Lean Into Love
By: Martha Eleftheriou
A few months ago, my 9- year- old daughter and I had an argument about something I cannot recall. Right after the argument she turned to me and said, “I hate you, you’re disgusting.” The sound of those words pierced me straight through the heart. She had never before spoken so rudely and disrespectfully to me and I was crushed. I immediately did what any parent would do and reprimanded here for her bad choice of words and gave her consequences. She said she didn’t care about the consequences because she reminded me that she hated me and that I was disgusting. At this point she repeated it again and I simply told her she would have the consequences whether or not she like them, cared or didn’t care, and then I went up to my room and cried. I mean, I totally broke down sobbing. My precious baby girl for whom I’d done, and will do, anything was telling me such cruel and hateful words. I couldn’t fathom it. I couldn’t understand it. What had I done to be treated like this? Where along the way did I fail as a parent?
I went downstairs and she could see that I had been crying but she did not apologize willingly. My husband demanded that she apologize to me to which she did reluctantly but things were about to go from bad to worse, and boy did they ever! For almost the entire month, she would repeat the words, “I hate you, you’re disgusting.” for no reason at all. I could tell she didn’t mean those words and I knew she wasn’t upset with me for any specific issue but what I realized was that she understood the power of her words over me. She realized that she was hurting me and somehow, because I was hurt, she felt empowered. Try as I might to ignore her, she kept repeating the words whenever she remembered.
I drove myself crazy trying to understand why she was behaving this way. We do not use those words in our family, she has not been abused in any way, shape or form, and she’s been raised in a very mindful and loving family. I couldn’t understand it other than jealousy of her much younger sister. In the meantime, I decided to greatly increase my self-love and self-care practice as I could feel her words were tearing me apart emotionally. I sought out support from trusted friends and mentors, and I decided that as much as I wanted to push her away from me, I needed to love her even more.
I started saying to her in return, “Well I love you no matter what,” and I could tell when she heard those words, she was thrown off a bit, although not enough to stop. I called a psychologist a friend had recommended a few weeks ago and we have since started seeing a therapist.
It’s been almost a month and I’m so happy to say the hurtful words have drastically decreased in frequency. Although the therapist has been a great listener and holds space for my daughter to talk about her fears surrounding going to bed, the fact that I was willing to openly talk about my feelings with a stranger, in front of my daughter, I feel has helped her to see that there’s no shame. There’s no shame in getting the necessary help and in taking care of our needs in a variety of ways.
Parenting is the hardest job in the world. We all feel like total failures at times. We all mess up. We all hurt our children unintentionally and sometimes, even intentionally, and likewise, they do the same things back to us. It’s part of being human.
What I’ve learned so far is this: take extremely good care of yourself when your children are stressing you, choose to love them even more, let go of needing to understand why they are the way they are because you may never know, seek help and remember to honor your strength, resilience and the unconditional love you have towards your kids.
And lean into love.
Martha Eleftheriou is married and a mother to two beautiful daughters ages 8 and 1 years old. She is a transformational and spiritual Life Coach, a certified elementary school teacher (OCT), Reiki Master and Yoga Teacher (RYT). Aside from passionately working with people in helping them to uncover their dreams and purpose, she loves reading, writing fiction and non-fiction, as well as taking regular nature walks. On the inside, she is an eternal soul seeker. She loves to question, ask, learn, un-learn, re-learn and live her life as true to her core values of love, compassion, honesty, and service as best as she possibly can. She lives with her family in King City, Ontario, Canada.