It finally happened. I knew it was going to happen at some point; I just didn’t know what it would feel like. My son told me “I love daddy more than you.” First, he had told my husband, “I love you more than mommy.” Then, he turned to me to me and made it innocently clear.
I had actually heard the words “I don’t love you” before, but these words brought stinging tears to my eyes. I asked my second-born son to go sit in his room and think about how his words made me feel. And, then, I got mad at my husband.
He had been out of town for two nights and was home early from work. My son had been excited to go miniature golfing, and I know that is where the four-year old feeling of “not loving mommy” came from. Still, daddy always got to go on the fun outings while mommy stayed home with the little ones.
I used to do the fun things too. My first two boys were born 17 months apart. I would pick up the older one when school ended at 1:00 and head down to the children’s museum. We’d stay there for an hour and drive home. We went to the park. We did art projects. We spent time digging and planting and hunting for treasures in our backyard. We explored the world together.
My husband was leaving town again soon, going out of the country for twelve days. “I’d like to take advantage of your early arrival home from work too,” I had told him that day, “It would be nice to catch up on a few things while you are here. And – with the two young ones, my fun times with the older boys are limited.”
Being the gracious husband that he was (and still is), he offered to stay home and let me take the older boys golfing. But, that wasn’t the point. I wanted to give my husband another glimpse into motherhood. I was (still am) constantly providing him with glimpses of motherhood, and he understands. And, he doesn’t want my job.
A few moments later, I heard my son calling from his room. “I’m ready to apologize,” he told me, “I’m sorry for saying I loved Daddy better than you.” In my mind, the apology went on… “really, I love you better because you are the one who makes sure I’m fed and that I wear the proper clothes to school, and you are the one who keeps me on my routine and makes sure I get to bed on time, and you are the one who responds in the night when I wake up scared, and you know I like hotdogs outside of the bun but I like to eat the bun too. You’re the one – Mommy – who I really need – even though you’re not always the most fun one.” (a mom can dream, can’t she?)
I gave my son a hug and told him that his words really hurt my feelings and thanked him for apologizing. “Is there anything I can do for you?” he asked me (something we had taught our children to do thanks to the advice of a dear friend). “How about another hug?” I asked. I remember that tight squeeze he offered me in reconciliation – and right before he walked out the door to go golfing with his dad.
Throughout their lives, our children will say things that are hurtful to their parents. It is important to step out of our feelings and try to understand the experience our child is trying to share with us. Learning to communicate emotions is a process, and parents have a responsibility to model appropriate communication skills – especially in times of conflict and stress.
As I’m writing this, I see a note posted on my computer from my now five-year old. “Isaac is aygrey (aka – angry)” it reads. It makes me happy that his feelings regarding a decision I made could be expressed differently than “I hate you, Mommy.”