“I hate you, Mum.”
I am preparing the dinner: grilling steaks, chopping up broccoli for steaming – and I wonder where this sudden outburst has come from.
“Is it because I rubbed out your homework?” He had scribbled in his homework book earlier – luckily in pencil – so I had rubbed most of it out and told him he’d need to finish it properly.
“It’s because you’re too bossy to me. I wish you weren’t my Mum. Other Mums aren’t like you. They don’t boss their kids about.”
I secretly doubt the truth of this, knowing I am strict, but also how mild I am compared to many.
He is sitting over by the fire, calling out these things to me – a litany of complaints and unforgiven hurts.
“You’ve hurt my feelings a lot.”
I think of how I have often been reduced to shouting at him, caught up in my own stresses and time-constraints, unable to cope with the additional pressure of his rudeness or lack of co-operation. But tonight I feel calm and serene – no need to defend myself.
“I am sorry, Darling. I know I have hurt your feelings. I try my best to be a good mother, but sometimes I get it wrong. I make mistakes. I’m not perfect. None of us are.”
“I know you’re trying to be kind to me now, but it won’t work.” He seems determined to stay in his bad mood; though I do manage to entice him into grating the cheese for me – one of his favourite jobs.
At dinner, the mood continues. He calls me “Nicola” – to emphasise how far I have fallen out of favour.
“You are sacked,” he tells me, his mouth full of buttered baked potato.
I laugh to myself. But certainly not out loud.
“You can’t sack me, darling. I’ll always be your Mum, no matter what. And I’ll always love you.”
“Well, I don’t love you. And I wish I didn’t live with you, and I never had to see you again.”
“When you grow up, you can move out of home. And you don’t have to see me again unless you want to. But no matter what, I’ll always love you.”
Later he is softer, tells me he is feeling a bit sad and unwell today. He laps up my attention as I help him with his homework, read to him and settle him into my bed. He hugs me hard with his strong little arms, and I know he loves me, despite all his harsh words. As I love him.