“I hate you.”
I stare at my five year-old in disbelief. He is tucked in bed, donning Lego jammies and an overnight pull-up. He is hugging his beloved gator and glaring at me with a furrowed brow.
I take a deep breath and close my eyes. It’s another one of those parenting moments. The ones where I have to choose which Mommy I’m going to be. Happy Mommy is my favorite. She’s the obvious choice whenever my son leans in for a snuggle or gives me his biggest smile. Happy Mommy almost makes parenting feel easy.
I can’t find her anywhere right now.
My son continues to stare me down with his now-icy blue eyes.
Couldn’t you just give me a hug and call it a night?
I beckon Calm Mommy and sit down beside him.
“That really hurts my feelings, honey. Why did you say that?”
“You won’t read stories to me. That makes me mad!”
Okay, at least he’s sharing his feelings. We’re making progress. I bring in Rational Mommy for back-up.
“I understand you’re mad. Do you remember why I won’t read you stories?”
I press on. “I told you if you hit your brother one more time, you wouldn’t get any stories tonight. You hit your brother again, so you can’t have any stories.”
“But I said I’m sorry!”
I sigh. I would actually love to read him stories. Concede Mommy is waiting in the wings, but I send her away. She’s gotten me in trouble too many times before.
“I know you did, but it’s too late. You can try again for stories tomorrow.”
He slaps me roughly across the face. Angry Mommy pushes herself to the front of the line.
My heart beats rapidly. I squeeze the bed frame to keep myself from the natural instinct to slap him back.
“No hitting,” I say firmly. Stern Mommy takes control.
He roughly pinches my arm, eyes still locked with mine.
“No pinching,” I say, feeling my voice catch at a higher octave.
“You’re the worst Mommy ever!”
Empathy Mommy gently comes forward.
Very softly, I say, “You love me very much. You’re going to feel really bad later that you said that because you’re a good boy.”
I get up, hands trembling, and cross to the door. “Good-night.”
It’s a whisper in the dark. “I hate you.”
I close the door and walk briskly to my room where I unleash Livid Mommy. I pound my fists on the bed until my arms will no longer move, unleashing a muffled scream into my pillow.
You did good, you tell yourself. You didn’t lose your cool in front of the kid. That’s not easy for you.
Angry Mommy rolls her eyes.
I walk downstairs and fill a glass of wine just below the rim.
You should be celebrating. I raise my glass, but I don’t take a drink. I set it back down and rest my head on the kitchen counter.
My son hates me. I know it’s not true, but I can’t stop hearing those three heavy words coming from his innocent little mouth. All forms of Mommy bow their heads in contemplation.
Should I have reacted differently? More sternly? Punished more strictly? Ignore completely? Could I have prevented this entire situation somehow?
Self-deprecating Mommy reigns supreme.
I am distracted from my thoughts by the sound of footsteps on the stairs.
It’s my son. He has tears in his eyes. He hands me this.
“I drew this for you because I feel bad.” He begins to sob.
“Oh honey.” I gather him in my arms, oddly comforted by his sadness.
“I love you, Mommy. I didn’t mean to make you sad.”
“I know, I know.” I stroke his hair and hold him a little tighter. “You’re a good boy.”
After a few minutes, I take him back upstairs to his room. As I tuck him in, he timidly asks, “Can I have stories now?”
I smile. “No, sweetheart.” I hesitate. “How about one song instead?”
All forms of Mommy fist bump.