I was so sure that I had more time. More time before I sent my baby off to school, more time before my daughter was "too cool" for me, and certainly more time before she figured out that she could stick a proverbial knife straight into my heart and twist it for good measure. Sadly, I was wrong.
Last week, as I registered her for kindergarten, I watched her skip off towards a small group of girls who were also waiting for their parents. When I was finished, I started walking towards her. As I did, the look on her face went from ecstatic to mortified, and with her hand down by her side, she did her best to shoo me, her very uncool mom, away from her and her group of very cool new friends. In went the knife.
On the way home, I told her how signing her up for kindergarten made me a little sad since it meant that the majority of my days would be spent away from her. Perhaps still upset with me for dragging her away from these potential future playmates, she icily responded with, "I don't care," a phrase that she has begun using only recently, and one I assume she picked up at preschool. I gave her a stern reminder that that is not how we talk to one another in our family, and was met with, "Well, I don't love you." Twist went the knife.
Lately, when I tell my daughter that she can't do something, she'll sometimes come back with, "I feel like you don't love me." I can't imagine where she came up with that, but my response is always the same: "There is nothing you can ever do that would make me not love you" — but never before has she said that she doesn't love me.
In our house, we make it a point to share our feelings; especially with our children. "I love you" is a common utterance, often initiated by my daughter, so I know that she didn't mean it. Even still, just hearing those words caused my heart to shatter into a million pieces, and as someone who doesn't cry easily, I felt the tears well up. After a few deep breaths, I was able to keep it together and simply tell my daughter that that's too bad, but I still love her.
By the time we got home, my daughter was back to her normal, sweet, loving self, which only affirmed my initial suspicion that she didn't mean what she said. Although that brought a tremendous level of comfort, I'm not naive enough to think that I'll never hear those words again. But at least now I'll be prepared. And in the meantime, I'll be sure to bask a little more in the words I'm fortunate enough to hear so often — "I love you, Mommy" — and take solace in the fact that those words, I'm sure she means.