The other night, after a rousing game of chase, tickling and "who can scream the loudest in glee " with Daddy, the girls went to bed and spent the next hour trying to settle down. There is a weird correlation: The closer you are to quiet bedtime the more likely it is that a frenzied game of something crazy will ensue.
With lots of hugs, kisses and admonishments to be quiet they finally settled into bed. I went in a little while later to say my own goodnights (In my calm, soothing mom spirit that is guaranteed to cause eyelids to droop and sweet smiles hover on lips. Ha!)
After a hug The Princess said to me "Mommy, I don't like Daddy."
Now, there was much evidence to the contrary, starting with fact that she'd just begged him to tickle her to the point of vomiting and protested loudly when all games were declared to be at an end. And my instinctive response was to immediately tell her she was wrong and educate her as to why.
But I saw the gleam in her eyes. The question, the anticipation, and the WONDERING of what my response would be. Those words were rolling experimentally along her tongue. Because, to a 6 year old this is highly inflammatory statement. To the Dad in question it's rather inflammatory as well. But the response she thought she'd get wasn't what she needed and, more importantly, it wasn't the one I needed to give.
"That's okay. You don't have to like Daddy but he will always love you." Her head cocked with this surprise bit of information.
"Daddy and I love you. Sometimes you might be mad at us and sometimes you'll have lots of fun with us, sometimes we'll all be happy and sometimes we'll all be sad but we will always love you no matter what."
We're both practicing this parent/child thing. She's practicing the ability to be herself, to say what she feels, to be honest with the good and the bad. We're practicing how to create the space to let her do that. How to build the safety in so that when she says it at six or screams she hates us at sixteen she knows that the love is still there.
Plus this is a good way to start building a thick skin.