Emotional reactions when a child pushes your buttons
Today I got home from a long, frustrating day at work and was looking forward to spending time with my child, who is almost 4. He told me that he didn’t want to play with me and then said, “Mommy, I didn’t want to pick you up today because I don’t love you.” I felt very hurt and surprised that my son would say this to me. This is the first time he has said something like this. The first time he said it, I answered, “Well, I love you” and his reply was “Well, I don’t love you.” He repeated this several more times, waiting to see my reaction. I sat away from him for a while not wanting to say or do anything. Then, when he asked me for help with something and tried to engage with me, I told him that he really hurt my feelings. He tried to keep playing as if nothing had happened. But when he wanted to turn on the TV, I said I didn’t want to turn it on for him. I said that my feelings were hurt and I was very sad. He gave me a hug, said “I really do love you, now can you turn on the TV for me?” Throughout the evening he has acted as if nothing ever happened. I on the other hand have been holding back tears. Intellectually I know that my very young child is developmentally egocentric and can’t really understand how saying “I don’t love you” would feel like a big deal. Emotionally, I’m feeling really overwhelmed. I have been through a lot these last few years – a whole other story – and I am fighting every day to have a positive outlook. I think I have been depending on my son to make me feel happy when other things in my life have been going wrong. And it’s too much to put on a 3 year old. But I am curious – What would have been the proper response to this? I want to raise a child who is kind and empathetic, and part of my reaction was that he seemed to be saying these things in order to be “mean”.
Mmmm. I can just feel my own heart cringe. What a tough situation. When I Dropped your situation into my heart, it felt heavy and dense and dark. When I Asked for love’s guidance, up popped an image of two small hands pushing against my heart. My reasoning mind feels that the message is around kids looking for boundaries.Thats just what they do to explore their world. It seems to me that you handled the situation beautifully. You were honest and real and your child seemed to get the message. He understood the impact of his actions at some level. If you look at this as natural boundary exploration and not something personal, perhaps that will lessen the pain. I also think you are very self aware about how you are relating to your child and any expectations you might be placing on him. You were clear about your tiredness and emotional state after a long frustrating day. Of course this hurts and you feel the tears. That’s being human. I hope you can offer yourself some genuine kindness and compassion. Maybe a long bath. Our lives aren’t easy. It’s so important to take care of ourselves. Wishing you very best, and please know you are seen and held.