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“I love you even when I say I don’t.”

These words came out of nowhere from my 5-year-old. I was standing in the bathroom with her (we still don’t like to go potty without mommy standing right there), and she wouldn’t look at me while talking to me. You see, my 5-year-old and I have been in more spouts than ever before. She’s found this new attitude in her first couple months of kindergarten, coming home with new phrases including, “No, I don’t want to–you do it.” It hurts my heart, makes me frustrated, and leaves me asking myself where I’ve gone wrong.

If you come around my house, you’ll often hear me tell my kids to take a breath and use their words to tell me what they want or need. Sometimes, I lose my cool and yell at them to stop whiningI can’t help them if I don’t know what they want. I’ve been working hard to reduce the temper tantrums and instead, teach them to speak up for themselves. I get really proud of my kids when they use their words.

Until those words hurt me.

I will always remember the day she told me she hated me and wished I’d die. We were on the way to an appointment for our family business, and she was mad because I told her she couldn’t have candy before dinner. She repeatedly told me she wanted her dad and I told her he couldn’t be here right now.

Her exact words, “I don’t want you though. I hate you. I wish you’d die.”

It felt like my heart had stopped and sank down deep into my belly. I won’t go into details about how poorly I handled it, sobbing loudly and pushing her away until I could calm myself down while she sat bewildered, not knowing what she did wrong but knowing something she said was bad.

RELATED: Teaching My Child To Deal With Big Emotions Starts With Me

Let me share a full picture of this time in our life: It was a few weeks into busy season at the farm, the kids hadn’t seen daddy much, I had been trying to keep everything afloat in the season when I felt alone. My daughter was drug around between daycare, business appointments, and exciting (and late) visits to the farm to spend what little time with daddy we could. Translation: she was tired, missed her dad and her sense of normalcy.

The only way she knew to communicate how she felt was through anger and frustration.

I’m teaching my kids to use their words to get their physical wants and needs. When she told me she doesn’t love me, my initial reaction was to be hurt. It’s important to remember, though, that this was her trying to figure out how to use her words to get what she needs emotionally. While she’s learning to ask for a ponytail in her hair instead of holding her hair back crying because it’s in her face, she’s not learning to say that she wants my attention, that she’s feeling lonely, or that I didn’t get as excited about something she’s so proud of as much as she wanted me to.

If I’m being honest, talking about my emotions is embarrassing.

I think anyone can agree that stating “I’m feeling sad” or “I feel frustrated because” is not the most comfortable to admit. There are many self-help books and magazine articles about relationships and how one partner assumes the other partner knows how they’re feeling and expects them to take action on it. Like when your partner says something that actually hurt your feelings and you give them the silent treatment assuming they know their comment ticked you off. Then a fight happens.

If we as adults need to put our feelings out there for another adult to understand us, then we need to also model how to put words to our feelings for our children in a basic and raw way. Then, one day, instead of lashing out in anger because they don’t understand what they’re feeling, they may be able to tell us “I’m feeling frustrated. And that is the beginning of a great conversationa beautiful way to connect with our children and really help them.

Parenting is emotionally exhausting. You’re teaching your children who, in turn, are teaching you.

RELATED: Mothering a Child With Big Emotions is Heavy

So here’s to being open and raw with how we feel. Here’s to feeling silly by saying phrases like “those words hurt me” or “I feel anxious from all the noises around me.” Here’s to putting words to our feelings for our children, leading by example, and guiding them to find their own voice. Here’s to hearing a little less “fine, I don’t love you anyway” and a little more “I need you.”

Our children aren’t responsible for our emotions, but we are responsible for teaching them what feelings and emotions are, that they are okay, and how to put words to our feelings so we can get what we need.

And momma, try to remember: they love you, even when they say they don’t.

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Gabrielle Talley

I am a blessed momma of two from rural Missouri striving to raise my kids rooted in faith and dirt. As a farmwife and business owner, I am learning how to blend the work-life balance for each season of life. Passionate about faith, loving my babies, personal growth, and learning about what all life has to offer. 

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