The other night I went over to the house for a visit and Anna came out of the office with a woeful expression on her face and the sad tale of her mean sister Kate not drawing for her anymore because she was doing math. It set the tone for my entire visit, this tearful little face with the trembling chin. She got frustrated when I didn't draw the stick figure EXACTLY to her little dictator's unspoken expectations (I drew it with hands for the love of god, what the fuck was I THINKING??). Then it was time for bed and I do believe all parents will understand the extreme, frightening, nearly bloody tantrum that suddenly erupted at the words, "Okay my darling, bedtime!" Oh well. I carried her writhing, screaming body upstairs anyway and dumped her on my bed to get her undressed.
"But I didn't get to cuddle with you mommy! I want to cuddle!" She screamed in my face. Trying to stay calm, but needing to count to ten, I said, VERY sweetly, "Oh my darling, let's get your PJs on and then we will cuddle all you like!"
"I want to cuddle RIGHT NOW!"
"PJs first, cuddle after," I said, wondering why I had made that stupid stipulation. Now I had to stick to it or be disobeyed forever because my kids will never trust that I mean what I say if I back down one iota from "PJs first, cuddle after." Why do we put that kind of pressure on ourselves as parents? Jesus.
Well. She started to cry and asked me again, probably for the 58th time since we split up, why don't I love Daddy anymore?
"I do love Daddy, darling, I always will. But it's complicated and sometimes grownups just can't be married anymore."
"Daddy says you don't love him." OH FUCK. Now, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt here because Anna has been known, frequently, to say that I said things or he said things that were completely and totally untrue. So let's just say he didn't say that to her and move on.
I took that little morsel of human existence into my lap and she wrapped her arms and legs around me like a monkey and lay her damp face on my shoulder while I held her tight and stroked her hair. "I think you may have misunderstood Daddy. We will always love each other. But what's really important my girl is that I love YOU. You are smart and special and you will always be my girl. I will always, always love you and be there for you when you need me." As I said that last part, I choked a little because the hardest part about this is that I'm NOT always there for her when she needs me. One of us is, she always has one parent available when she needs us, but sometimes you just need your mother. And there are days where I'm no where to be found, so essentially, I just lied to my baby. In that split second, I pictured her, 14 and hooked on crack because she was abandoned by her mother at the age of four and never learned how to form lasting bonds with people which led to a life of crime. Yes, that is where my head goes.
Anyway, she calmed down and I put her to bed and lay down beside her in that tiny toddler bed and sang I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane at her insistence. Fuck, that is a sad song to sing to the baby I have to leave behind.
Later, after Kate and I had spent some time watching this incredibly cute Minecraft vlogger (she admitted that half the reason she watches him is because he is so cute and the other reason is because he has pugs), Anna was crying out to me again. I went to her room, "Anna, Anna, my darling, my love, what's wrong now? You need to go to sleep and you've kicked off your covers," I said as I leaned down to tuck her back in.
"I had a hard day today mummy," God, they know how to break your heart, don't they? So back I went into that tiny toddler bed where she "made a spot" for me and I sang Mockingbird to her. Told her she was my girl, that she was my favourite and don't tell Kate. (don't worry, I told Kate the exact same thing moments earlier, they're both aware of my duplicity).
I have no words of wisdom about how to handle this hard time except to say that I express my deep love for her whenever I see her. There is no point in explaining why mummy and daddy don't live together. She doesn't understand, nor should she be burdened with those reasons at her age. Maybe one day, if she is still interested, I will try to explain it to her. Right now, I concentrate on developing our bond into something meaningful and unbreakable with the hope that it will be strong enough to keep her from losing her mind as a teenager and becoming a prostitute for drugs.