So Mr. Personality and I have an ironclad bedtime ritual. We take a bath, we read books, and then I turn to him and say, "Good night, I love you." I hug him and give him kisses, whereupon he hugs me and kisses me back, replying in his soft little voice, "I love you too, Mama."
Tonight, that didn't happen.
It was fine right up to the "Good night, I love you" from me, but the reply was, "I don't love you Mama."
Ouch, you can bet that hurt. He has never told me anything like that before, and certainly no one has ever told that to him. When he is angry with me he will usually knit his eyebrows together and glare at me with a very direct, "I don't want to talk to you anymore!"
In the semi-darkness, trying to hide my surprise, I told him that he had hurt my feelings a little bit. In retrospect, I realize that was probably a bad move. But this came out of nowhere and it was like a sucker punch to the gut. I had been firm with him all day as he was pushing, pushing the boundaries like only an intelligent 3 1/2 year old can. We never fought or yelled, just me constantly reminding him of proper behavior. To be honest, I had thought all in all, we had a great day playing in the pool together. Dinner and bath were more pleasant than usual, actually, and fairly uneventful. As uneventful as they can be with a three and a half year old, anyway.
Regaining my composure, I told him that there were some times when he might feel like he didn't love me, and that was ok. I would always love him, no matter what.
I understand it was basically a power play. That he wants to show his ability to hurt me. Or even to be independent of me.
But, I think my heart still needs a band-aid.