Verbal Abuse

I DON’T LIKE YOU!

YOU ARE MEAN!

YOU ARE THE WORST!

I WISH YOU WEREN’T MY MOM!

These tirades get hurled at me every day–more than once. I joked with someone recently that if anyone else in my life said such hurtful things to me so consistently, my friends and family would be begging me to leave that relationship. And they would be right. Anyone who consistently slams you with insults is verbally abusive.

But I’m not going to leave this relationship because it is with my sons.

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Whoever said, Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me, is a damn idiot. I know this because every time Eddie doesn’t get his way lately, he tells me he doesn’t like me. Even though I know it’s a typical 6-year old reaction, it still hurts.

Eddie and I had a very rough start; the first year of his life was hard on both of us, as I have written about many times. His birth was traumatic for both of us, his colic was traumatic for both of us, and my postpartum depression was traumatic for everyone. There are large chunks of that first year, that I have no memory of his babyhood. In fact, as I watch Alice learn and grow, I can remember Charlie doing the same things, but I can’t remember Eddie’s phases. Cortney has to remind me, and even then, without looking at photos, I don’t remember.

I spent more than a year thinking I was not supposed to be a mother. My body rejected pregnancies, it wasn’t the right shape to give birth, and my brain was chemically imbalanced. Everything about my physical being rejected motherhood. I needed medical intervention to stay pregnant, have my babies, and keep my brain from destroying myself. It was only after years of talk therapy coupled with medication did I begin to heal.

Through it all, Eddie loved me anyway.

He had no idea what was happening to me on the inside. He didn’t know that my brain was struggling to match my heart. He didn’t know that his needing my cuddles at night were healing me, and therefore healing a relationship he didn’t even know what broken–the one between mother and son.

When Charlie came along, I was well into a routine with my meds and my therapy. I knew that PPD was probably going to happen, and I was prepared. From the first night alone in the hospital with him, my relationship with Charlie was different, more whole. I tucked him up under my chin and that is where he stayed for his first year of life–never far from my arms.

Eddie still comes to me when he needs to talk. He opens up to me, even when he sort of doesn’t want to–like when he has gotten in trouble at school. Charlie still comes to me when he just needs to be held–when he needs touch.

But they have both started flinging hurtful words at me (and Cortney) as well.

It started with Eddie. When he didn’t get his way, he would tell us he didn’t like us, or that it was the “worst day” of his life.  Now it’s almost predictable.

Eddie, please put the tablet away; it’s time for bed.
Ugg. I don’t like you, mom. 

It’s become his knee-jerk reaction for anything he does not want to do.

We have talked about how these are hurtful things to say, but he has entered a very egocentric phase and cannot understand that someone else’s hurt feelings matter. Eddie, my always kind, always thoughtful boy, now claims to not care about anyone else–especially me, his dad, and his brother (because he doesn’t always do what Eddie commands).

My rule-follower suddenly sneaks things behind my back and then blames me when he gets caught. He does or says something hurtful and claims it is my fault he lost a privilege. No matter how many times we explain that he “acts his way out of” a privilege like screen time or an extra book before bed, he claims we are the worst.

It’s getting harder and harder to respond in a positive, loving, affirming manner to these outbursts. I have caught myself saying, “great because I don’t like you right now either” and “whatever. I don’t even care.” Not only do I know this sends the wrong message, but Charlie has been picking up on all of it too.

Charlie’s mouth is even more venomous than his brother’s because he has no idea the impact of his words. He knows it’s “naughty” to talk like that, so when he is angry or frustrated, that is how he lashes out: with hurtful words. He repeats what he hears, so we get a lot of “I don’t like you, mom. You are not my mom.” Or “I don’t even care about you, mom.” While I know he has no idea what he is even saying, it stings–especially because his tone is much, MUCH nastier than Eddie’s for some reason.

Last week Thursday I hit a wall. It had been a particularly challenging day in the land of teaching middle school, and I went to pick Eddie up from the after school program. He is normally not too excited to have to leave the fun he is having, but Thursday was awful. He was rude and snotty and just an all around jerk to me both in front of the teachers that run the program, and in the hall when we were alone. His words ripped at me so badly, I almost started to cry.

I don’t know if it’s a phase or if Cortney and I are somehow failing to teach our boys kindness, but I need it to stop. They are not like this with anyone else–in fact we get compliments about how kind and engaging they are with other children and adults.

It’s just Cortney and me that are on the receiving end of all the verbal abuse.

How can we teach the boys that they are slowly killing our hearts with their words?

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