she could not go somewhere with one of her friends. One, the destination was questionable. Two, the kid that asked her to go, I happen to know that the parents are going through an incredibly nasty divorce and there have been "scenes" in the past. And three, she had not completed her chores.
So I said no.
There were wailings of "That's not fair!" and lots of pleading and begging. And then as she turned to go to her room in a huff, there was a sort of primal scream before I heard it. It was under her breath. More to herself than to me. But she said it.
"I HATE you."
I am pretty sure that my heart stopped. I think that I audibly gasped.
A million thoughts on what I should say ran through my head in a split second.
My first defense when I feel wounded is a sarcastic response, and I thought "Good, that means I'm doing my job." But I didn't say that.
Then I thought -- don't respond. She said it for her own benefit. She didn't scream it at you. Just act like you didn't hear it. I didn't choose this options either.
Then I felt the tears stinging the backs of my eyes and I thought (rather cruelly) -- show her just how much that hurt. Make her feel guilty. But I held the tears back. For now.
When her bedroom door closed with a bang maybe 2 seconds later, I was roused from my racing thoughts. I got up from the couch, walked slowly to her room, turned the doorknob slowly and looked inside where she had collapsed onto her bed crying at what she perceived as my mistreatment of her.
"I am sorry that you are mad. You are too young to understand all of the reasons why, but I am not. That is why God gives children parents. I understand that you are angry, but I do not appreciate you saying that you hate me. That was mean and you are not mean. The answer is no, this time, because I know things and understand things that you, at 8 years old, cannot. The answer is no because I love you."
And I kissed her cheek and left the room slowly closing the door behind me. Then I went to my own room, closed the door, turned the lock, and sat on my bed and cried.
I knew that my children would not always view me as perfect. I knew that they would one day disagree with something I made them do, or wouldn't let them do. I knew it was coming. I did not expect it to come so early. I did not expect my 8 year old daughter to utter those words.
I remember saying those things to my parents. I remember thinking them. I remember feeling so wronged by their restrictions on my life -- I felt that I knew better. I was wrong. I was wrong about what I thought I knew. I was wrong about their intentions and I was wrong about hating them.
I was angry about not getting my way -- just like my daughter is now. I know she doesn't hate me. She's just mad.
Then there was a knock at my door. It was my daughter. She apologized. I accepted. And we cried together as I tried to break down into terms she could understand why she could not go.
I expect power struggles with my kids. It is part of being a parent. This was the first of many battles to come. There will be more "I hate you's" -- they will sometimes just be in their own heads, sometimes uttered under their breath, and they will be shouted from behind slammed doors.
I made it through the first one, but it will in no way prepare me for the others to come. I will take it though, because I love them.
I love them enough to say no.