You are here: Home
Filed Under: Conversations I have with my daughter, Divorce changes you, parenting, Single Parenthood, Sydney, The REAL after (divorce) party, Things that will never be funny., Times When My Kid is Hurting Tagged With: blogging about divorce, coping skills, defending yourself without speaking negatively about the other parent, Divorce, let's keep adult things away from child's ears, parental alienation, role-playing, stop trying to control me through our daughter, Sunday Night Woes, taking responsibility for what I write
When you’re a parent and you’ve dragged your children through a divorce, you know there’s going to be scars. It’s inevitable. You simply try your best to keep the scars to a minimum—few and nicely healed, not plentiful and festering.
From the surface, it appears that Sydney has struggled more. She was older when her dad left and she’s always been very emotionally precocious. She’s a thinker, for sure. She’s a worrier. She doesn’t want to simply know what’s happening, but what it all means. She asked me once why she is this way–why she feels so much all the time. I told her that I feel she and I have this in common. Although it feels like a curse when you’re young and inexperienced, it’s a gift when you’re an adult and you’ve figured out how to use it to help yourself and others.
I try to walk the line between validating their emotions and not encouraging them to wallow in them. I don’t want to reinforce feelings of helplessness, but rather encourage the healthy expression of feelings so that they can move past them and look forward in a positive way. And I certainly don’t want to give them the opportunity to exploit their sorrow from the divorce to gain sympathy, attention, or something tangible.
Lately, Sydney has been lamenting the changes in her father’s household. At times, she’s bitter and emotional, particularly on the Sunday evenings after she’s spent the weekend with him. I try to convey compassion, but I remind her that some things she has no control over–she simply needs to find a way to accept the unsavory moments and embrace the bits of goodness. Very few things are all good or all bad, I remind her. I think, for the most part, I’m successful at making her feel as though I “hear” her, even though I’m not willing to engage in a conversation that spirals out of control in its negativity.
I’ve learned to dedicate a few moments when they first return home to listen to their perceptions. We process for a little while and then I conclude it by saying something like, “And is there anything else you want to tell me?” Once they’ve purged, we return to our evening and don’t make reference to the prior mentioned topics.
Tonight, however, Sydney deterred from our routine. At about 8:15pm, she slinks into my bedroom, where I’m working on my computer. I urge her to return to her bed, and I state that I will come and tuck her in in a moment. When I enter her room, she quickly shuts her book, grasps my hand, and says desperately, “Mommy, I need to talk to you.”
Me: What about, sweetheart? You should be sleeping.
Her: I’m so sad. Daddy is going to marry _____ and I don’t want him to!
(We’ve had this conversation before.)
Me: Hmmm. Yes, this is desperately sad. I think we should stay up all night and worry about it.
Her (carefully trying to hide her burgeoning glee): Really?
Me: Yes. It’s our only choice, because I’m sure us worrying about it tonight is going to change his wedding plans.
Her (increases the angst in her voice): But I don’t think it will change his mind! He’s going to do it anyway!
Me (sighing): I agree. So maybe staying up and worrying about it all night won’t actually accomplish anything. We should probably just go to bed.
Her (trying to regroup): Wait! I also need to tell you how I missed you so much while I was at Daddy’s!
Me (eagerly): Yes! Let’s stay up and talk all night about that!
Me: Okay, well, tell me. This is probably going to be a long story and it will probably take you all night to tell me.
Her: Well, I missed you SO much. I thought about you a lot.
Me: Yes? And?
Me: I know! Maybe we can talk about how you’re trying to manipulate my emotions first by acting super sad and then by telling me you missed me so I’ll let you stay up longer.
Her (starting to giggle): Yes, maybe we should talk about that.
Me: Maybe we can talk about how you need to ramp up your act. Like, you could cry. Or act terrified.
Her: Okay. Wait, does “terrified” mean “scared”?
Me: Yes. Maybe you should rehearse it a little and get back to me another time. But, like, not at bedtime.
Her (sighs in defeat): Fine. Whatever.
Me: Good night. I love you.
Me: Go to bed.
Her: I did miss you, you know. I miss you all the time.
Me: I know, honey. I miss you all the time too. Syd?
Me: Try missing me with your eyes closed between now and 6:00am tomorrow.
Her (giggle): Okay. Geez. Good night.
Filed Under: Bad Mommy Moment, Conversations I have with my daughter, Divorce changes you, parenting, Single Parenthood, Stuff I'm probably not supposed to laugh at., Sydney, The REAL after (divorce) party, The Single Life Tagged With: conned by the kid, emotional manipulation by children during divorce, playing it cool, precocious, remarriage