Her Bad Mother

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I wrote this post two days ago, when the world seemed very slightly less dark, and then - as the moon moved directly in front of the sun and blocked its light - decided that I couldn't post it, because reflecting upon my daughter's tyrannical approach to love scraped all the wrong nerves on a day without light. But then she got sick, very sick, yesterday and I spent too many hours pacing the hospital floor, gripped with worry, waiting for her to lift her head and say anything, anything at all, anything to show us that she was fine, that she would be fine, and when she finally did lift her head she said this: WHERE IS DADDY I WANT DADDY NOT YOU MOMMY, DADDY.

And my heart leapt, happy to have her back with any measure of her imperious glory.

Which is why I post this now. In gratitude.


I hear the thump-thump-thump of her little feet as she advances down the hallway toward the bathroom. I listen from my cocoon of bubbles as she stops outside the door, hesitating for the briefest moment before turning the handle and opening the door just wide enough to slip through, a wisp in pink flannel pajamas, squinting against the glare of the bathroom light.

Mommy? I have to go poo.

That's okay, sweetie. Can you manage on your own? I sit up in the tub and offer my hand to steady her. She ignores me. She yanks her pajama bottoms down with one hand and hoists her half-naked self up onto the toilet seat with the other. I slouch back into my bubbles.

She leans forward and rest her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands, a thinker smaller than Rodin ever imagined. Mommy?

- Yes?

I don't love you.

- No?


- Not at all?

Not all the time. Only when you do fun things.

- Did we do fun things today?


- Did we do fun things yesterday?


- When do you not love me?

Some of the other time.

- When do you love Daddy?

All of the time.

- And why do you not love me all of the time?

Because I only love you some of the time.

- That hurts my feelings.

Okay. Dramatic sigh. I love you most of the time.

I debate whether or not to press her on this. I know that if I ask for a more fulsome declaration of love, I'll get one. I also know that she'll try to extract a price.

I decide that I'm fine with that.

And if you ask me for something tonight - like maybe will I stay in your bedroom with you, and read you an extra story? - and I tell you that I don't want to, because I'm hurt that you only love me some of the time...?

Then I will tell you that I love you all of the time.

We sit - I in my bath, she on her porcelain throne - and think about this.

We have stop talking now, she says, because I'm going to do my poo.

And she did. While I sat in my rapidly cooling bath, watching the bubbles deflate around me and marveling at my little empress, setting her boundaries, defining her terms. Letting my heart feel its hurt, and then letting it go and watching it swirl down the drain in a little flush of pride.


She's still very sick. We don't know what it is. Hopefully, it's only a virus and we can keep her hydrated until it works its way through. Until then, I sit on edge, waiting for little tyrannical demands, waiting for petty and imperious dismissals, waiting for my little dictator to resume power.



Blogger Amy Urquhart said...

Oh, you guys ended up at the hospital? Poor little sweetie. Hope she's feeling better. xo

12:03 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

Speedy healing to your little empress.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Kyla said...

KayTar is the same, "I love Daddy! Daddy is my favorite! Daddy is the prettiest!" I think it is normal.

Hope she feels better soon.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Sherry said...

I hope your little tyrant feels much better soon. Sometimes kids are so manic you just wish they'd slow down and be quiet but the second that sick lethargy hits, all you want is to see them running and screaming.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

Man kids can really stick it in and twist it a bit can't they? All the same I hope the little empress is on the mend soon. Take care of yourself too!

12:11 PM  
Blogger Angela said...

LOL, that was too cute not to share. She's very clever and independent. And I'm sure she loves you with her whole self. She's just experimenting with the power of words.

I hope she's doing better and you're doing better too. (and the boy too, cause I think you tweeted he was also sick).

12:12 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Humility has a whole new meaning as a mother. We're gluttons. For all of it.

Hang in there!

12:18 PM  
Blogger Loukia said...

Ahh, what a great post. Seriously. My son sometimes says that to me. Daddy! I want daddy! And I get hurt and offended and then I realize that he does love me too. Even if he says he sometimes loves daddy more.

