Menu
Hearing my 6-year-old say, ‘I don’t want you’ broke my heart

When I was in college, my then-boyfriend shared a memory with me about the one time he said “I hate you” to his mother. The details are fuzzy, but I remember that a short while later he found her sitting on the front stoop, crying.


That story made a profound impression on me for two reasons. First, because I was fascinated by a style of parenting that allowed for such freedom of expression. If I had said anything even remotely similar to my own mother she would have come after me with the nearest improvised punitive apparatus (a brush, a shoehorn…she wasn’t picky) and given me a thorough what-for. (Korean mothers don’t play.)

Second, because I came to understand that motherhood must be a really difficult undertaking.

In the wake of that epiphany, I considered all the hurtful, thoughtless, ungrateful things I had said or done to my own mom over the years. I wondered whether it ever wounded her—whether once the anger had subsided, my mom had to find a quiet place to cry. Just the idea of it filled me with shame.

Well guess what? Karma eventually delivered a dose of my own medicine in the form of my daughter.

After I finished bathing my children the other day, I took Gioia, my youngest, out of the tub to dry off. Well, for whatever reason—that set Luna, my oldest daughter, off. (I did not recognize the calm before the storm in the slightest.) Suddenly, she was weeping and deteriorating into a mass of kindergarten angst right in front of my eyes.

The following conversation ensued:

“Why are you upset?” I asked.

“BECAUSE YOU TOOK GIOIA OUT FIRRRRST!” She replied.

“But I always take her out first! Why is this upsetting you all of a sudden?”

“BECAAAAAUUUUSSSE!”

“Okay, well let’s finish so you can come out, too.”

“Well, can I watch a show?”

“Absolutely not.”

*Sputters indignantly*

It’s not happening, Luna.”

“Fine! After my bath I’m going to my room by myself so I don’t have to hear you anymore! I DON’T WANT YOU, MOMMY!”

I realize this may not seem all that significant in the grand scheme of the constant emotional roller coaster that is motherhood, but it shook me. It was the first time Luna had expressed that level of vitriol toward me and it was like looking down the barrel of a gun and seeing a bullet with “I hate you” etched on it.

It felt like it was only a matter of time until I’d be dealing with the impact of that particular sentiment. Maybe I would never actually hear the words themselves, but she would definitely think them at some point, and the promise of that stung.

To my everlasting pride, I kept it together in this bath time meltdown moment.

I calmly replied, “That’s okay. Go have time to yourself and we can talk about this when you’re ready.” It was like an out-of-body experience. My astral self was floating above the scene, doing a slow-clap at my poised and mindful parenting. Meanwhile my actual self was in upheaval. Hot tears began forming and threatened to make a break for it.

While Luna stomped into her room in a disgruntled huff and Gioia played in the living room, two teardrops escaped and plopped off the end of my nose into my palm. Part of me felt silly having this response to what was obviously a childish outburst, but I also recognized there was real pain there.

So I took advantage of Luna’s absence and Gioia’s distraction to sit for a quiet moment and examine the source, and I made an interesting discovery.

My pain wasn’t pain at all. It was fear.

Here’s the thing—from the moment our babies are born, we know it’s only a matter of time until we’re less needed and less adored. That one day, after the blush of toddlerhood fades, the high esteem we’ve been held in will lessen with each passing year. Our children will someday prefer someone else as a source of comfort, wisdom, or companionship.

And this fall from grace will only be exacerbated and accelerated by our obligation to discipline, to withhold, to make tough decisions that we believe are right but that our children will resent and often fail to understand. We will be blamed for denying our children’s happiness through our responsible parenting, whether it’s saying “no” to ice cream or making them work summer jobs.

It's an eventuality we’re prepared for, at least intellectually.

So what my fear stems from isn’t the notion of no longer being needed or idolized or forgiven or even respected. What I fear is the loss of my daughters’ love.

These girls who I would walk through fire for, whose little bodies I carried within my own, whose every cell I hold in such tender regard, will one day despise me for some reason or another. The unquestioning, unconditional love they once felt for me will be a distant memory. What scares me is, what if it doesn’t come back? What if my transgressions, real or perceived, make it so my daughters never feel close to me again?

All parents make well-intended but ultimately disastrous decisions, and it's impossible to know which ones will tarnish our relationship with our children forever. And so, many families are unable to overcome these struggles—their grievances sit like a stone in the familial shoe, never allowing a step forward without an invisible but painful reminder.

If that ever came to pass for me and my children—if I felt their hearts harden toward me—I wouldn’t be able to bear it.

And that's what was making me cry. Not the impulsive and overwrought "I don't want you!" from my 6-year-old, but the potential of a conscious and deliberate "I don't want you!" from a grown version of her who would mean it.

I sat in the coziest chair in our living room doing this soul-searching for the better part of half an hour when I heard Luna’s door open. She came to me, climbed into my lap, and laid her head on my chest.

