As I headed into their room for the third time tonight, I told them exactly what they had lost.
"Guys, I told you that if you did not go to sleep the first time, there was no jumpy place tomorrow. You did not go to sleep, so no jumpy place. Good night."
I turned off the light for the third time and closed the door. I made it 10 feet from the door and it opened.
"I wish I didn't have a mom!" said Gracie and ran back to her bed.
Rather than react, I replied, "Okay," and closed the door.
As I headed into the laundry room, it occurred to me that I should be upset. I should feel like a knife was thrust in my heart. I should feel as if my baby girl has ripped me in two. Instead, there was nothing. None of the feelings moms have shared time and again as their children have said equally horrible things.
"I don't love you any more!"
"You're not my mommy any more!"
When I thought about it from Gracie's perspective, her words made sense. She was frustrated about going to bed and then having the jumpy place taken away. In her four year old mind, she wanted to hurt me and so she said words she thought would just that. Her friends say things like, "You aren't my friend any more," all the time. Her words were designed to do the same thing that her friends mean to do: to express her frustration with words, hurt momentarily, and be friends again.
Does she really wish she did not have a mom? No. Just 10 minutes earlier, she was hugging me as if her life depended on it. She says these things not really understanding the reality of them. Are they hurtful? I guess they would be if I truly believed she meant them. But she doesn't. She is using the only weapon she things she has. I could act hurt and tell her how mean her words were, but that would give them weight and I don't want her to associate her words with the ability to hurt me. That would result in her using them more frequently and in the future. If I shrug them off, she will forget about them and is less likely to say them again.
I'm sure she will say these things when she is 8, 9 , 10, 11, 12...I have years of them ahead of me. The key is not believing that she means them. She may feel as if she means them in the moment, but a short time later, she will regret them and want to take them back. She's already shown this to me in the past. She will come to me 10 or 15 minutes after she does or says something awful, hug me and apologize to me for what she said. I hug her, say thank you, and we move on.
As a mom, one of the most important things I can do for my children is demonstrate the ability to forgive. Some day, when I am gone, Gracie will think back to a day when she said, "I wish I didn't have a mom!" She will either cry and be devastated for having hurt me, realize what a horrible thought it was and wish she had me back, or she will laugh at herself for her diva drama and be thankful that I was there to hug her and move on.
Someday, her words will hurt me. I pray that I will continue to stop and think before I react so that I can see her words for the frustration they really are.