I haven't had that said to me in about eighteen months, but these words came out of Matthew's mouth last Wednesday.
Could these be the harshest words in the English language? I'm not sure, but they really hurt.
As I've shared here before, Matthew's had a really hard time of life in the past few months since his siblings came home. He's doing a lot better in recent weeks, but we still just try to survive the rough days. So on Wednesday, when I asked Matthew to come inside for an early lunch, he 'melted' and fell onto the floor screaming, even before I could remind him that the reason for an early lunch was so that we could head out to his weekly gym class...which the boys love. He wept angrily on the floor (for about the eighth time so far in the day) for several minutes, until I was pretty much ready to not even bother mentioning going to gym class.
When I tried once to intervene in his on-the-floor raging, he looked right at me and uttered the words of hate. Not only have I not heard this from him in a long time, but ever since Seth and Lizzie have come home, Matthew tends to express more love and neediness of me than resentment or anger.
I've taken enough Gordon Neufeld parenting classes to know full well that this was said in the heat of the moment and that it was a manifestation of frustration, just as if he'd thrown something across the room out of anger. I get it. And as a result, I was able, very evenly and naturally, to respond to him that "it's ok, Matthew - I get that you're frustrated. I still love you, though. Whole heart." I reached down and ran my hand down his arm for just a moment, one of those quick caresses designed to convey comfort and availability without being long enough to provoke a flinch. Then I moved a few feet away to work on lunch prep while Matthew continued to flail about and cry. But a few minutes later, I couldn't put up a front any longer. I told Matthew that I was heading to the bathroom for a minute. I barely made it through the bathroom door before I started to cry.
I cried because despite knowing that Matthew loves me incredibly much, despite knowing that he didn't mean what he said, despite knowing that he was just frustrated, despite knowing he's had a brutal time of the past four months, despite all of my outward assurances, despite my inner confidence that it would be ok...his words hurt. I felt crushed. Gut-punched. My world had shifted on its axis. After everything we've been through together in the past four+ months, after working sooo hard to help him through this tough time, after loving him so terribly much, I just couldn't believe that he felt this way about me, for even a moment.
I didn't linger too long in the bathroom - the kids already think I have the bladder of a flea because I head to the privy so often and they have no idea that my bladder is just fine and that I'm really just trying to regroup before re-engaging any of them. I washed my eyes with cold water because I've learned that it really does reduce redness, and I forced myself back out the door. I smiled at Matthew and told him again that I love him, and said that when he wanted to talk about whatever was frustrating him, I'd be happy to.
It wasn't more than ten minutes later when Matthew approached me from behind and put his arms around my waist. "I'm sorry I said that to you, Mom. I didn't mean it. You know that, don't you? I was just mad. I actually love you with my whole heart." I turned to hug and kiss him, and as I bent over his head, my heart felt expansive with love and my eyes welled briefly with tears of thanksgiving and relief. I told him that "of course" I know he loves me and and understand that he was having a moment of frustration and that I knew even in the moment that he didn't mean it. Calm, cool, and collected was I.
Little did he know that his words tilted my world right side up again; I could almost hear the twang of the axis as it straightened out. It may have been a dreary day outside, but let me tell you, the sun was suddenly shining in our kitchen.