Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Tell Me You Don't Love Me Because"

My daughter (almost four) is currently going through a thing where she likes to stage elaborate dramatic enactments in her head and then draw me in to participation. A typical ride home from school goes something like this:
"Mommy, first I am going to whisper something and then you say, 'I can't hear you.' Okay?"
She whispers something.
"I can't hear you!"
Then she cuts out of the moment like a little dictatorial director whose vision has been squandered. "No. No. No. You say it like this: 'I can't hear you.' Okay?"
She whispers something.
"I can't hear you!"
She cuts out of character again. "Good. Now you're going to say. . ."

This can go on for quite some time.

The other day, we were having a serious discussion on the ride home because she had gotten a bad report from school. As we went through the reasons we can't use hitting hands and why we need to be still during nap time, she said from the back seat with the same tone as she always requests my cooperation, "Mommy, you say, 'I don't love you because you were bad at school.'"

"No. I won't say that."
"Why not?"
"Because I love you all the time."
She sighs loudly, once more upset that I'm destroying her theatrical vision. "Just say it!"
"No. I love you all the time, and I will love you all the time."
She gets quiet for a few seconds before replying brightly, "Okay."

For some reason that little exchange has stuck with me. She tells me she doesn't love me pretty often. It usually happens when she puts on her didactic voice, the one that she uses to teach me something that she just can't believe I haven't learned yet about the world. She's not shouting or screaming, just  declaring decidedly "I don't love you because you won't let me watch Care Bears." "I don't love you because you are making me go to bed." It's as if to say, "I really want to love you, but you just make it so hard."

My response is always the same, "That's okay. I still love you."

I can't figure out what's going on in her mind as she plays out these mundane dramas about daily exchanges, but I hope I'm showing her that some unhappy endings just aren't in the script.

Photo: Our Hero

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