Like most moms of little ones, I hear from mothers with older children, grown children, about how precious this time is and how much more difficult it becomes. It's often hard to hear that, because it sometimes seems to negate what's hard here and now.
And it often terrifies me. What would it feel like to have someone I've loved for so long say they hate me?
I don't pretend to know what it's like to mother a teenager or grown child. But I sure do hope that I've learned a few things that apply.
(And I like to address myself in the third person.)
Dear future self,
She doesn't mean it. Not like it sounds. Not like you think.
She's angry or scared or in pain. She's hurting inside and she's letting it out the only way she knows how.
Could be she's just plain bored and testing, poking you with words to see how powerful she is.
Maybe she's angry that you set a boundary and are keeping it (GOOD FOR YOU!). Or maybe she's angry at nothing that makes any sense to you but it does to her. Or maybe it doesn't make any sense to anyone. No matter, her anger is still natural, normal, developmental. Any patience and fortitude and calm you are able to muster is commendable, an Olympic parenting feat deserving of a shiny medal to add to all the others you've earned. Any tears or rants on your part are understandable and forgivable.
(There is a lot of forgiveness to go around.)
Maybe it's hormonal. You, of all people, can understand what that's like, right? When you wake up and are inexplicably frustrated and angry and THE WORLD JUST SUCKS and you can't figure out why or where to put it so you tuck it inside all day and soldier on and then you just can't anymore and you unleash it at people who are close and safe. It's not right, it's not okay, but you can understand it just a bit, can't you?
Maybe she's feeling like it's easier to try out being angry at you than being scared or sad or vulnerable. Maybe she's wanting to be separate and this I hate you is about as separate as it can get when she still lives under your roof and has to eat your food and ask for money for clothes that she's not even sure are the right ones and you say they're too expensive and she can only pick one sweater but which one is the right one? Which one will make elementary/middle/high school/LIFE okay? Easy? Which one??
("None"? Well, there's a reason to be angry right there.)
Remember how when she was little she would bite you just to feel your flesh on her teeth or how she would laugh and flout your stern, serious warnings just to see what would happen or scream and stomp at the smallest inconveniences just because she could and she knew you would still love her? How you'd get a hold of yourself and try to listen to her antics with half an ear while watching the whole scene from a distance trying to figure out what is really happening, what is she really saying? I'm hungry? I'm tired? I'm overwhelmed?
Why is being alive so freaking hard sometimes?
It's just like that now, I think. Reacting appropriately is not as simple, of course, as giving her a nap, a sip of juice, a quiet corner and a hug. But you learned a lot then and you need to remember it all now because the basic ideas still apply. To not take things personally. To be reasonable but firm on your family rules. To work at hearing what she's really trying to say underneath the bluster and charge. To hold some space for you both to breathe. To be the adult (even if she's one now too). To walk away when it's just too difficult for either of you to be the people you want to be. To be quick to apologize when you are in the wrong and quick to forgive when she is.
To be the one to say "I love you" even when all you're hearing is "I hate you".
your past self, Clueless But Hopeful Mama
PS. If you're feeling tempted to look upon those early years of her life with wistful, fond, rose-colored glasses, remember that though they were simpler, they were challenging in their own way. Remember the numbing insanity of not sleeping. Remember her fire-breathing tantrums in public, in front of hoards of strangers. Remember feeling so lost and alone and yet having NO TIME to yourself, ever.
And then remember how she began to teach you that love is a clumsy verb and an imperfect muscle and a messy noun on that first day you held her. And she's still teaching you.