“You HATE me!”

These were the words shouted at me last night as I closed the door on my daughter.

And she was right.

At that moment, I hated her.

I know I’m not supposed to say that. I am breaking the #1 commandment of motherhood: “Thou Shalt Not Say ‘I hate my child,’ even when thouest feeleth it from the very depths of thine soul.”  And I hate myself for saying it.   I really do.  I imagine all of the awful things that could happen to me, or her, once I say this horrible thing and how very, very sorry I will be for thinking something like this.  Surely fate will come down and show me something really worth hating.  But if I don’t say it, I am going to burst.

I HATE my daughter!!  Aaaaaaaaahhhhh…that feels so good.

I didn’t say this to her, of course.   I just thought it.  Hard.   I knew it was a momentary reaction to her behavior and I’m savvy enough about this whole “mom thing” to know I’m supposed to use phrases like “I can’t stand how you’re acting,” “I don’t like how you’re behaving right now,” or some other politically correct statement that won’t scar her for life.   Something that specifies that it’s her actions I despise, and not the person performing them.  But I can’t imagine a scenario wherein a hostage would tell her gun-wielding captor, “I really hate how you’re acting right now.”   The momentary truth is just so evident.   I was hating her.

My littlest girl is no walk in the park.  She’s not even a walk on a dirty, rocky beach.  Quite frankly, she’s more like a tough climb up a steep mountain…like Kilamanjaro or Mt. Everest.  She’s REALLY hard to parent.  She doesn’t listen, she never does what I ask — and she whines.  A lot.   To make matters worse, when she whines she uses a scratchy shriek that makes you want to peel the corneas from your eyes.  She cries, she complains, she rebuffs, she criticizes, and she is showing early signs of an obsessive compulsive disorder I am definitely not qualified to handle.  I’m tired.

Every night is a battle.  A battle to get her to sit at the dinner table, a battle to get her to leave the table to take a bath, a battle to get her out of the bath and into pajamas, and then — our “Waterloo” — the battle to go to sleep.  I submit my demands, she balks, I fight back, some possible “French” is exchanged, and her poor brother, who sleeps on the bottom of their bunk bed and has to listen to the whole thing, loses.

This girl even has a routine.   Every night she pees three separate times, each time thoroughly washing her hands as if she’ll be performing surgery.  She asks my opinion on what pajamas she should wear. She puts on the ones I don’t pick, and I am then commanded to “fill them with love.”   This consists of a two-minute ritual where I hug the pajamas, kiss them and hold them to my head and body while thinking pleasant thoughts.  If it looks like I’m not happy while I do it — I must start over.  And smile.  Then she needs to “stretch” before she gets into bed.  If I’m lucky, she climbs the ladder to her bed without coming down to pee again and stays there to organize her stuffed animals.  She lays her “chilky” (silk blankie) down on her pillow just so, then as I say “Okay, honey…it’s time for kisses and hugs” she comes up with a million questions that have absolutely no bearing on the task at hand.  “Mommy? Can I have a playdate tomorrow?” “Mommy, what was that big word you used this afternoon?” “Mommy, I think I want bangs.   What do you think?”

“What do I think? I think you should go to sleep.”

“But I want to know if you think I should get bangs.”

“No.   I don’t think you should get bangs.  They’re hard to keep and you are beautiful the way you are.”

“But I want bangs!”

“Then get bangs.”

“But I want to know what you think!”

“Livi.  I don’t want to talk about bangs right now.   It’s bedtime.   I’m going to sing ‘Snuggle Puppy’ now.  Are you ready?”

“You’re not getting it!!!!!!!  What if I want bangs and you don’t think I should get them!”

Are you kidding me???!!  These sorts of philosophical debates that can’t be solved with a simple “yes” or “no” are the hallmark of our nighttime discussions.   Needless to say, she persists in trying to get a satisfactory answer to her quandary (for which there is none…) while I try and get her to forget about her Extreme Makeover and go to sleep.

I’m seriously at the end of my rope.

