When Your Child Says "I Hate You"
Tonight was supposed to be a good night.
We hadn't seen my stepson, or as I prefer to call him, my son (yes, even though we aren't married yet, we function as a family) since Christmas Day. Tonight he finally came back home after the holiday break with his mom and we were all so excited to be together as a foursome.
It started off great. The kids were totally juiced to see each other. There was running, squealing, playing, giggling - lots of happy faces. I cooked dinner (it was terrible, but hey, I tried). We had dessert. There was more playing and then a kiddo roundup - time to brush teeth.
I walked into the bathroom to find my fiance and our son working on brushing his teeth. My daughter was on the floor in her school clothes, a superhero cape, and a yellow fireman's hat. I asked her to please get up so we could brush her teeth next. She looked at me and said "I'm not brushing my teeth and if you make me I'm going to throw your necklace away." (She had just made me a necklace the day before at school.)
I took a deep breath and asked her to step out of the bathroom with me so we could talk. She responded that she didn't want to talk to me. I started counting to three. On two, she moved slightly out of the doorway, only to throw herself into a worship-like position on the floor in the hall. I asked her to look at me and told her it was never ok to talk to mommy like that.
Then she said it.
"I'm never going to talk to you again. I hate you."
Then, she promptly slid her legs out from under her body and kicked me.
She is 4. FOUR!
Crushed, I scooped her up calmly and marched her towards the backdoor - our time out spot - where I set her down on the rug and then set the timer. 4 minutes. One for each year of her age. She knows the drill.
Instead of calming her down it incensed her further. "I never want to read with you again. I don't love you. I only like daddy. He gives me ice cream. I hate you."
I pretended to ignore her but I was googling like a madwoman. I had no idea how to deal with this. My strong-willed little fireball was trying to tell me that she was upset, angry. She was standing up to me and though I didn't know why, I knew something was different. A search result on google told me I should acknowledge her feelings.
"Ok honey. I know you're angry. You don't have to like mommy, but I'll always love you, no matter what."
She shouts at me "I want to squish your love!"
I stifle a giggle. She is so angry at me, that much is clear, but squishing my love? C'mon, that's solid gold. Instead, I nod my head and look down at the iPad, where I am playing Jet pack. The timer on the microwave goes off. I let her know that she can get up if she'd like, and come and talk to me about what happened.
She shouts at me again. "I'm never getting up. I'm not going to bed."
I continue playing jet pack. Calmly I say "Ok. I can see you're still angry. I'm sorry that you feel that way. I love you, I'm here when you're ready."
The next five minutes are filled with similar insults and threats such as "I'm going to throw away all of your clothes and I'm not going to be the flower girl in the wedding!" I ignore them. Jet pack. Jet pack, Jet pack, Jet pack.
Finally she gets up and runs to me and throws herself in my direction. She startles me a bit because she hits me hard, fast. She is sobbing. She pulls her legs up and I brace for a kick, but instead she curls up into a little ball on my lap, hysterical. Through deep gulps of air and sobs she tells me "the necklace is yours. It's yours, mommy."
I take this as an apology and stroke her hair. She calms down. Minutes later I'm gently brushing her teeth and tucking her in bed. "I love you my angel" I tell her, softly. "I love you mommy, big hugs" she replies, sleepily.
A few minutes later I wander out to the living room where my fiance' is waiting for me with a big hug. He offers to beat me at Mario Kart to take my mind off of it. I accept, but as I'm racing through Moo Moo Meadows my mind is racing - what just happened? Is she dealing with larger issues or was this a one-off tantrum because she was tired? I am completely clueless on how to deal with this, but I know my heart can't take this very often. I'm crushed. I want to fix it.
So tomorrow I will call a friend who has a child psychiatry background and ask her opinion. If there are issues here, I want to face them head on.
Have you ever dealt with things like this with your children, especially at such a young age? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.