Maybe some of you really young mothers haven’t encountered this gut wrenching statement by your ‘sweet’ little child, but I can attest to the fact that at least once in the life of every one of my children this statement came forth. It usually spewed out of their mouths after telling them that their sibling was allowed to do something that they themselves weren’t allowed to do or when they were told outright that they weren’t allowed to do something.
The first time it happened I was sitting on the “throne” in my downstairs water closet that had a lock that never worked and every one of my daughters knew it. With one fell swoop the door opened one day (there never is any privacy for mothers of small children) and there stood my second eldest, angrier than a wasp’s nest.
“You love my sisters more than you love me! I hate you mommy!”
I was appalled! I can’t even remember what the reasoning for this outburst was. And here I was in this most compromising position! I quickly got myself together and stood in front of this tot, who by this time was nearly in tears, and had no idea what to say.
“That’s not true,” I blurted out. “I love you all. How can you say that?”
“You do, you do, I know you do.
Lynn gets to stay up late; Katie is the baby so everyone loves her… I’m just in the middle.
I don’t exist. You don’t love me.”
Now my family will tell you that I was not the most patient of mothers. You come to accept your faults, as you grow older. The kids would always go to their father when they were in trouble with something. HE was the one with the patience of a saint! So as the hair on the back of my neck stood up as this little person accused me of being such and awful parent I tried to rationalize with a 5-year old.
“You get to do other things that your younger sister can’t do. She has to go to bed before you! When you get older you can stay up with your older sister. You just have to wait.” I said.
That didn’t fly. Kids are smarter than you think. And since I truly believe that 7 is the age of reason, I knew I didn’t have a big chance of convincing this tot that she was so absolutely wrong. How do you explain that each of your children comes with their own set of gifts as well as their own set of shortcomings? Each is a unique personality… Each is so independently special. You love them all equally and would lay down your life for any one of them. But they don’t know that.
So instead of continuing with a losing battle I switched tactics. Kids this age have such a short attention span you can always redirect their thoughts easily. And that was just what I did.
“How would you like to help me make supper?” I said.
“You can pick out a meal that your daddy really likes and we’ll make it together for him.”
Redirected! Yes! It worked!
We got messy in the kitchen and made some from scratch macaroni and cheese and had a great time doing it. She was proud of her accomplishment and I praised her for it and all was well in Mudville! At least it was for now, anyways. This tactic always worked well when they were little.
Of course this didn’t work as well when they became teenagers, but by that time the mantra was easy and very different…
“You don’t have to love me. I’m your mother and you damned well better respect me.
End of story! You’re grounded!”
Pout, pout, sneer, roll the eyes, stomp up the stairs, slam the bedroom door, pout.
Guess I’ll just have to make that macaroni and cheese myself tonight.