The mind of a four year old is a wonderfully unpredictable thing. Whereas with adults I can pretty easily predict the direction a conversation will take, with Orla I frequently land in discussions that aren’t even on the map.

So it is that her new favourite thing is the ‘I hate game’. What started as a teasing misunderstanding – “you like chocolate?! I thought you hated it!” – quickly turned into a giddy listing of all the most impossible, ridiculous things to dislike, with the assertion that she does.

“I hate cuddles!”

“I hate pink!”

She’s beside herself with giggles at the implausibility of it all. She lists her favourite people, her schoolfriends, her teacher. Has to whisper in my ear when she gets to “I hate mummy“, because it’s practically blasphemy in her eyes.

“I hate wrapping paper! I hate Spring!”

The list is becoming increasingly obscure, from both of us.

“I hate lying down”, I tell her. “And gin. And melted cheese.”

“I hate glitter. And paddling in the stream!”

And then, with a shiver of excitement, she thinks of something especially brilliant.

“I know! I hate… myself!”

She launches into triumphant laughter at her joke, but I have to pull her in for an urgent cuddle all the same. Hearing those words from her mouth is a strange thing: to know that to her the idea is ludicrous, as it should be. To think of all the times I have said that to myself, and to others, with no suggestion of humour.

And that, I realise, is my job, right here, as her mama: to make sure that it stays that way. To do my best to ensure the idea of hating herself remains a ridiculous joke, because she is so assured of her worth, and value, and loveableness.

I gotta tell you guys. Sometimes I hate parenting… ??

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