I want to go back to that time when she was a little baby and we would stare into each other’s eyes with mutual love and affection.  Our “conversations” consisted of smiles, blinks, and the occasional burst of gas.   She was so sweet.  She was so loving.  She was sooooooo good.  I called her “my party favor” because she was such a treat.   I miss that girl so much.

I love her.   Of course, I love her.  She’s my baby.   She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s loving… (see how I keep telling myself all the good stuff?)  But I want to love her all of the time.   I want to be able to hug her and kiss her juicy cheeks without her screaming at me for some infraction I never intended: “OW! You pulled my hair!”; “You’re squishing me!”; “Your breath smells!”   I want to fill her up with my love and spoil her.   But I can’t.  She forbids it.  She lays down the gauntlet by finding a way to hold my attention using a negative scenario.  And we both lose.

I don’t know how to win.   I don’t even want to “win.”  I just want peace.  And to get some kind of recognition that I am in charge — or at the very least, that I pay the rent.

I’ll do anything — therapy, counseling, smudging (an ancient ritual where you burn sage to get rid of the evil spirits).  You name it.  I’ll try it all.  Because I love this girl fiercely.  Not the actions.  But the whole girl.

Always.  Usually…



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Sarah is a comedian, freelance writer, and the founder of "Mommy Lite" (www.MommyLiteOnline.com), a parenting humor site. Her work has appeared in Los Angeles Magazine, on More.com, ParentsAsk.com, DivineCaroline.com, Shine.com, and TheWellMom.com. She has appeared at The Comedy Store in Hollywood, The Hollywood Improv and Stand-Up New York. Sarah is the creator and co-author of "The Bridesmaid’s Guerrilla Handbook" (Berkley Books) and her second non-fiction humor book, "Got Milf? The Modern Mom's Guide to Feeling Fabulous, Looking Great and Rocking a Minivan," will be out in Spring 2011. Sarah lives in Los Angeles with her ten year old daughter, six year old boy/girl twins and three ridiculously overweight guinea pigs.

31 responses to “Love is in the Air…NOT!”

  1. dwoz says:

    the parallels between a kid going to bed, and Republicans on the Senate floor, are too striking to be coincidental.

    the question is, of course, who’s copying whom? When you do manage to get it sorted, perhaps you can let us know, so we can fix that Republican thing, too.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Dwoz!
      Can you talk about the post and leave your politics in the back seat for once?

      Sarah,
      It is absolutely true that some kids are easy and some kids are hard.
      I know this because I’ve had both kinds.
      If I had stopped after my first, I would have believed that my parenting skills were superior to everyone else’s. But I didn’t and it turns out that “parenting skills” are something totally made up. Kids do what they do, and you just try to figure the best way to deal with them.
      You need some time away every day.
      Even if all you can get is an hour at Starbucks reading some trashy magazine, anything to make you relax and feel human again.
      Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

      • dwoz says:

        Terribly sorry, Irene…new kid, learning the ropes, etc. mea culpa. Although I bruise at the “for once” tag…I think that’s the first time I’ve mentioned Republicans at TNB.

        Please then substitute the word “Senators” for the word “Republicans.” It really wasn’t a political statement, per se…I really mean to say that that kids’ delaying tactics really DO resemble parliamentary maneuvering.

        Although I can see how you might MAKE THE UNFORTUNATE MISTAKE of thinking I meant that senators acted like petulant little children. I’ll have to be more careful! 🙂

        I do agree that children are not fungible goods…they’re like little snowflakes, pure, delicate little crystalline manifestations of beauty, utterly unique in their expressions of malevolence.

        That, however, hasn’t got anything to do with the problem at hand. The child in question has learned parliamentary legalisms that allow her to control the context. These behaviors must be squashed like the hideous malodorous manifestations of evil they are.

        You have two main choices: first, try to beat the child at her own game. VERY risky. High stakes. No upside. She’s smarter than you and is already winning on home turf. Not suggested.

