Those three words.
I thought I had more time (dramatic voice).
I thought we would make it well into the teenage years before I heard them, honestly.
But no, 6:45 on a Friday morning, they were thrown at me by my 4-year-old.
Lee was sitting on the floor of the living room playing with his toys and I asked him to put his shoes on. “I’m not ready to leave Momma,” he answered.
“Okay bud, take five more minutes and then put them on for me,” I tell him.
After the promised five minutes, I remind Lee to put his shoes on. He doesn’t.
After about ten minutes, Evie and I are ready to walk out the door and Lee is still sitting on the floor.
“Come on baby man, shoes,” I say as I turn off the television and kneel down to pick up some of his toys to put in the basket beside him.
“Did you turn my show off? Why are you cleaning up my toys? I’m playing with those, there isn’t even a mess,” he says.
By his tone, I can tell something is off. He’s not his normal self.
“I need you to put your shoes on so we can go to school baby, we’re running late,” I say slowly and calmly.
“You turned my show off,” is his only response.
“Baby. Shoes. Now.” I say, having picked up all of his toys and returned the basket to its cubby.
“I hate you,” he says quietly, looking at the floor where his toys just were.
“What did you say to me?” I ask.
“I HATE YOU!” he screams right into my face.
“Don’t ever say that to me again, do you understand me?” I ask.
I didn’t yell. I didn’t scream. I didn’t react.
Leaving him on the floor, I go and pick up Evie and take her to the car. Once she is situated, I go back inside to find Lee putting on his shoes.
He asks me to grab his tablet, I tell him no. He stomps his feet at me. He then tells me to grab his tablet for him, I tell him no. He tells me he wants his Daddy, I tell him I do too.
And I point to the front door.
He stomps to the car, arms crossed, lips pursed, silent.
I tried asking why he was so upset on the drive, but he wouldn’t answer me (though he did roll his eyes a few times).
When we arrived at daycare and I opened his car door, the tears started coming. He put his face in his hands and just cried. Whatever it was that made him so upset was crashing down on him all at once. And because he’s my boy, I know that he was also feeling guilty for yelling at me and feeling sad beause he knew that he made me feel sad.
With Evie on my hip, we both leaned into the car and just held on to him and let him get it all out. Eventually, we made it inside and I crouched down to hold his face in my hands.
“I love you,” I tell him.
“So much?” he asks.
“So much,” I assure him.
It has been a while since I sat in the entrance of daycare and held on to one of my babies, especially Lee, but this morning, I held on until he let go.
And I hope that whenever he needs it, wherever he finds himself in life, he will always have someone there who will just hold on.