By: Meika Rouda
I was stunned. It actually stung me to the core. I had never heard him say the word “hate” before. Lately he has been telling me “you are mean” when he doesn’t get his way, something we are working on but truthfully in his mind, I am being mean when he wants a second ice cream and doesn’t get it. But hate is a new level. Does he know what hate is? Has someone said this to him? Where do I begin to address this? And since we try to follow a philosophy of talking about feelings, expressing how one feels, how do I incorporate hate into his vocabulary in a positive way?
Since I was being reactionary I first told him hate is a strong word. That we don’t use that word for people and that it hurts my feelings when he says that. I then tried to explain what hate is. Hate is a a word for things that you strongly dislike. It is an angry word, often said when one doesn’t really mean it. But then I felt like I was arming him with a word he will want to use, he now knows it has a strong meaning, that it does hurt me. Then I told him that I love him no matter what, even if he thinks he hates me.
Later in the kitchen after our son finally went to bed, my husband told me how surprised he was to hear the word hate come from our son. “I never in my life said I hated my parents.” My husband comes from, ironically, a strict yet hippie background where feelings were not expressed and yet children were treated like adults from Day One. He was raised in a mutually respectful home where the word hate was outlawed. I, on the other hand, have yelled at my parents countless times as a child and have even said I hated them when I was an unruly teenager, seeking love and attention. I don’t think my 4-year-old has any idea of what the word hate means. I know this is just the first of other incidents where he will be upset with me and express himself in hurtful ways. And I want him to express himself, it is vital that he tells me how he feels, that he puts a name to his feeling but I have to remind him that when he thinks he hates me, he is actually just frustrated that he isn’t getting another book. Or when I am mean because I am not buying him a toy, he is actually feeling sad or mad or a host of emotions that are difficult to navigate at his young age. And I have to remind myself not to take it personally even when it hurts.
By Meika Rouda
My son has a lot of energy. I know most 4-year-old boys have a lot of energy, everyone out there with one is going “oh, you should see MY son.” But my son has more than the average 4-year-old. He is loud, without even realizing how loud he is. And he talks or sings or chats constantly, a continuous stream of sound. Sometimes I feel like I am going mad and I realize it is because I live with noise pollution. It isn’t horrible, I love hearing his songs, how he makes up lyrics or asks insightful questions. He is exuberant, expressive, and lives life to the fullest…volume. He has no filter yet, no self consciousness to halt his feelings, he goes from happy to sad in an instant, celebrates the smallest things like getting hand me down shoes that have laces – laces! What a concept. He can have a full school day, ride his bike for an hour after school, and then go swimming for an hour and still NOT BE TIRED. He is also able to calm himself, playing legos quietly by himself in his room or looking at books but that is not his natural state and never lasts long. His natural state is excitable, high, and full of life.
And sometimes what we love the most about someone is also what drives us crazy. My husband and I struggle with managing this whirling dervish of a roommate, who runs through the house never walking, who has no volume control and has no autopilot switch. Many times we use a hand motion to remind him to lower his voice, I turn an imaginary knob and he will quiet down, from volume 10 to volume 7. He is like a race car always revving. And there are times when managing this bundle of energy, his natural mass of combustable excitement is too hard. I don’t want to squash his spirit, be the parent always yelling at him to be quiet. I love his enthusiasm even when it drives me crazy. But silence is nice too and knowing when to be loud and when to be quiet is actually a learned quality, not innate for everyone. So I try to help realize when to be more quiet, that telling me a story at the dinner table, at volume 9.5 isn’t necessary, I can hear it at volume 5 or even 4. That you don’t have to scream when you sing. That sometimes being quiet offers you a the ability to hear wonderful sounds like birds and crickets. But that isn’t my son, and when he is quiet, it actually makes me a little nervous. I always ask him “are you feeling OK” instead of enjoying the quiet. And ironically, the quiet is only nice for a little while before I start missing the noise.