“I HATE you, Mummy!”

It’s such a common phrase around the house now, I find I hardly blink when she says it. The other morning, I woke Rosie up for school and the first thing she said to me was: “I hate you.”

Anything can prompt these three little words. I might refuse her a piece of cake before dinner or tell her she has to tidy a mess she’s made or simply try to brush her hair. It makes little difference to her. If she’s unhappy about a situation, those are the first words out of her mouth and they are only ever directed at me.

Let me remind you that she is not yet 4.5 years old.

It isn’t just the I hate you’s either. If she doesn’t get her way, she will go from 0 to 100 in mere seconds. She will scream, throw herself on the floor, launch her little body at me head first, pummel me, punch me, hit me in the face and bite me.

This morning, she did all of the above because I told her she had to wear her underpants. To be fair, she has had an underpant issue for months – nothing seems to fit her, aside from those puffy bloomers usually worn by babies still in nappies.

Still, 28 pairs of underpants and about £50 pounds later, I’ve found a style that does fit her. I have checked them thoroughly, but she is so fussy (she can’t abide creases in her dresses or uniform shirts) that the slightest discomfort (and I do mean slightest) will send her into paroxysms of rage.

So, this morning, I insisted she wear her underpants and not the puffy ones which, let’s face it, won’t fit her soon and then what will we do? No, she has to get used to wearing regular underpants and the ancillary discomforts that come with them.

She didn’t shout, she screamed. On and on and on and on. I didn’t know what to do. I thought the neighbours might ring the police. I threatened to walk out – I wanted to walk out. I stood there and watched her thrashing on the floor and a strange cloud descended over me. I got my coat and thought how easy it would be to walk down the stairs, close the door and just go to work, leaving her behind. For the first time, I felt like I didn’t like my own child. I felt like I didn’t know her.

Ironically, she, too, kept saying that I wasn’t her mummy, that I didn’t look like her mummy, that she didn’t have a mummy any more, and that she was all alone.

I wanted to hug her, but she was so angry, so full of rage that I couldn’t – she would have hit me or worse. The last time she bit me, I had a bruise for up to a week. Right now, I have a bump on my arm that came from somewhere at some point this morning – I can’t remember how.

It is all so disappointing and dispiriting. It is also a source of deep shame. I haven’t written about this until now because I am ashamed. She is only 4. She has seen too many things she should never have seen, has experienced too many upheavals for her little lifetime. Her father is an alcoholic. Her mother is most likely depressed. Why should I be surprised that she is acting out now? I just didn’t do enough to protect her from what was happening at home. I failed.

You see, if I really de-construct what she says: I hate you. Shut up. Go away. If I really listen hard enough, I can hear myself. These are exactly the same phrases I used on Ben. I have shouted at him, hit him, pushed him. I’ve done all of these things in moments of rage, when I found him pissed and witless on the couch or in the doorway. Sometimes, I did them in front of her.

There. I said it. I failed to protect her. I let my own rage take control and now my daughter is damaged goods.

She blames me for “sending Daddy away”. She says: Mummy was mean to Daddy. And Mummy is bad. To some extent, she is right. At the same time, when I scold her for doing something naughty (like flinging her yoghurt around the kitchen this morning), she says: “I’m a bad person. I’m a bad girl. Mummy won’t give me any more stars.” And she weeps.

We are trapped in a dark and despicable cycle. First it was Ben and me. Now it’s Rosie and me. And the common ground in all this is… well… me.

I accept responsibility for where we are, but I also need to find a way to repair  the damage I’ve done. All I want is my child back, snug in my heart. But each day, she seems to recede further and further from me. Each day we crawl into this well-worn trench and battle it out, spitting and raging at each other, ultimately losing hold of one another.

source: dancingqueen65.blogspot.com


33 thoughts on ““I HATE you, Mummy!”

  1. Not a fun situation for you. Yet, you said it yourself: Rosie is not yet 4.5 years old. She is still so young, she still has time to grow into herself. Yes, she has seen and heard things that maybe she shouldn’t have, but she may also just be one of those people whose emotions are always right on the edge. Or she may indeed be reacting to what has happened in her young life. It’s hard to tell right now. Play therapy may help her – and for you, have you considered a parenting course? Perhaps something geared towards dealing with a spirited child? Facilitators of those courses can often suggest strategies that a parent in the middle of raising an intense child can try, things that you might not think of yourself. Hope you find some help – good luck!