My son was really sick in November. Really sick. He got worse, so we took him back to the Dr.'s and then we had to go the hospital for xrays because he had a bad case of pneumonia.

2 weeks in the hospital, IV's, blodo work, etc. And then he needed surgery to drain fluid from his lung.

We were in the waiting room, waiting for the surgery to be over. The Doctor came to find us. "Everything is fine. He's asking for his father."

Yeah, that crushed me a little bit, but he was okay! And I ran like the wind to see him. :)

12:20 PM  
Blogger Mrs.Chattypants said...

Happy to hear the girl is home. Hoping she feels better soon. :)

12:28 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

How scary for you guys!! Hope she gets better soon!!!!!!

12:32 PM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

Surviving having your heart ripped out by your child may feel easier than having your teenage heart ripped out by first love and that is because of unconditional love BUT, oh but... why do they have to do it? Testing limits is what childhood is all about, I guess.

Sending all my strength to you and Emilia, Gigi is very worried for her friend.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Christy said...

I hope she's feeling better soon.

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

prayers that she gets well quickly and (((HUGS))) for you :)

12:58 PM  
Blogger Jaden Paige said...

I hope your little star gets well soon :)

I also kind of hope that my girl doesn't end up telling me this! I'd probably cry, instead of being all smart about it like you ;)

12:58 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

What so impresses me is that the Emilia that *is* so exactly reflects the wonderbaby she *was* when you were first writing, remember? She and the cat engaged in power struggles, etc?

My own little tyrant veers the other way: for her, I am one of her very own limbs. She can't imagine me not attached to her ... but that isn't to say that she imagines I have either autonomy or authority.

Tyrants. They come in many varieties.

(I hope she gets well soon)

1:07 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Oh that sucks you ended up in the hospital!

And nothing like the pierce of stinging words like "I don't love you" to make you feel all motherly and warm inside. But... it's because she's closer to you that she can express herself like that. She knows she can say that without fear of rejection. Not that the knowledge that she is only a little girl asserting will make you feel any better though!

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't worry, your little boy will never say those things.

3:14 PM  
Blogger litanyofbritt said...

i hope your little cherupb is on the mend soon.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

I hope you're reading this and she's fast asleep and BETTER!

Hospitals suck. Especially with ungrateful tyrants, bless her heart.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Della said...

I have memories pretty far back in life. I know that as a very little tyke (I *think* pre-school), I remember interrupting a meal with sobbing. I told Mommy to take me aside, at which point I tearfully told her that my tears were because I loved Daddy better and I knew that would hurt her feelings. (Please don't ask the obvious, logic does not apply to children).

At the time, the disaster was averted by my mother's being very nice about it, not acting hurt at all and telling me that she was a Daddy's Girl too when she was little (and if she was honest, even after she grew up).

Today, some 1/4 century later, anyone who asks would hear that Mom is my best friend (after the hubs, of course). I have loved and adored her my whole life.

From a prolonged subscription to your site, it is obvious to me that I am nothing like your daughter.... at all. Except fabulously brilliant (bwahaha).

It's pretty obvious you're not in throes of agony about your situation, given your wry comments. However, if there is any comfort that you need to derive that can be found in my story, let it be that perhaps the little empress doesn't exaaactly know what it means to love someone, and/or doesn't know herself as well as she thinks she does.

Also, you people and your Twitter. I have been resisting but then I MISS WHAT IS GOING ON! I could have known all about this 24 hours ago. You're breaking down my resistance...

6:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't breathe when my kids are sick, although as they get a bit older, it does seem to get easier. And your daughter is obviously so secure in how much you love her, that she can say exactly what she said and know that it won't change your love for her one bit.

7:44 PM  
Blogger A Crafty Mom said...

I'm so sorry she's so sick, Catherine. What a week for you. Lots of prayers things turn around soon.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Blog said...

Oh, Catherine. Thinking of you. I hope she feels better soon and that you're okay.

9:02 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Hope she's better quickly.

I figure these are training runs for when they're teens and hate us all the time.

9:19 PM  
Blogger CatrinkaS said...

Heart breakers. Little crushing heart breakers.

