Spartacus, our oldest, will turn 5 this year, and he is in his second year of full-time preschool. He attends a wonderful Lutheran ministry, but despite the best efforts of his parents teachers, that pesky original sin side keeps sneaking through! Today, for the first time he shouted up the stairs at his daddy those piercing words: “I hate you!”
When my child says, “I hate you”
I was in the kitchen, cleaning up from supper. Daddy was upstairs getting bath time ready. Spartacus had not napped today (even at 4 his afternoon nap is invaluable to us) and was hitting the horror that is 5:30 PM. He was dragging his feet going up to his bath and stubbed his toe on the stairs going up. I heard his shriek, his angry words, and then seemingly out of nowhere he muttered, “I hate you.” He was basically alone, so it was almost as if he was testing a profanity to see what would happen.
Parental response was unexpectedly swift for young Spartacus. I got to him before Daddy (who didn’t even hear him over running water!), plopped his butt on the couch, and in a scary mom voice that I didn’t know I had, informed him he was never to say that again in this house. We love him more than anything, and work very hard to teach, protect, and help him have fun. Because we love him so much, nothing hurts so much as for him to tell us he hates us — even if — no, ESPECIALLY if — it is not true and only said out of anger in the heat of the moment.
Spartacus is a sensitive soul; when he hurts someone, he tends to react first defiantly, then bursts into tears. This was no exception. I think I genuinely scared him. He sniffled on the couch for awhile before he and Daddy talked about it during bath time. We emphasized the same principle: we don’t intentionally hurt the ones we love. We can and will accidentally hurt each other (he and his sister do it all the time), but words are intentional, and words often hurt more deeply than bruises from an ill-timed light-saber swipe. We can be sorry and seek forgiveness, but while bruises heal, words have staying power.
Language is hard…
We’ve had a lot of language discussions lately with him. Since he is around plenty of other four-year-olds during the day, and he’s a four-year-old boy, we get our fair share of poop and fart jokes. “Mr. Poopyhead” is the funniest name for basically anyone ever. “Why does it stink in here?” is one of his favorite opening lines upon entering a room. It’s a delight, I promise.
He is aware of various cuss words, and corrects us if we slip up, or he thinks we slip up. Yesterday I said, “Snickerdoodle!” when I dropped my car keys in a puddle. My son looked at me very seriously and said, “Mommy, we don’t say that word.” He didn’t believe my assurances that he didn’t hear what he thought he heard.
Hubster finds great irony in the experience of stepping on a Lego our son left out, saying, “Dammit!” under his breathe, then getting corrected by the same four-year-old who caused the pain in the first place. That feels like an accurate metaphor for parenting, somehow.
Both our children are so very different from each other, both in personality and ability. Little Miss, who just turned two, is challenging our parenting abilities because she is not yet talking with any great clarity (more info in a future post), so we don’t have to talk about mean words yet because she has so few words to begin with. Cognitively though she is rocking it, and is developing some impressive manipulation skills.
We have dealt with conflicts so far, and there will be plenty more to come, I know. I think back to that time before we had children, when I read parenting books and was convinced I had it all figured out. I chuckle now at all the people I probably annoyed with my BC parenting theories (before children). Even if I try to predict how I will respond when I hit new scenarios, I can never be sure how I will handle a parenting situation until it occurs.
All I know is how deeply I love my children, and how desperate I am to raise them as independent, confident, and caring Christians in a difficult world. The journey will involve lots of prayer, family support, divine intervention, and probably blogging to sort it all out.