        Second choice: Hammer == down. Eliminate the field of battle. There’s a credo of child rearing that I TRY to adhere to, that seems to work pretty well, and generally has resulted in pretty well-balanced kids. It has three main tenets.

        First is that you ELIMINATE IMPLIED CHOICE. Implied choice works like this: you say, “go to bed OR ELSE.” Or even just “go to bed.” The implied choice is “or else.” You give the child the prerogative of choosing to take the punishment instead of following the directive. This is wrong. You must REMOVE THE IMPLIED PREROGATIVE. The child gets one…and ONLY one…chance to follow the directive, and at that point, there is not any punishment, there is not any anger, there is just the forced enactment of the directive.

        There will be pushback. The child will want you to lose your temper and mete out punishment. That re-establishes the “or else” choice. Don’t give in to the dark side, hold out. A kid that can brush her own teeth becomes EXTREMELY embarrassed and indignant when you robot-walk her over to the sink and start brushing her teeth for her like she was a “baby.”

        Review: no prerogative to choose “or else” as a course of action. No waffling or asking over and over again. NO. bad parent, BAD. No martini.

        There are two other tenets: first is “pre-announce the directive.” This is when you say, “ok, darling…5 minute warning. It will be bed time in 5 minutes.” This gives the little angel an opportunity to actually plan her strategy and come up with a battle plan …er… I mean gives them a chance to wrap up. Don’t bother with a ten minute warning…they simply don’t have a ten minute attention span and it will have fallen out of scope.

        The final, and arguably most important tenet: No directive will ever be arbitrary. EVER. Do not refuse any reasonable request. Do not ever give “just because” as a reason. Treat the little monster with the respect you demand for yourself. Arbitrary exercise of authority is demeaning and dehumanizing to both parties.

        and that, my dear friends, is a recipe for success, or at the very least, interesting times. An you may trust me, my parenting bona fides are impeccable.

      • Sarah Maizes says:

        I know, I know…thanks, Irene.

        I have two other kids who, ironically, were difficult babies. We’re already exploring therapy and I have a pile of trash to read – along with a shaker of Martinis to accompany it. 🙂

  2. Irene Zion says:

    Okay, Dwoz,
    I admit I was wrong to put in “for once.”
    Totally wrong.
    I was lumping you in with all the other people who take a story and turn in into a political statement.
    That wasn’t fair and I humbly apologize to you.
    I, you might have gleaned, hate politics.
    I hate politicians.
    It warps my usually normal judgement.
    I say stupid things.
    On the other hand,
    I totally agree with your assessment of the little darling and the methods you use.
    Hammer down.
    I’m with you.
    (Next time, I’ll count to ten….)

    • dwoz says:

      ‘kay…..BFFs? cool.

      I have to say, one thing that DOES feel very nice about this joint, is the lack of things political.

      The internet has proven that a million monkeys WILL write Hamlet eventually, that stupidity IS the most abundant element in the universe, just edging out hydrogen, and that politics will become a cesspool no matter what. Sometimes I look at political/news websites, and the comment sections are just spectacular. Not in a good way.

      much love…

  3. Irene Zion says:

    Thanks for understanding that I had a tantrum there.
    I’m afraid I do this to everyone who doesn’t address the story except in a political metaphor.
    I have a disease, and I’m pretty sure duct tape is the cure.

    • dwoz says:

      I would hardly call “Being annoyed by low-hanging-fruit cliches” an illness. Metaphorically speaking, that is.

  4. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    I always read this sort of thing with relish …. because I’m always so happy to know it’s not just me! How old is she? I don’t remember if you said. She sounds so much like my oldest daughter, though now that she’s nine she’s vastly improved. I imagine when she’s a teenager it’ll all come back again with a vengeance!

  5. sheree says:

    Great post. Thanks for the read.

  6. samuel peter north says:

    anyone who has kids has hated them, anyone honest at least

    as long as you don’t tell your guinea pigs you hate them, it’s all good

    enjoyed this piece

  7. samuel peter north says:

    also, my kids used to always tell me they hated me…every time i told them to go to time-out, etc. shouldn’t there be a rule that for every 173 times your kid says he/she hates you, you can say/think it once

  8. Zara Potts says:

    Let her have the bangs! I’ve had them forever and they do very very well by me!

