Saturday, June 03, 2006

MamaSaysOm - Warm

Dear Britton,

I've got nothin' this week. I tossed the word warm over and over in my head and just couldn't come up with something that wasn't cliche or already done. But I think the real reason I couldn't come up with anything is because I know there's something else I need to write to you about. We'll throw in the word warm a time or two so it qualifies for the theme and call it good. Or better yet we'll title this letter the-not-so-warm-and-fuzzy moment of our week.

I hit a parenting milestone this week. There are these moments in a parent's life, like watching their child walk for the first time, or the first time they hear the words I love you, or teaching their child to drive, or seeing them graduate from high school, that every parent prepares for. And each moment is a right of passage that both child and parent must pass through. Well this week I got my first "I hate you!" Ouch! Yes, right in the middle of a lovely (and warm) spring evening you hurled these three little words at me and it hurt. I was taken completely off guard and when the spinning in my head subsided I was surprised to see I was still standing because I really thought I had stumble backwards and fallen on my butt. I guess it wasn't my body that stumbled and fell but my heart.

I've been preparing for this moment because I knew it would come one day and I wanted to handle it with as much grace and understanding as possible. But honestly I thought I had at least another 7-10 years. I thought those daggers wouldn't head straight for my chest until you were a teen/pre-teen and taking even longer strides towards asserting your independence and becoming your own person. To get them when you are just three, well, I wasn't ready. I always imagined that when the day came for us to cross this threshold, I would look you right in the face, let you see the love in my eyes, and then give you permission to hate me, not because it's okay to disrespect me but because I never, never want to take your feelings away from you. Every feeling you ever have in your lifetime I want you to own, to feel, to sit in for as long as you need to. And I imagined I would sit in those feelings with you just so you would know you always have someone there for you. But when those words ripped through the air, they also ripped apart my heart. And as much as I hate to admit it, my first reaction was, "Don't you say that to me!" Not very mature. Now mind you the moments following your declaration of hatred are very blurry and I honestly don't know if I said those words aloud or just thought them in my head. I just can't remember. But whether I said them or not what they really meant were, "You hurt me." I didn't want you to tell me you hated me because it hurt worse than I ever imagined it could. I thought I would be able to take it. I thought I could sit with it. I was wrong. It stung, terribly.

Since then I've recovered and we've talked about it. What I want to tell you about this whole incident is sometimes, no matter how much I try to prepare for things that you and I will encounter, I may still get rocked to my very core. I'm human. Not only am I a human but I'm a human very much in love with another human. And sometimes when we say things to each other, like "Don't say that to me," we are really saying something more, something underneath those words, something like, "You hurt me." And finally what I want to tell you is I don't know if unconditional love is really possible but I do know that the closest that anything will ever come to that kind of love is the love a parent has for their child. Sitting here today I cannot think of anything that you could do that would make me not love you. You might do things to hurt me, things to rip the ground out from underneath me, things to anger me, things to disappoint me, and things to embarrass me, but I just don't think you can do anything to make me not love you--even telling me you hate me.

Parenting is hard. It's indescribably hard. It's exhausting trying to show up and be present for someone 24/7. It changes pretty much everything about one's life. And I try to say these things over and over again so that you, and others, might have a little bit better knowledge and understanding than I did. But in case I say those things too much, let me also remind you how wonderful being a parent, your parent, is. There are the not-so-warm-and-fuzzy moments but they are far outweighed by the warm-and-fuzzy moments. And we've had those moments this week too, like when I came home Thursday night after running errands and you jumped into my arms and squeezed me so hard I thought I might explode with joy. Or at breakfast Friday morning, when in between bites of egg and hash browns, you said, "Mama let's talk." Or Tuesday night when we laid on a blanket under the spring moon and read a book. Or mornings when you must be certain you've kissed me at least a dozen times before I head off to work. Or every evening when you want me to sleep with you for "just 10 minutes" (everything these days seems to be "just 10 minutes.") Yes those moments far outweigh the not-so-warm-and-fuzzy ones. And that is why, when a parent gets knocked on their butt, they get right back up and keep on loving.

Yours even when you hate me,


Blogger ♥ joleen ♥ said...

I read that through your eyes... and cried.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

You handles this tough "milestone" with grace. I hope when they dat comes for me I can remember this.

You got me all teary eyed as you have been managing to, a lot lately.

I love all the warm fuzzy moments you shared the most.

3:40 PM  
Blogger melba said...

Sometimes when I am hugging Ethan and Maggie (and Sean in our "family hug") I want to burst from joy. So much love. Recently I find myself wondering, is it possible that I experienced moments like this with my parents? I surely have no memories like the ones I hope to create with my children. But it is like you said...I can't imagine not loving them...But then how could it be so many adults don't have any relationship with their parents? It makes me wonder...

