I was probably 7, standing upstairs, peering out of my parent’s bedroom window down to my friends below.
“I HATE my mom!” I shouted at them as they ran off to continue whatever they were doing when my mom discovered whatever it was that I was doing that got me grounded for the afternoon.
It was an act of defiance, a way to show my friends that I would not stand to be treated like such a… well, a child by my mother. It was also a reaction of embarrassment, and something I would NEVER say to her face. It was actually the first time I ever said I hated her, I think. At least the first time I can remember choosing to use such words.
And I never intended for her to actually hear it, but when I turned from the window, I saw her standing there. I don’t remember her exact reaction, but I remember that it was clear I had disappointed her. I was a child who did not like to disappoint people, especially not grownups, and most especially not my parents.
Perhaps I said I hated her again many more times, but I feel like that wasn’t something I threw out intentionally in battle until I was well into my teen years. And even then, I recall that being a desperate, calculated, risky move, with intent to sting, but never with actual hatred behind it.
Because teenagers are total assholes like that. (A million apologies over and over to my parents.)
So what I’m saying is the phrase “I hate you” represented a lot of power to me, the kind of power that I knew would disappoint.
I think the first time Kendall shouted, “I HATE YOU, MOM,” to me was probably a year ago? Maybe 2?
It didn’t sting because he was so little. I knew he had no actual concept of the meaning of “hate.” But in that moment, I thought, “I have to show him that this can be powerful and hurt people. I have to react in a way that will make him not ever want to say this again.”
And so I recoiled, and tried to show the wounds of hurt feelings to him. I gasped. I did that thing where I scrunched my eyebrows together, knelt down, and explained what that meant.
He said it again a week later. And again. And again. And again, and again, and again, and on and on and on.
Because Kendall is his own person, and I doubt very much that he cares a fraction as much as I did about pleasing people. Kendall lives for reactions. He wants to see how far he can push someone, and then he pushes them more.
So it came to pass that I am the mother of a 7 year old who flippantly shouts at me, “I HATE YOU!”
And all I can do is take the power away from him, and calmly reply, “I love you no matter what.”
Every. Single. Time.