  9. Jordan Ancel says:

    I like that you’re honest. Most parents would never say such a thing, but I’m sure they must think it. I don’t know, I don’t have kids, but I’ve spent a lot of time around my friends’ kids and, well, I’m sure they must think it sometimes.

    Can’t offer any advice on this, except maybe watch The Dog Whisperer. Surelt some of those things could apply.

  10. Jordan Ancel says:

    sorry for typo: Surely…

  11. dwoz says:

    Have you ever met someone, a friend of a friend, a co-worker, whatever, that for some reason, you just immediately dislike? That somehow their very act of existing is an affront?

    …and when you mention this person to the friend, the friend replies that you and the Disliked One are absolutely JUST LIKE EACH OTHER? The friend imagines that you must be great buddies, because you’re so much alike?

    …and you think to yourself….WTF?

    So, that’s exactly what happens with your kids.

  12. Joe Daly says:

    One of the things that I most enjoy about the writing on TNB is that so many authors shoot from the hip- no matter what their opinion on whatever the subject in question, it feels good to read people coming from such deep sincerity. This piece is a shining example. Well done.

    Oh, and thanks for tacking a few more years on to my bachelorhood. 🙂

  13. Gloria says:

    To make matters worse, when she whines she uses a scratchy shriek that makes you want to peel the corneas from your eyes. OhmygodIknowthatwhine! <—— That must be said all in one breath. It’s the a sentence uttered quickly and with knowing, wide eyes, from one mother to another. I have eight year old twin boys – but I also have a 17 year old daughter. And that noise, man…that noise.

    Sarah, it’s late and I should have been asleep hours ago, but instead I’m up and responding to posts on TNB, with the wherewithal and grace of a Zombie. So I won’t try to wax all philosophical and stuff. But I will say this: you’re probably doing all the right things.You’re not alone. It’s okay for you to not like your child now and then. The new, trendy, metal water bottles are even better than flasks. 😉

    • Gloria says:

      I didn’t mean better, I meant discreet. Bad joke *FAIL*

      • Sarah Maizes says:

        Oh – I knew what you meant and I thought – “why didn’t I think of that!” GENIUS! One morning, I ran out of coffee containers and the ONLY thing I had to put my coffee in was a martini shaker. I got some serious looks on the yard.

  14. Matt says:

    Well, I won’t be having kids any time soon! Thanks, Sarah, for helping me decide to delay that life choice for a few more years.

    And while I don’t have any kids, I do work as a martial arts instructor, and have spent plenty of time teaching the unruly 5-9 year-old group. I’m a bit of a…disciplinarian…so the kids don’t act unruly for very long. More than one parent has told me that they’ve used “We’ll tell Sensei Matt what you’re doing” as a disciplinary tactic. Works every time, or so I hear.

  15. Is it entirely missing the point of your piece that I kind of love your daughter for her insane mandate that you fill her pajamas with love and look FREAKING HAPPY about it? This is going to make me smile for a week.

    • dwoz says:

      This is what prompted me to post that “she’s smarter than you and is already winning on home turf” above.

      That mandate shows that she full well understands the onion layers of the parent’s emotional arsenal, and has no problem peeling into it.

      I feel very sorry for Sarah when she has to try to invoke the parent’s right to the Little White Lie, when her daughter discovers that it is DEFINITELY NOT the same goldfish that was in there yesterday, or the guinea pig cage is empty…

    • Sarah Maizes says:

      Absolutely not. She is simultaneously insane and hysterical. 🙂

  16. Marni Grossman says:

    My sister was something of a hellion as a child. She is, to date, the only person I know to ever have piano lessons taken away because of misbehavior.

    Today she is- mostly- lovely. She’s a lawyer. She’s married. She’s trying to have a baby.

    Which is to say that I promise it will all work out.

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