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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Daily Chai and Kids of Divorce, Part 1

Today's grande Chai Latte came with the apocalyptic warning that they were running out of the chai mix and I might not be able to get my latte tomorrow. I better enjoy this one like it's the last one I will ever have. It's damn good too so at least I will have good memories. 

People ask me all the time, "How are the kids?" when I tell them my ex and I have separated. It's a tough question because I'd like to say they are awesome and resilient, but I can't see inside their heads. I don't REALLY know how they feel about this or how much they're holding inside. I told them both from the beginning that they can talk to me anytime about anything and it was okay to be sad. I thought that was important because we're always telling our kids, don't cry, it's okay, here's a cookie, but don't cry. Don't negatively express yourself, don't express anger or hurt or sadness, be happy and for the love of god, don't cry.

Well, fuck. This sucks, they SHOULD cry if they want to, this is possibly the shittiest thing that will ever happen to them. I know when my dad left, I thought my life was over. Everything changed. The circumstances of my separation are very different from my parents, but the effect is the same. Split houses, not seeing each parent every day. Not being a family in the sense that you have always understood family. So, my dear girls, cry if you need to because this sucks. Lord knows I've cried rivers since I made this decision.

I hope my girls feel they can talk to me when they're sad. The problem comes when they don't talk to me and they hold it in, for whatever reason. Maybe they don't want to make me feel bad, maybe they just can't express the reasons for their unhappiness. Maybe they are just tired of talking about it. Fuck, sometimes I feel like if I have to talk about it anymore, I might go crazy. Other times I can't stop talking about it. And the thing is, I can't force them to express every emotion they are having, no matter how badly I want to know what is going on inside their heads. However, there is one story about Kate that I can relate here that makes me think she's doing okay.

She was freaking out on me because she didn't want to have a bath. And I'm not talking refusal to have a bath, I'm talking full out hysterics because I told her she needed to wash her hair during her bath. We got into a screaming match about it and I had to leave the room because we were going nowhere and the mom guilt about yelling at her was settling in. Plus, I was losing my shit just a tiny bit too much over the bath war and I needed to back off. When I came back, she was in the bath, but hiccoughing and crying like a crazy girl. I knew there was more to this than a bath and thought it was maybe more about this being my last night before I handed the reins over to my ex for the week. I didn't want to make that suggestion though because I needed to hear it from her. For all I knew, she was upset because she'd had a fight with her best friend, or a boy had teased her or the teacher got mad at her. The minute I suggest it's about our family, she'd latch on to that and I'd be left wondering if that was really the problem.

After her bath, she was still crying a bit and I asked her again, "What is this really about? I know you don't like your bath, but for god's sake, you have one every other night, why is this a constant battle? I think there's more to this than you're telling me, but you gotta say it to me, you gotta tell me yourself what's up."

"I don't like baths and I don't like when you yell at me and I don't and daddy aren't together anymore," the last word ending with a howl of anguish. My heart, hardened by the ridiculousness over the bath war, melted into a puddle and I gathered my girl up in my arms while she sobbed about us breaking up. Finally she started to talk and she said, "We won't go to the park together anymore, we won't go swimming or skating together as a family and we..won't....go to DISNEYLAND EVER." Thank fuck that kid has her priorities straight. I stroked her hair and I told her to talk and to cry and to be sad, that it was okay to be sad about this shitty thing that had happened. But then I thought, she needs to understand something...something vital about what is happening here.

"Kate, you need to listen to me. I know you are sad that we won't do stuff the four of us and that's true. There are things like dinner and stuff that we won't do as a family anymore, but I want you to really think about this. When have we ever really done anything the four of us? I'm the one that takes you to the park, I'm the one that goes skating with you, I'm the one that takes you swimming and shopping and to the movies. We've been the three musketeers since Anna was born and mummy and daddy splitting up isn't going to change that. I'm still going to do those things with you. The best part is, daddy is going to do those things with you now too. So now you have two parents that are going to take you places and play with you and do different things so that you get to have all sorts of fun and spend time with each of us."

It was like a lightbulb went off over Kate's head. Truly. She stopped crying and nodded her head. I could practically see the realization spreading across her face. Ever since then, she's been happy and looking forward to the future, looking forward to moving to a new house and starting at a new school. Don't get me wrong, not all sunshine and rainbows and unicorns. She still has her moments of doubt and sadness, but they don't last long and she carries on. As we all do. The best part is my ex told me tonight that he had them out tobogganing yesterday, so I know I spoke the truth to her that night.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow this is so helpful. Telling our 8 year old tonight. It needs to be done, but so not looking forward to it. Thank you.