Yesterday, Littletree started hitting me.
We had to go home after spending most of the day with a friend, but Littletree doesn't really handle goodbyes very well. So after about an hour of trying to gently separate the girls and get in the car, I just gave up.
I said to Littletree, "I really want to go home now, and I want to get to the post office before it shuts on the way, and I'd really like you to come with me." and I started walking.
Of course she followed me, shouting that she didn't want to leave, and tried to make me come back to the friend. I took a deep breath, and said to her again, calmly, "I'm going home now and I'd be really happy if you come with me, I'm sorry it's hard for you to say goodbye to your friend"
Littletree responded by hitting me. My first reaction, which is learned from my childhood, would be to hit back. Thankfully I don't act on that response; I reminded myself to remain calm.
After the third hit, I took another deep breath, and said calmly, "I feel bad when you hit me"
Littletree hit me a fourth time, and I looked at her and said "I love you."She sobbed once, and took my hand and walked with me to the car, and then she said she was sorry.
In that moment, I could have followed my "instincts" and smacked her, or shouted or lost my temper. It was a test of myself to look at her, with her face scrunched up angrily, reaching out to hit me, and see that she is the child I love, and she needs to feel that.
In the instant I said "I love you", it felt like someone had flicked a switch and changed the entire universe. The quality of the light changed, Littletree's face cleared, and she walked with me to the car willingly.
Now I can clearly see that when I tell her it's time to go, and she doesn't want to, she feels that I don't love her, because I'm doing something that makes her unhappy. Of course, that makes her act out, and then I react to her acting out, and it confirms her feeling unloved.
I put myself in her shoes. My mother is not letting me do something that makes me happy, and she's shouting and angry at me.
That simple action; saying "I love you", showed her that I do love her, even when she hits me, and that I'm on her side, even when we have to do things that aren't what she really wants.
Littletree was able to let go of her battling with me, because you can't fight against someone who is working with you and supporting you with love. She was able to relax, and feel sorry for hitting me, and tell me so.
We got to the car and had a nice cuddle before driving home :)