I remember, as a kid, believing that I loved my mother every inch as much as she loved me. That we were frustrated the same AND loved the same.

I thought that when I didn't like her so much, she must not like me either. And sometimes? When I really didn't like her? Well, that evened out, too. It had to, right?

I grew up.

I had children.

I learned in very short order how totally unbalanced the whole thing is. How, while I love my mother dearly...? The love I feel for my children is sometimes desperately painful.

It seems SO out of whack. That while they NEED me, THEIR need is for tangible somethings, that I can always give. What I need from them might crush them with the weight of its importance - if they knew.

We might all implode if it were truly, fully mutual all the time.

Sweet, fickle, honest and clueless little girl... I hope she gets better soon. Love and good thoughts your way.

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Meli said...

I hope that the Empress feels better soon.

9:47 PM  
Blogger  said...

It's amazing how unconditional love can be so subjective. I hope your daughter is well soon.

12:46 AM  
Blogger illahee said...

oh, i hope your little girl is better soon!

2:47 AM  
Blogger Badness Jones said...

I hope that she's all better soon - and although it's hard to live with a tyrant sometimes, I'm glad that these girls have such a strong sense of self to help them through life. Hugs.

6:59 AM  
Blogger witchypoo said...

Sending her wellness vibes, and you relaxing vibes. This is so hard.
You are in my heart.

7:40 AM  
Anonymous Shannon said...

I* remember my little girl saying the "I don't love yous" and it killing me. But it does pass, I think they prefer their Dads because they don't get then to themselves quite as much, we are with them so much. My little son is starting it now, and though it hurts, I know they are just sorting themselves out. I try not to make it look like it affects me...
I hope baby girl feels good soon. The potty is a good sign! Hang in there..

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Meg said...

Do you know how many conversations take place when I am in the tub and my daughter comes in to poop? I'm glad it's not just us.

I hope she's feeling better. And I hope your feelings are ok. She loves you, Daddy is just more fun because he's not the one who stays home with her.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I am sorry that this is happening. I understand the worry and the feelings on uncertainty that you are feeling right now. My daughter has been in the hospital twice since she was born, she was diagnosed with Nephritic syndrome, which means that her kidneys don't work the right way.

I hope that she starts bossing you around fast!!!

10:10 AM  
Anonymous anonamommy said...

I am thinking of you and hoping that you small, lovely dictator makes a full and speedy recovery!!!

10:13 AM  
Anonymous nippits queen said...

Your daughter sounds like a fighter. im sure shell get through it...

11:40 AM  
Blogger the new girl said...

Aw. Here's to hoping she is up to bossing you full-time again soon.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com said...

I hope she's feeling better soon!

Don't take the words to heart too much. It sounds like she's confusing love and like. I'm sure she loves you all the time.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Sending love to you and your little one! Hope she's up and running around soon.

2:07 PM  
Blogger Julie Marsh said...

Thinking of you guys.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

My prayers and thoughts go out to you and your family..especially your little one. There is so much tragedy going around lately that I pray it skips over you.


3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May the sickness pass as quickly as it apparently came on. Blessings to you both.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Karen Bodkin said...

At least you know no one will ever push her around!
Hope all is well now...been thinking about you guys. xoxo

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing greater than a child who feels safe enough with you to tell you things you won't want to hear.
She loves you more than she can possibly understand at this age. But she will some day.
Hope she gets to feeling better very soon - it is never easy when our little ones are sick.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Baino said...

Hello. I came over from Sydney Australia, after a long line of links on your five things about being a mum meme. I have been mesmerised by your blog. It's funny, tragic, interesing, heartfelt, beautifully written, honest and truly wonderful.

Mine are 22 and 24, still living at home and believe it or not, when they're really sick the pangs are the same, in my eyes they revert to 3 year olds!

I hope you don't mind. I haven't posted the meme yet but will and link back to you. It has become a global phenomenon. I can't believe the sadness you are going through with your sister's plight and virus or not, a sick child is always a heartwrenching thing. Warm thoughts for your little dictator and believe me, you are far from a bad 'mommy'(can't get used to that turn of phrase - we're 'mums' out here!).

