My Daughter Hates Me and It’s Not Just a Phase: Here’s Why It’s OK
In the nearly two years my daughter’s been alive, I’ve found a friend and a foe in Google. I don’t have anything personal against the search engine king. It’s just that when I’ve turned to it for advice, it’s told me both what I needed and didn’t want to read.
And of all the questions I’ve typed in the bar (read: “What do I do if my baby is pulling the hair on the back of her head out?” or “How do I stop my toddler from reaching in her diaper?”), one answer—no, one word—keeps coming back. “Phase.”
For every hellish behavior I’ve encountered and questioned with my 22-month-old, I’ve been told she’ll grow out of it. But at some point, when your child is shrieking something awful for hours or watching “Sing” 5x per day, you start to question whether this is really temporary or just your new life. And for the first time, I really think this is the real deal.
Two weeks ago, she started greeting me with a new brand of “welcome home, mom.” Only it stung when it came out from her little Chiclet-toothed mouth as she yelled it with conviction, her face scrunched like a rabid Shar-Pei. “GO AWAY, MOMMY.” Naturally, I brushed it off thinking it was cute. I made jokes about it on my Facebook page, covertly crowdsourcing to see if other moms had experienced this. They had, they said. It’s a phase, they said. And like most phases, I expected it to end in a few days. But then I started to think deeper. Maybe this won’t end. Maybe this is forever. And maybe this is OK. Here’s why:
I Want Her to Be Independent
Most of the articles that came up as I was searching this new dysfunction of my daughter’s indicated that this yelling, mean, “terrible twos” time is when a child starts to assert his or her independence. As much as it hurts to hear her verbalize not needing me, it also makes me proud to think of the things she is set out to accomplish without me.
She’s proven this lately with her potty. Around the same time she started telling me to go away, she also started asking to use her potty. I assumed she was full of shit—and apparently she was, because she actually used the potty after she told me to leave the room. It’s pretty cool that I didn’t have to bribe her with treats like a Labradoodle to go to the bathroom.
I Want Her to Speak Her Mind
Even though I don’t like what she has to say, I want her to know she can say it. There’s obviously going to come a time when I’m going to need to tell her to hold back from telling the Sephora ladies that so much makeup on makes them look like they are made of fondant. But if in the moment she doesn’t want me around, I’d rather her say it than fake it. I don’t believe she’s too young to know what she wants. I’ve seen her spit out jarred turkey enough times to trust that she knows her own likes and dislikes.
She Doesn’t Need to Like Me
Since before I became a mother, I’ve felt strongly that my daughter would not be my friend. That’s not my role in her life, and I don’t want her to think of me that way. There are going to be times where I will have to make tough decisions for her, decisions she will not be happy with me for. And I’m looking forward to choosing the things she doesn’t like if those things keep her safe or benefit her life. I’m hoping for a few years before things get that serious. Right now the toughest decision I make for her that she’s not pleased with is how often she gets a tubby and when it’s time to go “night night.”
But along the same vein, I know I’m not always going to like her. I don’t like her when she’s smacking me and telling me “no,” or screaming for no reason or refusing to eat, or trying to rip the dogs’ ears off. There are times I think she’s a miniature monster packaged in a cute little girl’s body.
I Like When She Calls Me ‘Mommy’
Even when she’s yelling it along with “go away,” I still get surprised sometimes when I hear her call me “mommy.” I’d liken the feeling to getting butterflies in your stomach every time you see the person you love, except this is non-romantic and much more meaningful. Of all the roles in my life (wife, daughter, friend, employee, coworker, professional klutz), I still have the hardest time thinking of myself as a mom. Nurturing and being the person someone depends on so much just feels outside of the “me” I’ve always known, but I really like to hear the word come from her.
I’ll Have Something to Remind Her of When She Needs Me Later in Life
I’ve already used this as an excuse to eat ALL of her Goldfish and Puffs. I know there’s going to be a day where she ignores my advice to fill up her tank before heading to the mall with her friends and she calls me all, “But MOM, I’m stranded and I spent all my money at Forever 21. You NEED to stop what you’re doing and come get me at Crossgates. No, I will NOT take back the shoes I just bought to have cash for gas.” Oh? Remember when you spent two weeks saying “go away, mommy?” Because I do.
Any Time I’m in a Room With Her (Even if She Doesn’t Want Me to Be) I Feel Blessed
The truth of the matter is she could say absolutely positively anything to me and I would be under her spell. Breathing the air that she breathes, peering across my dining room table at her peeking above, watching her learn something new or even catching her trying to eat markers leaves me in such awe. Everything she says, no matter how harsh, stuns me because I’m watching her formulate words and sentences using a tongue and a mouth and vocal chords I helped create.
I’m amazed at her mere existence, and if that existence comes with this nasty phrased “phase” then I’ll be glad every day that I get to experience it.