  2. My daughter was the same age and did the same to me. She hated me. She accused me of not loving her. I was hit, bit, smacked, punched, and kicked. She spit at me. She yelled and screamed and slammed doors. She threw toys, silverware, and pillows. It was dreadful. Her whole life had been change after change after change, and she remembered when daddy hit mommy.
    I cried. I felt horrible. I couldn’t stop it; I was powerless to understand it. Her life was one move after another, and daddy hitting mommy. I wanted to rage vicariously thru her.
    I remember one night when it got beyond what I could control. I felt the anger building and I was crying. I knew I was about to scream back and what I would scream wouldn’t be able to be taken back. I called a friend who lived a mile away; 3-minute drive. As soon as she locked her car and my daughter heard the horn, she froze. I was bruised and sore for days after that night, but the presence of back-up, back-up my daughter knew would not be swayed, ended it. Whatever calling in my friend for help did to help, I don’t think I can really identify, but it saved us both.
    She is a month over 5 and the outbursts have calmed. Her life hasn’t, but she has. Now she will just go to her room and sulk. The rage that was the norm 6 months ago has subsided.

    • Oh gosh, Melanie, thank you for sharing this. It’s so hard to control them when they rage. I’ve bitten back my tears, and other times I’ve let them come. It’s awful. Is your daughter receiving any therapy? Are her outbursts sudden and unpredictable?

      • She is not in therapy. I tried when she lived with me, but parental consent from both parents was required and my ex refused. He doesn’t think the kids needs any therapy for the divorce, or the violence (he still asserts I deserved to be beaten in front of the kids and that because I deserved it, there was no harm done to the kids for witnessing it).
        Most of the outbursts were sudden. They seemed to come from nowhere. Sometimes I would try to talk her down, other times I just let her rage until she was exhausted. I never felt like I was making the right decision or that I was helping her. I felt like my paralysis was adding to it, or permitting it. I felt like the failure I had been made out to be in the divorce trial.
        I was helpless, and I waited too long to ask for help.
        We’re not the only ones. I have talked to a few friends with normal relationships since calling in help and admitting my short-coming, and their 4.5 year-olds were angry too.

      • Good gracious, why would he of all people need to give his consent when he abused her by abusing you? What an outrage! I’m sorry to hear that, I really am. She – and you – need counselling. She, above all, and your other kids, because what they witnessed was a perversion of normality. They need to understand that it was wrong and why, and that that behaviour should never be replicated. In our case, my husband didn’t hit me (thank God). I am the one with rage issues and I was the one showing aggression – never right in any situation, though it was more a sort of hapless pummelling than a cold fist. Still, wrong – absolutely wrong. I really feel for you. Maybe there is some way for you to adapt some strategies (which you probably already have) to change her behaviour, bit by bit. Yes, I remember someone telling me once how her 4-year-old used to bite and scratch her. Some of that behaviour may well be normal for this age group. They are old enough to know what they want and almost able enough to take what they want, but they still need to negotiate these things through us and that is very frustrating for them.

      • She won’t get counseling. He refuses. I won’t either, but that’s because I have no health insurance. They live with him now, so I am useless. I get 48 hours a month with them; that’s not enough to parent.
        You are doing great. Just that you recognize that Rosie needs you is everything she needs. She’ll move past this. It will take her time, but she’ll learn that it isn’t effective. With Ben out of the house and not on his coffee, you and Rosie can work together to build the new normal. You’ll grow closer thru this, I bet.

  3. Hi. I understand the clothing sensitivity as my nephew went through many years not being able to handle wearing socks, and certain pants with certain waistbands. (Google Sensory Processing Disorder).
    It cuts to the core, when our children tell us they ‘hate us’. Good for you to recognize that Rosie is crying out for help and in frustration. Good for you, for doing your very best to ‘count to 10’ and not react….not an easy feat! As moms, we have all been there….feeling like we just can’t deal with our children’s tantrams, and just wanting to walk out the door and never come back. It’s hard being a single parent…you can’t call in support when you are dealing with your child’s tantrums…there’s no break, no one to spell you off, and there’s no one to help to keep you calm, or co-plan with in regards to how to deal with the extreme behavior.
    Don’t be so hard on yourself. We all make mistakes and wish we could ‘rewind the life video’ erasing how we handled events in our lives. You’re a step ahead just being able to acknowlege that things weren’t so great. But don’t beat yourself up. You were doing your best in a very, very, difficult situation.
    Please try to seek out support for yourself, and for Rosie. You both deserve it. Other parents have been through similar situations, and they would love to support you. You just have to reach out and find them. Take care.

