My kid just told me, for the first time ever,
"YOU'RE A BAD MOMMY."
(Temporarily ignore the fact that, at the time of this utterance, I was in the process of dunking her in the bathtub fully dressed. As if *you've* never done that.)
Before today, the most searing insult she had been able to muster, in her innocent little 4-year-old brain, was "You're not my friend anymore!" or-- worse!-- "I'm never going to give you a book from my room again!" Neither of which fazed me much (I have adult friends who better appreciate my crass sense of humor, and I also have an Amazon.com account).
But this-- this all-encompassing summary judgment of my parenting ability-- well, it upset me. For real. Even though I knew that the kid was just tired, and embarrassed (she was, after all, being bathed with her clothes on) (hey, she should have heeded my first seven requests that she get in the tub, what did she think was going to happen), and, um, four years old.
For some reason, though, just the fact that this mean little thought would even OCCUR to her made it somehow true.
Now you're saying: Hello, this is the 861st blog post I have read about mommies feeling bad when their children declare their hatred for them, snore; and also: Hey, lady, you were bathing your kid WITH HER CLOTHES ON, there's actually a relatively strong case to be made that you ARE are a bad mommy.
But it just made me wonder (I miss you, Carrie Bradshaw!!), why are we so quick to believe the bad stuff and so cavalier about the good stuff? Is it a woman thing? Or just a mommy thing?
Like when my in-laws are visiting. My mother-in-law could deliver an 8-minute monologue about how clever the eldest child is or how polite the middle child is or how well-behaved the little one is... but as soon as it even LOOKS like she is CONSIDERING saying SOMETHING to the EFFECT of "X child is a bit rambunctious / melodramatic / cheeky" or WHATEVER, I have to freaking retire to the bedroom and sob silently into my pillow for an hour, micro-analyzing every parenting decision I've ever made and wondering which of my missteps could have warranted such a heartless evaluation. (See how I can do that? Turn an observation of the KID's bad behavior into a negative commentary of MY parenting skills? Isn't that a neat trick? Quite useful for people with too MUCH self-esteem.)
And I do this not just with my own critiques: whenever attending a parent-teacher conference, I have something of an out-of-body experience when I hear myself opening with this line, "Hi, thanks in advance for the compliments, but can we just skip to the problem areas?" It's like I'm physically uncomfortable with being told that my children are smart or attentive or whatever, and I just want to rush into the part where the teacher says, "Oh, ok, well, it's really minor BUT..." so that I can have something to obsess over on the ride home. WHAT'S THAT ABOUT? Why must I always be WORRYING ABOUT SOMETHING?
I know I'm not a bad mommy. And I know the kid didn't fully understand what I was talking about when I hugged her tightly before bed and told her that she had hurt my feelings, and that I have sacrificed everything in the name of being a good mommy, and that I hope that she will be a little more careful in expressing her frustration in the future.
But I also know that, as the kids get older and learn how to intentionally wound me with their words, the insults are going to get much, much worse. (Just think! I'll have THREE TEENAGE GIRLS in the house at the same time! Might as well tear my heart out now and save myself the trouble!) In other words, I have fair warning of what's coming and plenty of time to strategize against any such verbal attack.
The question is just whether-- by definition-- it's always going to hurt. Sigh.