“I hate you! I wish you were never my Mommy!”

These words echoed in my ears as I recalled what my six-year-old daughter, Grace, had said to me just hours earlier. And over what? She ripped me wide open because I told her to stop watching a cartoon and clean her room.

“But the show only has ten more minutes left! Can’t I just finish it first?”

I said NO as one can probably guess. Her room looked like an E-5 tornado had hit it. Plus, I had already asked her to clean it three times before it got to this point. It was just dangerous to walk through it now!

My heart hurt when I made her turn off the tube because of the destructive blows her mouth was expelling in my direction. Do six year olds actually say I hate you these days? I felt like I was given a shot of pure adrenaline mixed with numbing reality and spiteful vengeance. Like my mom knew what she was talking about when she said, “One day, you’ll understand.”

I really didn’t expect this to happen so soon.

There’s a unique connection between myself and Grace that I don’t have with my other three children. She was my preemie. Born at 33 weeks to a very nervous mama, she came into the world and directly into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for six days. I couldn’t nurse this precious beauty the whole time she was in there so the hospital staff supplemented with formula. When I brought her home, it took a long time for her to take to breastfeeding because she had gotten used to drinking from a bottle. It was an emotionally draining time.

So I held her close. Oh, I held all my babies close but this time it was different. I felt powerless because I couldn’t fix her.

I sank into postpartum depression. I got good at smiling during the day to those in my world but when the doors were closed and it was just me and Grace, I cried. I was very grateful that I was able to bring my baby girl home as I know that many mothers do not get this chance. I was humbled that I was divinely picked to nourish her little 4 ½ pound body to a healthy weight.

But I was scared. The weight of my responsibility as a parent had never hit me harder than at the moments Grace and I were alone together. Some days, I just couldn’t handle it. The result? Paralyzing anxiety.

So on this dramatic day years later when Grace lashed out at me with anger in her eyes, it took a toll on this mama’s heart. Doesn’t she know how important she is to me? That I bawled my eyes out from helplessness when she was born into this world so tiny? My worst fear was within arm’s reach and yet she came home.

She came home. Only to scream ugly comments to me that poke at the very identity of who I am. She said she wished I was never her mother. Doesn’t she know? I ache every single day because I AM her mother. The truth that she is a gift that I barely received is something I carry with me everywhere I go. It is a part of who I am.

I didn’t yell back at Grace that day. I wanted to. Her tone could have easily set me off and made me remind her of what I’ve been through on her behalf. But I couldn’t allow myself to go there. Not again.

Been there, done that. Giving into fear and helplessness didn’t get me anywhere when she was an infant and it sure wouldn’t get me anywhere now that she was a sassy first grader.

I am her mom. And I wear this title proudly. What Grace sees in me will shape who she becomes. How I respond to her moments of weakness and frustration will show her how to be when the wind gets knocked out of her one day as she mothers her own children. Sure, I might cry in my closet when her words sting but I won’t be a victim to powerlessness ever again.

I can’t be. Her life truly does depend on it.

Harmony Vuycankiat

Harmony is a proud Air Force wife and blessed mother of 4 children. Her heart’s cry is to love without limits and live without regrets. She plans to use her criminal justice degree to tangibly help marginalized women and children all over the world. Writing, singing, and running are her methods of soul therapy and Starbucks coffee is her happy juice. The quote that she lives by is, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say ‘I’ve used everything you gave me.’ ” (Erma Bombeck)