I have just refused to buy Sophia a cheap, plastic, single-use Disney Princess Tea Set.
Right after I say no, she’s running away from me, past racks of discounted designer clothing and handbags in colors nobody wants, toward the front door. I have to make chase because outside is a very busy parking lot and the doors are automatic. I catch up to her just as she makes her way into the vestibule, pick her up airplane style, and carry her straight out to the car. All the while, she is protesting, flailing, and threatening. “I’m going to hit you, if you don’t let me go, Mommy.”
“I would keep your hands to yourself if you want any chance of getting to listen to music in the car.”
She hits me.
“That’s it. No music.”
“Can I please have a book instead?” she asks, full of false sweetness.
I don’t answer her until I’ve got her strapped in. (It is essential that she is strapped in before I say this. She holds on to a shred of hope and offers up a modicum of compliance while uttering this last request.) “No, you may not.” I inform her. My denial sends her into paroxysms of rage.
“I DON’T LIKE YOU. I DON’T WANT YOU TO BE MY FRIEND ANYMORE.”
The insult is new, and it is a strange thing to hear this playground threat—something that has clearly been said to her—aimed at me. The words must have hurt her, a barb that, a week ago, she hadn’t known existed, is now tucked way in her own arsenal of anger. I have the sense that it will become her go to phrase when denied. She’ll level it at me, her father, even her grandmother.
My anger is muted by sadness. A little more of the real world, of how people treat each other, has crept into her awareness. And it’s not just the fact that I know she has been mistreated that bothers me, but that she’ll use these words to mistreat others.