6:54 AM  
Blogger Delphine said...

I hope she gets better really really soon.

7:10 AM  
Blogger Jaelithe said...

I hope Emilia recovers quickly and resumes full dictatorial duties soon. The Free Pachina movement needs her leadership.

I am going to show this post to my husband. He's the one who gets the "I don't love you as much as I love Mommy" silliness around here. I keep trying to tell him that of course our son loves him, no matter what he says-- I see it all the time, how much our son misses his father when he's gone-- and that being the parent the child ALWAYS WANTS is not all it's cracked up to be, but he still gets hurt.

(Perhaps once Jasper is older, you'll get to experience being the favorite parent for a while. From my rather extensive anecdotal observations, it seems that old saw about little boys tending to like their mothers more and little girls tending to like their fathers more actually cuts wood.)

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com said...

I just came by in search of an update on your beautiful girl. I hope Emilia is doing well; I'll keep checking back. My fingers are crossed for all of you!

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Sarcastica said...

Oh Catherine :( poor little E, I hop she feels better soon! You know she doesn't mean it that way, she's a typical 3 year old - GIRL for the matter lol. Just wait til her teen years, but when she grows up your relationship will be completely different, although I'm sure you're not in any rush to see that since they do grow up too fast.

Give her a kiss and tell her to feel better from me! Thinking of you guys!

3:14 PM  
Blogger Katherine said...

You don't know me but I enjoy your blog (fellow mommy of an imperious toddler girl and a baby who thinks sleep is optional). I've seen your latest tweets and am feeling worried. Sending prayers/good thoughts your way.

8:46 PM  
Anonymous EarnestGirl said...

May she raise her scepter very soon and wave it imperiously about. You have been a good Mum to raise a girl who can speak her mind. And knows when she needs to be tender too.
I think it is OK for them to love Daddy more. Means Daddy is a pretty good guy. Maybe he gives in more than you. Maybe he is less available than you. But she has a loving Dad. What girl doesn't benefit from that?
May the magic blog charm work.
(((( hugs for you & your heart ))))

9:59 PM  
Blogger Anissa Mayhew said...


I've done that hospital floor walking too many times. I don't know if you're home by now, but I hope that you're feeling more grounded and I hope the Dictator is feeling better QUICKLY.


ps...she loves you all the time, she's just messing with you..it's how Dictators work

10:50 PM  
Blogger Candace April said...

Hope she feels better, soon.

When my daughter wakes up to find my husband has left for work, she screams, "Don't want Mommy. Want Daddy!"

She's also a little dictator.

11:36 PM  
Blogger Momily said...

sending healthy vibes . . . hoping she is out of the hospital and everything is back to normal soon!

12:23 AM  
Blogger Mom O Matic said...

Fully understood your twitter about not being in the headspace for the hospital. I remember when my son was really sick and we had to go to the ER and I was crying and begging my husband to take this trip. (Because of his frequent seizures I had been back and forth to the ER far too many times.)But it didn't fly because my son wanted me with him.

I hope your daughter is feeling better and that you are as well.

2:10 AM  
Blogger Lydia said...

I hope she is better soon! Hospitals are so sucky.

Although boys are supposed to love Mommy more... mine tells me he hates me about once a week, usually when I say no.

To which I reply, "That's your prerogative. However, you still have to listen to me."

Within 5 minutes the sweet 4-year-old is back, and I am glad he feels secure enough to tell me what he is feeling.

(Does that sound good? Cause really, it RIPS my heart out.)

5:46 AM  
Anonymous Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com said...

Still waiting. Still hoping for good news.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Joy said...

Sending all the prayers and best wishes that I can...

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope you are quickly all home safe again.

I have to say that my daughter had the same reservations about me. She didn't have a daddy present but when I told her I loved her would announce that she loved her dog. Like I didn't know that. Of course, she had to love me because she did but she was not giving in by admitting it.

Now she has a son who announces to his dad regularly that he loves mommy more. Mommy is a goddess. A baby girl will be arriving in June. We will have to see her love decisions.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Liz Miller said...

Thinking of you and so glad she's recovering!

4:13 PM  

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