    • Thanks, Shelley. I've decided to find some help. All too often, I fail to count to 10 - or 100 (10 is not enough to calm me down). Maybe this is my first step towards finding some help for myself, too. I really can't help feeling like a failure, though. I didn't know that sensitivity to clothing was actually a condition. Oh Lord. I think it's just a phase with her, though. She will overcome...

  4. You have to also remember that since you’re the only parent there, you’re automatically the disciplinarian. So you will be the one she says nasty things at just because she doesn’t like what you’re telling her.

    When she says that you were mean to Ben it sounds like the same sort of thing as “I hate you”, plus the fact that she’s missing her Dad.

    As for her learning behaviours from you, I learnt not to talk about things from my parents, which is not a good thing. I also learnt a lot of good stuff from them. I think we all learn good and bad behaviours from our parents, no matter how good or bad their parenting is. Think about how your parents were and what you learnt from them.

    I would also second what everyone else says about getting some counselling. Many doctors’ surgeries do free counselling, but only for a set number of sessions.

    • Thanks margueritemorris. I try to remind myself of this truth – that ultimately we take what we choose from our parents. My therapist said the same thing to me the other day. She asked me whether my parents were perfect role models… No one’s perfect.

  5. Rosie will grow out of it and eventually see things differently. In the meantime, being the only parent present 24/7 can really run a person down quickly. It does sound like you guys can use some outside help. Be it a counselor, or even just a friend with a new perspective. Maybe finding some new common ground for you and Rosie (a new activity to do together, craft time, library time, writing/drawing together, cooking/baking, jumping rope, jumping on a trampoline…). Play therapy is widely used here in the US-again, be it with a counselor or just playing in general. Taking some time out for yourself will also help you to remain a step or two away from the rage that comes with Rosie’s fits. Set aside some time where you can be on your own, without Rosie-maybe some time with friends while Rosie has a sitter? Maybe a neighbor or friend could watch her-even for you to take a 20-30 minute walk and clear your head. Or maybe Rosie could have a play date with a friend. I find that ‘me time’ (time spent away from family), even if it’s very brief, can make a world of difference in the way I feel, the way I act and react, the way I handle different situations… I always feel refreshed when I return. Take a little time and charge your batteries, and Rosies!

    • Yes, I long for a bit of that. Tomorrow, I get a few hours on my own, but much of that will be spent doing groceries and other mundane things. Still, I’m going to make sure I get two whole hours to myself doing something I want to do. I need it. I’m not surprised a lot of this has kicked off after half-term. We spent several days solidly together – doing a lot of the things you listed in your message. I hope she does grow out of it, but I’m seeking help anyway.I know she needs some special care. tx

  6. Good for you for seeking help and support for both of you. I sometimes work with children this age with similar issues and it’s amazing how their issues are expressed through play therapy. It’s going to a long process for you, letting go of the guilt and regret. As moms, we often feel like we’re not enough, even under the best of circumstances, and you have had huge challenges. Be kind to yourself. Be forgiving. Your daughter is so lucky to have such a loving and wise mommy.

      • Sometimes you will see them expressing their anger and fear in the safe haven of play. They can experiment with different ways to resolve conflicts, experiment with feeling powerful when in many areas of their life they may feel powerless. Role playing can be helpful, too. For kids this age, I think there is value in the expression of feelings, but the real work gets done with the parent, where they can get support for their own feelings of guilt, inadequacy, isolation,… develop strategies to deal with their child’s feelings and behaviors,…. So in answer to your question about can a child this age resolve issues through play, I would say it’s a small part of a larger process. It’s helpful for the therapist to get to know the child, but I tend to think that working with the parent is the most essential part of the process.

