The other day, Oldest called me up to report that his friend Will D was wondering what was up in our house. Since last I heard Will D was busy being a newly minted college student, I asked what had prompted his concern for our family 3000 miles away.
Turns out Will D. had seen Middle’s latest status on his Facebook page. For those of you who have been lucky enough to not spend any time haunting Facebook, the status is where you describe your state of mind.
Will D reported that Middle’s status was currently, and I quote, “hating his mother.”
It’s like deja vu all over again. When he was about four (don’t let anyone ever waste your time with the notion of the Terrible Twos. Two has nothing, but nothing, on four) Middle and I went through what might be laughingly called a rough patch in which, with stunning regularity, he hated, loathed, detested, despised and abhhored me. However, since he was only four, his vocabulary restricted him to the following:
"I hate you."
Or, "I Hate You."
Or just for fun, "I HATE YOU."
Or to change it up, "I HATE YOU!"
Or, for the sheer drama of it all, "I HATE YOU!!!!!"
Every disagreement, no matter how small, concluded with I HATE YOU. Over and over with the I HATE YOUs. Endlessly with the I HATE YOUs. Always with the I HATE YOUs.
I tried a number of tactics. I told him it was OK to be angry. I tried to express the depth of my understanding at his fury at being forced to leave the park or go to the park, go to bed or get out of bed. Whatever we did, it ended with him yelling I HATE YOU!
Finally, after one too many I HATE YOUs wafted from his car seat to me behind the wheel, I said, “Middle, it is not OK for you to keep saying I HATE YOU to me. I know you are angry and I want you to use your words and tell me how you feel.”
After a short silence, he replied, “OK… I FEEL I hate you.”
That was it. The last straw. The dead end. The moment in mothering when you either a)bail completely and send the child to live with your sister or b)take everything you know about the situation, throw it into the air and see where the pieces fall.
When they landed, I HATE YOU had become YOU HATE ME.
This, I could deal with. I waited for a moment of calm and sat down with him. “Middle,” I said, “lately you have been saying ‘I hate you’ a lot. But I wonder if, just maybe, when we are mad at each other, you might think that I don’t love you.”
Oh, that face, I wish I could describe to you the little face – just on the verge of crumpling into tears – that looked up at me, and, without saying a word, nodded yes. I pulled him into my lap and told him that no matter how mad I got at him – and no matter how mad he got at me – I would always love him.
And, swear to God, he never said I HATE YOU again.
Until the other day. On Facebook.
I guess he didn’t think much of my observation that, bright as he is, he is not actually bright enough to excel at Honors Chemistry without, on occasion, you know, working at it.
He knows I love him.