4:51 PM  
Blogger Shelley said...

I remember both hating and loving my father FIERCELY within hours of each other when I was a kid, and being very confused by it all. This is a great post, right into the struggling heart of parenting, and B is lucky indeed to have you.

8:40 PM  
Blogger megg said...

Reading through that I can see what you are. A loving, fierce, honest Mom who is raising a child secure enough to test his boundaries and live on his own two feet a little. He's a wonderful boy and you're a wonderful Mom. I'm sure he'll say it again (didn't we all!) but all of those other times must show you that he doesn't mean it - he's just making sure that you love him even more!

I send you love just for you!!!

11:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

someone told me once that no matter what age you are, feelings are universal...this really helps me sometimes when faced with some difficult moments with my toddler (i am right there with you, riding the highs and lows!). the difference between us and our little ones, is they have little life experience to deal with these feelings...i try to keep this in perspective all the time...that owen is learning how to handle these emotional fireworks (in fact, i'm still learning). there's bound to be a few misfires every now and then :)

6:45 AM  
Blogger acumamakiki said...

That's been the single biggest shocker to me, how early things happen that I'd expected. It's amazing when kids figure out what to say to hurt is humbling.

7:39 AM  
Anonymous Jennifer (she said) said...

You embrace even the hardest moments regarding parenting. That is a gift to your child and to yourself, I think. You might flinch, but you don't run. Or if you run or want to run, you seem to come back :-) My son hasn't said "I hate you" but it's only because I don't think he's heard it yet. I have gotten "I don't like you" often. As Megg says above, you love him well and he feels like he can test his boundaries. I tell myself this again and again (like today, and yesterday, and last week) when things are rough with Jacob. I love him well enough that he feels he can reveal all sides of himself to me. It's like a mantra.

I love these letters to Britton.

8:03 AM  
Blogger Server Girl said...

ahhhh...that is so sweet. I remember saying i hate you to my mom when i was little and felt horrible about it, because it is clearly not is only for a reaction from you because they know it hurts....that is an adorable pic of Britton....:)

11:21 AM  
Blogger January said...

Hi. My first time to your blog.

I was very moved by your post. As a mom of two kids under 3, I get it. Parenting IS hard. Really hard. My 2 1/2 year old is going through a "NO" phase. It's been tough the last few days, but I'm trying to love unconditionally without pulling out all of my hair.

I have a feeling the "I hate you" is coming. When your kids find your weak spots--that's trouble.

2:26 PM  
Blogger Ali la Loca said...

Oh, Michelle. I remember screaming these words so many times at my mom. I remember saying I hated her when I was a little kid, when I was a teenager... I think I grew out of it when I hit my late teens.

I love her so much - I always have, despite any turbulence or me claiming otherwise. Your letter made me see things through her eyes, through your eyes, through the universal mother's eyes.

I hope, one day when I too am a mother, to remember your words and beautiful letters to your son. They are such valuable insights.

2:53 PM  
Blogger mayseek life said...

this is a milestone that doesn't get much space in parenting books--so many ways to respond. your grace and reflection are a testament to your love.wise young mother!!

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Lia said...

Such an honest post, beautifully written and one I hope to remember when my babe learns words to shout at me. I agree this parenting thing is the hardest thing we ever do - I just need to remind my self that the heart is the hardest working muscle in the body - with an infinate capacity to expand.

4:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy, you have one tough cookie there Michelle. Strong willed. Which is good, but a toughy to parent. Keep on, your doing a great job and please don't take what he says at times like this too close to heart. They don't have the capacity to truly understand their words just yet.

It's like the temper tantrums at two...they test the waters, frusted and feeling out of control they loose it which scares them.

They need you to ignore it at the time, be strong and let them know you are their rock. They are safe.

Hugs, and is a HARD job.

6:11 AM  
Blogger rachel said...

My daughters are 9 and 10. Boo, the youngest, says those words to me on a near daily basis. It hurts and upsets me, but I realise that she is cross with herself and it is easier to offload on someone else, the person she loves the most. I do say to them now that their words hurt me, that I love them even when they are being angry and hurtful, and slowly they are coming to realise that it is not good. The recovery time from saying it to apologising and having a big hug is getting shorter each day.
Have faith and chin up

8:47 AM  
Blogger Sarah e.Smith said...

I am not looking forward to such moments, but you handle these with such grace and composure, i hope to be able to do the same when the time comes. This was a wonderful post, you always have such an amazing way of putting your feelings into words.

8:48 PM  

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