My almost-4 –year-old started preschool up again last month. When I picked him up on the playground, instead of running gleefully into my arms like he hadn’t seen me in 3 hours, he ran the OPPOSITE direction screaming, “HELP! Get away from me! I don’t want to see you!” like I was a monster coming to steal his candy or something. Besides absolutely embarrassing the heck out of me, it was a sucker punch to my sensitive heart.
My son is hilarious. Funny, outgoing, cheeky, silly and tons of amazing qualities wrapped into a tiny package. He is also very articulate, and never afraid to tell me how he feels. (“MOM! Stop singing like that or I’m going to plug my ears!”). He melts my heart by telling me he loves me more than all the clouds in the sky or by telling me he has the best baby sister in the whole world.
But he is also shockingly cruel sometimes. I’d love to say this is the first time we encountered a preschool pick-up like this, but it’s not. He and I are extremely close, but as he is finding his way in the world and becoming more independent from me, he is testing boundaries and finding out what gets a reaction out of me. Meaning I get my feelings stomped on about 20 times a day.
In the past week I have heard such beauties as “Stop looking at me”, “Don’t sit by me”, “You NEVER play with me!” We are not buddies”, “I’m not your baby” and “I want daddy to put me to bed, NOT YOU!” And those are just the ones I can rattle off without thinking too hard about it.
Don’t get me wrong – in between each of those hurtful comments were probably a thousand kisses, hugs, snuggles, “I love you’s” and “You’re the best’s”. But the things I seem to remember, the ones that stick to my heart and bring tears to my eyes…those are the ones he probably didn’t even mean. Isn’t that silly?
I love having a preschooler. I love the way his little brain works, how he is starting to make jokes and use words in hilarious ways. I love how he brings excitement to the tiniest little things, like helping me wash dishes or vacuum. I love how he snuggles next to me, his little thumb in his mouth, while we watch a movie together on the couch.
But just as my son’s emotions fluctuate from happy to sad to mad to whatever in a matter of seconds, so do his words. He can go from telling me how much he loves me to saying “I don’t want to play with you” in the same sentence. And it hurts sometimes. (Actually, pretty much EVERY time). He’s not a baby anymore, but he’s still MY baby. I know that his outbursts are not appropriate, and we are working on it with him. But at the same time, I know they are just outward examples of him trying to exert his independence from me. Hard for me to admit, but he really doesn’t need me in the same ways he did when he was younger.
When you’re a parent, you just have to have thick skin. It’s hard sometimes to wonder DOES HE HATE ME? DOESN’T HE REALIZE HOW MUCH I DO FOR HIM?! But while I’m fairly certain he DOES NOT hate me, he also probably does not realize how much I do for him. And even if he did, he probably wouldn’t care. He is still a little boy, learning the world doesn’t revolve around him, that his words have weight, that he can think something and NOT say it out loud, and that I love him even when I don’t give him what he wants at that moment.
Every step of the parenting journey is a learning experience for me, and it’s not all sunshine and roses at my house. And that’s ok. My son is learning about feelings and reactions and consequences every time he pushes my buttons. And I guess I’m learning how to meet him where he’s at, support his independence without condoning bad behavior and most of all…I’m growing some seriously thick skin.
But I have started bribing him on the playground with promises of snacks on the way home so his teachers don’t think he hates me. #MOTY