“Mama, I hate you,” Angry Girl

said my little girl, looking up at me with sadness and anger in her eyes. This from a girl who really  loves her mama. She’s my daughter who often says she does not want to go to school or even playdates because she would rather “be with mama.”
On the morning of her birthday party my daughter had a special breakfast at a restaurant with her grandmother – kind-hearted grandma who incidentally uses the word “hate” frequently.  It’s a generational thing, I tell myself, and yet, when grandma is visiting, “hate” always seems to make a few cameo appearances in my daughter’s speech.  But until this morning it had never been used to describe how she feels about me.
While she was out for her party day breakfast, I had been busy hiding surprises all over our yard. As grandma’s car pulled into the driveway, my husband jumped outside and called to me, “Stall them,” as he ran to our backyard to hide more surprises. I headed out front as casually as possible and kept everyone in the driveway interviewing them about their restaurant adventure. I commended myself for successfully acting nonchalant while inside I felt slightly frantic – I still needed to frost the cake, set out the snacks, and get my girls dressed.
After the hiding was complete and everyone back inside, I rushed around like a slightly off-kilter tornado. As I whirled this way and that, I was all too aware that I needed to calm myself so I could provide the most important element of the party for my little girl, a settled and present mama.  But centered mama was no where to be seen at that time.
When my daughters started protesting about getting dressed for the party, I was quick to cut them off at the pass. Firm and uncompromising mama was now in residence, kids were going to get dressed and the stern tornado—me—was off to frost the cake.  Birthday girl was not happy with the frosting.  Her displeasure was made clear as she hid from her cake inside my apron.  Mama’s tornado was desperately trying to complete its tasks without leaving any rubble in its wake.
I was losing my patience despite my efforts to play it cool and be the friendly, calm, loving mama I wanted to be right then. While I attempted to smile and “fix it” (the cake), my tension was mounting and the rock in my back that appears when I am forgetting my mindfulness was pressing hard on my spine. Apparently the birthday girl felt tense too, because that’s when the dreaded declaration made its debut: “Mama, I hate you.”
At first I felt startled. Then I felt frustrated with grandma, whom I blamed for re-injecting this high-octane word into our household.  And finally, I was sobered. “Mama, I hate you” had been my mindfulness bell.  It had pulled me out of the mindset of there and then — the party fun will begin out there in the yard (with all the fun things I’ve been breaking my back to hide) and the cake will be enjoyed then, during the fun, fun party we are about to have, (enjoying it now is of no importance). This mindfulness bell had brought me back to the here and now.  The fun birthday celebration for my little girl was right now, not then, and right here, not there.
“Mama, I hate you” echoed in my head once again and I got what she was telling me.  She hated how I was being.  The rushed, frantic, short-tempered mama who was throwing this party was not the mama that my daughter wanted to spend her party day with. I was being a mama to be hated.
When I realized all of this I scooped her up in hugs, kisses and empathy. While we talked through the incident; each of us apologizing and conceding to use our kind words and calm bodies, something more important was being transmitted, and it did not come from what we were saying. As we were talking, my body was softening, my frantic energy was transforming into calm, and I was with my daughter for the first time since she’d come home. I was finally in the here and now.
She responded right away to my presence and as we went to the kitchen to finish the cake together I was careful to sidestep any of my own inner reactivity at her delivery of this important message.  While, “I hate you” is not the way I would have wished to receive her plea for me to return to her, those were the words she had at that time and so I chose to just hear her message.
After I had returned to my body and my mindfulness, and saw clearly that what I had intended to do was very different from what I had actually been doing, the tornado flew away.  I was relieved to be left there in the yard on a bright sunny day with my family and a lovely party ahead of us… and I can happily share that it turned out to be a truly wonderful day.

Rebekkah LaDyne teaches mindfulness and meditation throughout the San Francisco Bay area and internationally via Skype.  Contact her today for your session.
She will be teaching afternoon workshops in Seattle and Tacoma May 4th & 5th, offering an online mindfulness class (maximum 15 participants) May 9th – 30th, and hosting summer family mindfulness workshops in June and July.
Details available at rebekkahladyne.com