The other day, we were getting ready to go to a baseball game together as a family. Grandma, Grandpa, Great Grandpa, Nana, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. all piled in their cars and headed for the local stadium.
My husband and I got our two girls into their car seats then hopped into the car ourselves. The second I sat down and buckled up, my 3-year-old said, clear as day, “Mommy? I don’t want you to ride with us. I don’t want you to come.”
I was... dumbfounded. And crushed. And confused.
I planned this outing for everyone. I was excited!
My very sensitive heart was hurting, I had no idea what to say back and I felt like I was going to cry. But I also felt silly—silly for getting my feelings hurt by a 3-year-old.
I stared off for a few minutes to collect my thoughts. And to try to figure out what I was supposed to do or say. (Isn’t it funny that when you were little you always thought your parents knew just what to do? And now here we are, parents ourselves, and we don’t have a clue...)
She seemed like she was being mean to me... on purpose. Which felt strange because she is usually so compassionate and loving and friendly. She always wants to include everyone!
Though, we all have our moments, don’t we?
I thought to myself, I am not prepared for this yet! I mean—I thought I had about 10 more years before this stuff started. 😩
(*Note to self—make sure to figure out said ‘stuff’ out before 13th birthday...)
My husband came to my defense, “Of course you want Mommy to come with us! Mommy’s awesome!”
“No, I don’t. She can stay home.”
I almost cried, but didn’t. I was surprised at how hurt and even embarrassed I felt.
I’m her mother and I know she loves me.
I know I take great care of her. I know there’s no one else who makes her feel safer or more important.
I don’t think she really meant it. And I was still going to go to the game and have fun. But...I’d be lying if I said my feelings weren’t hurt.
Nothing bad had happened prior to getting into the car. We had been enjoying a really nice Saturday together and I had no idea what brought this on. She just seemed to not want me there.
I knew there was some reason—whether I was going to figure it out or not—that she was acting this way. So my game plan was—address it, but also give her the benefit of the doubt and move on.
I mean, how many times have I taken my stress out on my husband who wasn’t even the reason for the stress in the first place? My husband—the person who makes me feel safe and important. Many times, unfortunately.
(Sorry, darling. 😢)
So I decided to be honest with her.
“That really hurt my feelings, honey. You made me sad because you said you didn’t want me to go with you. I don’t want to stay home. I’m looking forward to the baseball game. We’ve been talking about this all week.”
She looked sad. I was sad. But we moved along.
We got to the game and sat in our seats, ready to take it all in. Everyone was happy and laughing—eating funnel cake and hotdogs and chanting along with the crowd. My hurt feelings were forgotten, and it seemed as though I was welcome among my daughter and the rest of our crew. She seemed to actually want me there.
And I have to say, I was feeling better.
Later in the evening, her big, bright, apologetic eyes looked up into mine. She got really close to my face and said, “Mom, this is fun! I really love you.”
And just like that, those little broken pieces of my heart left in the car were put back together. I knew she didn’t mean what she said before, but for some reason I needed this confirmation that she still loved me.
I probably shouldn’t place so much of what I think my worth is as a person and mother on my three-year-old’s mood swings, but—it’s hard not to. These little humans are big important people in our lives. With big important feelings. I want them to understand that their feelings are always valid. And, so are mine.
Because how people feel is always important.
And will continue to be super important as my kids get older. I want them to know that they can talk to me about how they are feeling. And I want them to know that yes, I’m their mom, but I am also human. I have feelings, too...and they’re sensitive, so, be nice!
(To everyone. But, especially to your mom.)
A scary realization of parenthood is that our children are going to break our hearts as they grow. Watching them go off to Kindergarten. Seeing the embarrassment on their face when you say something silly in front of their friends. Hearing about them breaking the rules. Choosing to spend time with friends or their boyfriend, instead of you. Moving them into their first apartment.
Realizing they don’t need you as much anymore.
There are so many big feelings in parenting.
And they will never go away—no matter how old our children are. I’m realizing that this is normal, and it’s going to happen again. So my game plan now? To deal with these big feelings the rest of my life?
Well, I’m gonna feel them—wholeheartedly, completely feel them.
Then, I’m going to be honest and open.
And finally...I’m going to cross my fingers and hope they’ll do the same.