  7. Don’t be ashamed! You are not alone. When my oldest son was 3-4, we had similar issues. His problem was the texture of socks. It took us 30 minutes every morning to put on socks because they didn’t “feel” right. He is also the kid that has to have tags cut out of shirts because they are “itchy.” It’s exhausting. I was still living with my nonparticipant of a spouse then. I was carrying a full load and dealing with the discovery of the gambling and my world was falling apart and now he’s drinking, and WHY OH WHY must we bother with these stupid socks every morning? It was enough to make me crack.
    At that same time, my son started experiencing night terrors. Those were awful. He would scream out for me at night, but not recognize me and shriek when I approached him. All we could do was wait it out and make sure he was unharmed. It was awful. And I knew, I just knew, that it was really a product of what was going on. He became very OCD. Toys couldn’t be in the bathtub when it drained. He was always yelling “Clean the mess” and he was having meltdowns at preschool, being labelled “different.” I knew, even before the therapist said it out loud, that it was more than likely a product of his environment. His father was a screw-up and his mother was angry.
    Know that it gets better. My son worked through those issues. He might still cut tags out of shirts, but he wears socks and we don’t fight. He is a beautiful, self-motivated, responsible, loving, and kind-hearted young man. To know him and to see his success at school and socially, you would NEVER guess the trouble that we experienced when he was young. You would never know that we had to get him Occupational Therapy just to survive Kindergarten because of his sensory deficiencies.
    The way that we bond now, and the way that he makes me laugh, you would never guess that this is the same kid that told me at the age of three that he wished I would go into the woods and a tree would fall on me and chop my arm off.
    (I thought I would be sleeping with one eye open by now.)
    You are doing a GREAT job with her. This tough time…she won’t remember it. She feels the stress now, but she won’t remember it later. It will always be in your mind, but not hers.
    Take a deep breath. The underwear wars won’t last forever. I promise!!!!

  8. One more thing. You have been so brave and handled things so well. You took a stand against something huge. Alcoholism. You put your needs and Rosie’s needs first. Taking that step and continuing to stand for what is right is a tough battle, especially for those of us that are codependent.
    This anger that you and Rosie feel makes you feel that you might have handled it wrong, but this feeling is only temporary. It is a result of change. Change is never easy and it feels foreign and wrong, until it becomes the new normal. You will find normal again, and she will too.

    • Thanks StrongerMe – especially for sharing your son’s experience. It makes me feel a lot better to know that this isn’t happening just because I’m a rubbish mum. I’m also consoled by the tree-arm-chopping thing, because Rosie has said similar (like: I’m going to push you down the stairs)… or… I want daddy to live here. I only want daddy. The underpant meltdown is doing my head in right now. Socks, underpants – they’re always the things that set them off. I still feel ashamed and a failure, but I think that’s just inevitable. I feel like I’m finally making a break from Ben, and maybe Rosie feels it, too. Maybe she is scared he will never come back and maybe that’s where the anxiety is coming from. I don’t know.
      I’m amazed that your son has come out of it, but not so amazed, because you are pretty incredible yourself. I think his recovery, his balanced disposition, has to be down to your deft handling of a truly tragic situation.
      Well, I’m dreading the morning and getting out the door (this time to music class). She’s been referred to a mental health service for children. I really hope it all happens quickly.

  9. One more thing,… I grew up with loving big sister, no alcohol, no abuse, loving mom and dad (they did divorce when I was 10), and when I was 4 years old, I would yell at my mom, “I hate you,” throw my little book bag at her, and slam the bathroom door, where I would stew for a while. I ran away a few times a week (to the stairwell of our apartment building). My mother fretted over why I was so angry, over what she did wrong, etc… i still have no answers, but I can tell you that I turned into an easy kid, the least rebellious teen a parent could hope for, just a little sassy. So try not to fret too much! Address the issue but don’t go off the deep end!

    • Well, that puts things into perspective a bit. I know it isn’t totally abnormal, but I still think she is responding to some troubling experiences. Today she told me to ‘JUST SHUP UP!!!!’ at least three times.
      Charming. She is a moody little thing.

    • That reminds me that I also told my mother that I hated her when I was a kid. Probably on multiple occasions, but I specifically remember one when my mom replied, “Well right now, I hate you too.” Oh the shock and horror!!! She wasn’t allowed to hate me! She loved me unconditionally.
      It pains her when I remind her of it because she felt such guilt and remorse over it, but I will tell you that it was probably the reality check that I needed. I think I was around 12yo at the time, and it was the first time that I realized that my mother had feelings too.
      Oh the feelings that we have now that we are mothers!!!! Doubt…failure…fear…

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