Honestly, my first reaction came right from the ego. What do you mean you don’t like me? Why not?
But in a moment of supreme self-control – proof that years of therapy are finally paying off – I choked down my needy response and realized that what my son said was right on. He shouldn’t like me, at least not all the time. I have to tell him no, to set rules he doesn’t want to follow and then enforce them, punishing him when he crosses the line.
And while in this day and age, where we rank our popularity based on the number of “likes” next to our Facebook statuses, and kind of hope that our kids will be our friends, my son’s not “liking” me is actually a good thing, I think. It shows I’m doing something right, that he recognizes I care for him, even if he doesn’t always appreciate what that means. There’s a power dynamic at play in his statement, too. A recognition that I have some authority, an authority that’s important to him, though it frustrates him as well. As it should! What kid likes being bossed around by his parent?
It’s also a nice bit of emotional complexity for a three and a half year old, to hold two seemingly opposite feelings in his mind at once. I’m sure a lot of people can relate – certainly I can. In fact, I often feel the same about my son. I love the bugger to death, but he drives me to frenzy at least once a day – and that’s a good day.
Kind of puts a new spin on the old Smokey Robinson song, “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me,” eh? “You treat me badly, I love you madly… You’ve really got a hold on me.”