We sat quietly together for awhile, she seeking forgiveness and me granting it, both in silence. I stroked her head and sent up a prayer that through the inescapable hurdles to come (which all mothers and children face), it would always be like this. That even if it occasionally became buried under animosity and scorn, even if it took distance and time, her love would surface like a bubble coming up through the mud, and she would seek the familiar thrum of my heartbeat.

No words necessary.

You might also like:

Mom life demands efficiency. Because while the amount of hours in the day are the same as before kids, now a sizable chunk of that time is spent caring for and loving on those little people. Compromises happen—and let's just be honest, the old beauty routine is one of the first things to get cut.

But, wait! You don't have to sacrifice putting on mascara or, worse, skipping the SPF. Instead, why not flip it, reverse it, and look at the bright side? Here's your opportunity to streamline your morning makeup routine. With some savvy skin care and beauty hacks, you can get your radiant glow on in record time.

Here are our tried-and-true hacks passed down from Motherly mamas:

1. Embrace multipurpose items

If the most pressing issue is limited time, consolidate multiple steps of your beauty routine with a multipurpose item. For example, instead of starting with a SPF moisturizer, followed by spot concealer and a blendable foundation, you can take care of all of that in one go with one of our favorites: Earth Mama's 3-in-one Lady Face™ Tinted Mineral Sunscreen. The beauty stick also allows you to easily fold SPF 40 into your routine, because Lady Face doubles as super-safe, clean sun protection. Even better? The sunscreen blocks blue light from those ever-present digital screens with a ray-scattering, non-nano formula.

2. Revive dried mascara

Especially after a sleepless night (#motherhood), mascara can make a major difference in how well rested you appear to be. If you realize your tube of mascara is dried out, don't write it off as a lost cause. Simply soak the sealed tube in warm water to loosen up the mascara — or add a drop of a multi-purpose saline solution into the tube. That should do the trick until you have time to buy a replacement. (But let's face it: You're a mom. It's okay if you're tired.)

3. Keep coconut oil handy

Coconut oil isn't just for the kitchen. From a DIY hair mask to an in-a-pinch lip balm or naturally removing makeup at the end of the day, coconut oil's cosmetic hack-list is long. For summer, we especially like adding a thin swipe of organic extra virgin coconut oil to the cheekbones at the end of the makeup routine for a bit of an extra glow.

4. Multitask while deep conditioning

If your hair needs a bit of TLC, consider applying a natural, paraben-free deep conditioner before doing chores around the house or even a short workout. By working up a bit of a sweat, the conditioner will set even better before you rinse off in the shower.

5. Start your hair care routine the night before

As you work to find your new normal morning routine, it can help to simply reschedule a task or two—like hair. If you shower the night before, get a jumpstart on your look by blowdrying, straightening or even braiding it for loose waves in the morning.

6. Even out your skin tone

Between multiple wake-ups during the night and wavering hormones, complexion issues can become a thing for most mamas. Thankfully, the hack for managing that is as simple as finding a great foundation that goes on smoothly and doesn't cake or crack through a morning of momming. Scope out the ingredient list for naturally nourishing components like coconut oil, shea butter or beeswax — and skip the stress (and the return process if the shade doesn't match) by going for something that easily blends with most skin tones.

7. Find brands your feel great about

As a mom, you might find yourself considering bigger life questions: Are my cosmetics safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding? Are they helping the world my children will grow up in? Can I trust the ingredients and mission? Pro tip: read the ingredients on all your personal care products, memorize the ones you want to avoid, and look for third-party certification to ensure the product is actually what it says it is. When you find a brand that walks the talk, you're going to want to be loyal.

8. When in doubt, go for a bold lip

With happy hours swapped for play dates, your daily routine may look a bit different than it used to. But who says you have to leave your personal style behind? If you've always been a fan of makeup and going a bit glam, keep going for it, mama! The extra 60 seconds it takes to apply lipstick or whatever else gives you a bit of pep in your step is well worth it.


This article was sponsored by Earth Mama Organics. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

For all the sweating and swimming I do in the summer, it seems illogical for my skin to be as parched as ever. But your mid-thirties (and 2020 in general) don't really seem to follow any rule book, so here we are.

A couple of months ago, I was on the lookout for a moisturizer that would not only keep my legs from looking like an ashy mess, but also truly nourish and benefit my skin. I've developed a deep interest in skin care for my face over the past few years and decided it's high time to extend that degree of consideration to the rest of my body. (After all, there's more of it, right?)

It's not that I'm too concerned with aging, but let's be real. If there's something that can be done to slow the Wrinkle Express, I'm going to give it a go. I also wanted to find something natural that wouldn't turn into a goopy mess the second I started sweating.

Enter: Esker's Firming Body Oil.

Keep reading Show less
popular

In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.

I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

Keep reading Show less
Life