Why do children say the things they say?

Mother and Child

When the Son was four years old, I heard him say the three words every parent dreads to hear: “I hate you.” He didn’t yell or say them in the middle of a tantrum. Instead, in a barely audible fashion, he whispered them. Refusing to believe what I’d heard, I asked, “What did you say?” Furrowing his brow, he repeated the phrase but this time he silently mouthed the words.

Distressed at the thought my little man had stopped loving me, I called my sister, a non-practicing psychologist at the time. She assured me I had nothing to worry about. On the contrary, I should rejoice because it was obvious he felt loved. Confused I asked her to explain. “Bella, only a child who is secure in the knowledge he or she is loved can utter those words.”

Not content with her explanation, I kissed and hugged the Son every time he walked past me. I had worked too hard to create this little human to see him turn on me.

We were living in the Caribbean when the Son turned seven. In the middle of Hurricane George (one of the worst to hit the island of Puerto Rico), he decided it was the perfect time to complain that I never listened to him. Winds, that at 155 miles an hour, had us clinging to each other praying the roof wouldn’t fly off and his only question was, “Yeah, you look like you’re listening but are you REALLY hearing me when I talk about my Pokemon?”

Stifling the sarcastic response of, “It’s hard to to hear when the wind is rendering us deaf and very well might suck us into an infinite vortex,” I reassured him there was nothing more important than Pikachu, Charizard, or Blastoise.

Once again I was compelled to dial my sister who after laughing for ten minutes replied, “Only a child who feels heard says something like that, Bella.” Hearing silence on my end she elaborated, “In other words, he’s playin’ you, sistah.”

My beautiful boy, an expert manipulator at such a young age? For the second time, I refused to believe her and made it a point to both listen and hear my little one. No multitasking while he talked. I made it a point to hang on his every word.

The Son turns 25 in two weeks. This morning, after waking me at six to make him breakfast and pack his lunch, I heard him curse under his breath. “I’m late, mom. I have to hurry or I’m going to miss my train.” A rushed kiss and a half hug and he was out the door.

Two minutes later the phone rang. “Mom, I dropped my beanie on my way to the stop. Can you go out and look for it? It doesn’t have to be right this minute but keep in mind it’s a 32 euro Nike hat.” (Code for go out now)

Not stopping to stretch my muscles, I hobbled down the stairs. Looking left and right, I pondered which way he’d gone. I decided to go right. Alas, two blocks into my journey I realized the beanie was nowhere to be found. I quickly turned around and in doing so, caught my reflection in a parked car’s window. It was 43 degrees but in my rush to retrieve the beanie, I had left the house wearing only a short sleeved nightgown, a pair of black velvet house slippers, and the worst case of bed hair I’d ever had. I looked like I’d escaped from a mental asylum.

Not wanting to dwell on my current state, I tried to focus on the task at hand and continued my search. Ten minutes and two blocks later, I finally found the infamous hat. Holding the wretched article at arms length, I saw a man looking down at me from a second story window. His open mouth and confused stare conveyed what I was thinking. I looked like a lunatic.

Tired and cold, I crawled up the stairs. Stopping midway to catch my breath, I remembered something the Son had said the night before. Discovering I hadn’t yet washed his favorite jeans, he’d commented, “Mom, you never do anything for me.” Entering the house, I threw the beanie on the table and poured myself a cup of coffee.

This time, no call was made to my sister. I already knew what her answer would be. Only a boy who has too much done for him is capable of uttering such words.

What do your children tell you?


Note: This post is not meant to portray the Son as selfish, but instead, to exemplify the silly things children say when they feel secure in their parents’ love.

14 thoughts on “Why do children say the things they say?

  1. Wow, Bella, this really hit home for me. That was how my relationship with my daughter was when she was growing up – very rocky on the outside, but solid on the inside. But it sure hurts when you’re going through that! She’s turned into a very fine and loving wife and mother of three, thank goodness!

    1. Martha,it sure is a relief to see they outgrow most of this behavior. That said, it’s also comforting to know that in spite of everything they say, they still love us! :)

  2. Bella, I think this post resonates with a lot of us. I don’t have children but I do have nieces and nephews who are always saying, “I hate you!” It’s good to know they don’t mean it.

  3. Ah, Bella, you’ve done good, Mama!! Happy early B-day to the son (Domer, too, is 25, so they’re of the same generation, and I, too, know of those Pokemon!!) And Legos. Your post reminded me of the time little Domer decided he’d “had it” and was running away from home. I told him, “Fine, but you’re not leaving until the morning — and I’ll help you pack your bag!” Needless to say, I couldn’t PUSH him out when the sun came up the next day. Guess every parent has to go through these ups and downs — but golly, doesn’t it HURT when it’s happening?!

    1. Oh my goodness, Debbie, I had to laugh when reading your comment! It reminded me of the time I was ten and ready to leave the house. Like you, my nana said, “I’m going to look for your suitcase right this instant.” The minute I saw her leave the room, I was terrified. I learned never to make threats like that again! :)

  4. Alpha Son is more along the line, “I saw this cool blah-blah (whatever caught his eye), sigh.” Master manipulator even at 33 AND married. She ignores him. I am getting better at it but still occasionally think, “Oh why not” since it’s never expensive. He never said “I hate you” possibly because, even at a young age, he knew it would affect his extra goodies (smile).

    1. Oh, Nan, what a smart one you have! I remember pulling that same strategy with my parents! Sadly, it rarely worked. Nana was of the belief things had to be earned or you had to pay for them yourself. Either way, I’m glad things have worked out fine for the both of us! Hugs to you!

  5. I don’t have kids, but I do have a half-brother who’s 20 years younger than me (and living with our Dad and his Mom in Croatia, so I see them once a year). Once, when he was little, Dad told me on the phone that my brother suddenly threw himself on the floor and cried out: “I need my Ivana!” :D The last few years, when I come, he says that I should visit them more often, not because he misses me that much, but because his Mom buys better food when I’m around (he says that in front of his Mom, who happens to be a professional cook).

    1. I’m telling you, Ivana, they’re a crafty bunch! Good for you that you get to eat fancier food when you visit though! A win win if you ask me! :)

  6. Been there done that and made me remember when I told my mom I hated her too…It made me sad to think what my son made me feel by saying those words, I did to my mom. Two boys and yes, they’re all the same….but we gotta love them.

    1. Eve, you’re so right, my friend. There’s no turning back on our babies no matter what the age or what the case. I’m wondering how your mother reacted when she heard you say those words! Latina mothers are a fiery bunch! Hee hee! :)

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