She was three, maybe closer to four years old at the time. She spewed the words at me with all the vehemence a child that age can muster. “I Hate You! I Hate You!” I don’t remember what was the exact cause of her outburst, but I’ll never forget the scene. Naturally, I was stunned, pierced to the heart and momentarily dumbstruck!
My firstborn daughter, the precious child I loved, had rejected me. Her words were unexpected and devastating to me, her mom-in-training. How could anything so vile have come from the mouth of this sweet, sunshiny little lady?! I can’t recall exactly how I handled the situation. I think I may have walked away, retreating to some other area of the house to nurse my wounded ego.
Eventually, though, as I reflected on the incident, I realized several things. First of all, her declaration of hate was a normal occurrence for children her age. Second, I recognized she had no real understanding what hate actually is. Third, I had my first thunderbolt realization that parenting children is never intended to be a popularity contest. Whether she hated me or not, I was responsible to parent her properly and sometimes that meant I’d prevent her from doing something she wanted to do.
The next time she uttered those words, I responded by telling her, “I don’t care if you hate me or not. You’re going to mind me anyway.” And that was that. Whatever power she thought she had over me became ineffective and she had to resort to other childlike methods to cow me. (As I became a more savvy parent, she found her wiles less and less effective.)