“Mommy, how much do you wuv me?”
There is no mistaking the adorably sweet voice and mispronounced L’s of my 4 year old son, Mr. C. Seconds ago, he had happily crawled into our bedroom on his hands and knees just I had started to wake up to the welcomed warmth of sunshine on my face early this morning. I could hear him click the top of a pen down and rustle a paper in preparation for my response.
I answered him…
I love you all the way to the moon and back! And then, back to the moon, back to Earth and all the way back to the moon, around all the stars and then back again!”
He quietly giggled, still hiding at the end of our bed. “But how much do you wuv me?” he asked again.
I love you more than sunshine. More than icecream. More than campfires. More than the beach. More than pizza. More than hot bubble baths. More than weekends. More than pretty much anything and everything. I love you with my whole heart!
I heard him giggle again before he asked “But Mommmmmy…. how much do you WUV me like a number?”
Ohhhhhhh…. like a number! Hmmm…. I love you one million-quadrillion-katrillion-bazillion-trillion!”
JACKPOT! This was the type of response he had been waiting for! He bounced up like he was on a spring in a jack-in-the-box with an infectiously huge smile on his beautiful, little face and said “Do you want to see what number I love you?”
“Sure!” I said.
He turned his scrap piece of paper around to reveal a number he had written in his adorable kindergartenesque penmanship with approximately 14 digits in it, which he read aloud before proudly (verbally) adding “hundred and twenty!” to the end of his response!
“Wow!” I remarked. “That’s a LOT of love!”
“I know!” he smiled. “See! I love you more than you love me!” and then he looked deep into my eyes, eagerly anticipating my response so that we could say our usual “Not a chance!” in perfect unison before giggling, hugging and then playfully ‘arguing’ back in forth about who loves who more.
This is the story I burn into my memory and carve into my heart so that I can replay it later during more challenging times. My Mr. C is a rollercoaster of emotions.
There are certain expressions and quotes that fit our relationship perfectly these days… such as “You always take your frustrations out on the ones you love the most.” And, (one that has been relevant to Mr. C since he was about 18 months old) “The children who need the most love demand it in the most unloving ways.” This is so incredibly true of our Mr. C. After all, he actually had his bedroom door taken off as a consequence for storming off and slamming it in a fit of rage one (hundred) too many times at just shy of 3 years of age.
My amazing Mr. C is fire and ice. He is smooth jazz and heavy metal. He is thunder and he is sunshine. He has the most calming blue eyes that can give the raunchiest of looks. He can blow the sweetest of kisses and then throw some serious shade. He makes my heart explode with love and pride but also makes me wonder how the vein pulsing out of my left temple hasn’t imploded yet as I bite my tongue, clench my teeth and try to breathe patience into my frazzled body.
I’ve learned some tactics over the years. Count backwards by 2 from 13. Breathe deeply and meaningfully. Give yourself time outs. Walk away. Hug. Hugging is a big one for us. Sometimes my Mr. C is so filled with rage that my instincts are telling me to either throw him out of a window or jump out of a window myself. But, I know that what he really needs is to be held so tight that he feels safe, loved and secure and to be told that everything is going to be okay and that I love him. It’s hard. Sometimes, it’s so hard that it almost feels impossible because I am hurting (emotionally and sometimes physically depending on the outburst) and I am in defense mode after being heartbroken. The words of a 4 year old can certainly sting like a bee sometimes. But, I do my best to be understanding and to breathe and not let his verbal daggers of rage get the best of me.
I replayed this sweet “Mommy, how much do you wuv me?” story in my head as my son repeatedly yelled at me “I don’t want you anymore! I don’t want you to be my Mommy anymore! I’m going to get rid of you! I’m going to throw you in a dumpster!” Each and every threat was said in the angriest of tone with fiery eyes and a brow so furrowed that if my grandmother’s famous expression, “If you make that face, it will stay like that!” holds some truth, then he is seriously screwed for his later years.
Why was he so mad? Well, on the surface, I asked him to clean up all of the toys that he had dumped from his bedroom toy box after I had asked him not to dump them. He was looking for his toy ambulance. I was making dinner. We were both quite certain that the toy ambulance was in this toy box. But, I wanted to help him look so that he didn’t dump them everywhere. This was after I had already been the complete monster who made him brush his teeth this morning, wear socks before putting on his winter boots and…wait for it… finish the drink I had already poured him before pouring another one.
Below the surface, I think he is adjusting to a lot in his little life. He is a busy boy at school and at home. He is in kindergarten, daycare, is a big brother, a little brother, a dog owner, a friend, a neighbour, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin… he wears a lot of hats and is aware of each and every one of them. He is absorbing information like a sponge and outputting what he knows in the coolest of ways, through artwork, making his own books, forts, towers and more. He is learning to read. He is learning to make and keep friends. He is learning that sometimes others do not see eye-to-eye with him and is learning how to handle conflict. All of this tends to pour out into the sweetest of snuggles…and the scariest of fits.
This little boy has a heart of gold and is wise beyond his years. He loves to snuggle and can be oh, so sweet and loving. But then, it’s as if something gives way in a “the straw that broke the camel’s back” sort of way and he lashes out…usually at me. This morning I think he was just overtired. But it can be so intense. Such as when I am driving down Highway 401 in the snow on a mom & babe adventure with all 3 kids and Mr. C is literally screaming from the back seat “I hate you! I don’t want you to be my Mommy anymore! I don’t like you!” all because a) I stopped him from bugging his brother and sister and b) Because we weren’t there yet.
I think that 4.5 year olds have a tough time digesting big emotions with a limited vocabulary. We all get frustrated. We all need to vent a bit, or at least I do. I try to empathize with him, thinking of the days when nothing has gone right in my world and I just need to verbally explode in order to recover… then I think about doing it with the vocabulary and knowledge of a 4 year old and I too, would probably be telling someone that I hated them, didn’t want them anymore and was going to throw them in a dumpster! What more can they do really? They are frustrated but working with what they’ve got in order to process that frustration.
At least this is what I tell myself in order to reassure myself that I haven’t grown cold. I remember bawling my eyes out for a full day the first (of now many times) my oldest child told me that she hated me. Now, I find myself digesting the same “I don’t want you to be my Mommy” banter without much of a reaction..except for that time on Highway 401. Then, I was hoping that Jesus would take the wheel. For real.
I like to think that these little confrontations are the universe’s way of preparing us mentally and emotionally for the teenage years when our little ones will be raging balls of hormones and shit will literally hit the fan. Just a fun little zap to the heart to make sure it is strong enough to handle the nonsense that is to come.
In the meantime, I will be breathing deeply, counting backwards by 2 from 13, biting my tongue, clenching my jaw and sipping on fine wine… which for tonight, is a 2016 Cabernet Baco Noir “Don’t Poke the Bear” which was gifted to me by a friend who clearly knew that someday soon, there would be an evening when this mama bear would really need to chill, find balance and stop being poked.
How do you manage your young children’s anger and outbursts? I’m ready and willing to learn and try anything new!