One of my constant refrains to T is, “I will always love you, no matter what.” Sometimes I say it out of the blue, often I say it when I am disciplining him so he knows that even if I’m really pissed at him the fact that I love him will never change. A couple of days ago I posted this status on facebook:
I was telling C that I love him. T was watching and with the casual cruelty that is the specialty of an almost 3 year old he told me that he does NOT love me. What a turd.
That moment was sort of a kick-off of a string of really hurtful incidents by my little guy. Z has been spending a ton of time with him because we are on vacation, and T couldn’t be happier-his dad has been his favorite person on the planet for as long as T has understood what people are. A bonus is I’ve been free to give C some rare individual attention. Tomorrow Z is getting on a plane and we won’t meet up with him for almost a week. So his being on T duty is killing two birds with one stone-they won’t see each other for a while so they need the together time and it’s giving me a break before I am traveling alone with the two boys while driving stick shift (which I’m still not confident doing) for long distances. But the less time I spend with T, the more he couldn’t give a crap about me.
Mom, C, and I took a rather grueling one day there-and-back jaunt to Charleston to see my Grandma, who will be 91 this week. It was worth it to watch my Gram laughing with the baby we named after her late husband. On the drive home my Mom said that she bet T missed me a lot. I laughed and told her I’d bet $5 he didn’t ask after me once. We questioned Z when we got back, turns out Mom owes me the money.
The next morning I went into T’s room when he woke up. I asked him if he missed me the day before and he told me, “No.” I asked if he missed C and he said, “No.” I asked if he missed his Grandma and he said, “I did.” Ouch. Later that day he wouldn’t touch me. No hugs, no cuddles, no kisses. We are huge physical affection people. He was still touching his dad, he just wanted nothing to do with me. And he was really mean about it. I had to fight back the tears as Z yelled at him to hug and kiss me. Which is kind of funny when you think about it. The answer to him withdrawing from me is obviously not to force him into unwanted affection that he’ll only grow to resent. But damnit, when he did finally and reluctantly hug me it felt good.
My unfortunate impulse when it comes to T’s behavior is to blame myself for messing up somehow. I’m too strict and it’s making him hate me. I’m not strict enough and he’s walking all over me. We are those crazy over-physically affectionate people and though he can happily cuddle all day with Z, I creep him out. He simply doesn’t like who I fundamentally am as a human being. But the reality is I cannot afford to indulge the crazy when it comes to parenting. And that is the biggest gift of this whole motherhood gig. It’s not like becoming a mom instantly cured me, more like I feel compelled to try harder for the boys. Sometimes it works, sometimes I fail miserably. But mental illness isn’t something one can conquer just by trying hard enough. Good lord, were it only that simple. And for once I am clear headed enough to understand the failure isn’t what matters, it really is the effort. I will lose the battle with that ugly voice in my head over and over, yet as long as I’m trying to fight back it’s ok. This time I was able to overcome the voice and convince myself that it really isn’t me. It is T. He’s testing to see what he can get away with. He’s pushing hard. And even though it hurts, even though it makes me cry, I still need to tell him over and over that I love him. No matter what.