Image credit (here)
Is it wrong of me to wish the Ex would move to Siberia? Sigh. Yes. I guess it is. Dammit.
One of the things about this whole parallel-parenting situation that I’ve learned is—I just have to let go. For the sake of the kids, let go. Trust that they will be okay, that they will learn to stand up for themselves. Trust that their love for their father is really going to be okay, and not turn them into care-taking worriers who will inherit concerning traits like getting into relationships with men who will take advantage of them, bully them, make them feel bad, along with making them feel good. Trust they will learn to stand up on their own two feet and learn how to be a woman in this world, how not to undervalue themselves, how to expect respect as the norm (not the exception), how not to lose sense of their self-worth.
That’s a lot of trust. I don’t know if I can do that.
I guess I can teach them to use their words—to talk (or write, or express) how they feel. When they’re hurting from what their father said or did, hug them and allow them to cry, soothe them, confirm that what happened is not okay, to recognize the difference in how things can be done. And when they’re feeling defensive about their father, allow them room to care about their dad so much, because as any child does, they love their parent with all their heart.
Recently, I did have to pick up the phone (see why I haven’t, here), to remind DD1 about her music class--the previous week she'd forgotten. DD1 was talking and telling me about her day, and then she said, "Oh, and then DD2 got BUS-TED," and then she said "Ow!" and was quiet a second, then she totally changed the subject. I asked her, "what were you saying about DD2 honey?" and she just ignored me and kept going with the other subject and acting weird on the phone, so I dropped it.
I asked the play therapist about it, who responded, well, it’s what happens at dad’s house stays at dad’s house, and I’m sure what happens at mom’s house, stays at mom’s house. Just keep the communication channel open. They’ll tell you if it’s really concerning.
(I asked my therapist about it—her opinion is that the girls don’t feel safe talking to me at their dad’s house—they sense it’s a sore spot with him. They know they can’t show their affection to you when he’s watching, so that’s why they do sound stressed when they do.)
So…I broached the subject with DD1 when they came home, and DD1 (always defending her dad) didn't want to talk about it, but DD2 did, and then DD1 chimed in a little bit.
Apparently the girls were at the Ex’s friend’s house last week end (they have two girls, and before divorce, I spent time with them, very sweet girls), and DD2 didn't want to leave when it was time to go. So DD2 and DD1 said their dad left DD2 there, and DD2 said she spent the night all alone and she was scared of monsters, and then DD1 said well, we came back for her, mom. Then DD2 said that she wasn't allowed to sleep in daddy's room, and that she was all by herself and scared of monsters all alone all night, and DD1 got to sleep in daddy's room. (DD2 was crying big alligator tears at this point and clinging to me for big hugs). DD2 also said that when they went to get ice cream, DD1 got a big huge scoop, but I only got a little scoop.
So all I did was just hug DD2 a lot and tell her that I loved her, and I was sorry she was scared, and that it's not okay for anyone to make her feel scared. And she just kind of cried it out and then we read a story.
So...the way the story came out, it was kind of jumbled up, in a 5 year old way, so at first it sounded like DD2 was left at their friend's house all night. Then that DD1 slept in dad's room all night, then it sounded like DD1 just watched t.v. in dad's room until late, according to DD1--and again DD1 was very defensive about not wanting to talk about it too much, so I didn't ask anything more.
At any rate, life seems to be okay now. Later, I did ask DD1 if she had her own bed at dad's house, and she said yeah, and that she was watching t.v. in dad's room. She said she and DD2 share a room at dad's house, with their own beds, and if one day Uncle moves out, then she'd have her own room, or if Grandma dies, she'd have her own room. (That's my macabre, concrete 4th grader).
It’s hard to tell what really happened, all I know is that I have to be there for my girls, to tell them it’s okay to have their feelings, help them untangle the complications. I worry about DD1’s protectiveness with her dad, and that DD2 will learn to protect him, too. But what else can I do?
I wish I could do more than trust they’ll get it, one day. Trust that they’ll learn to be strong, one day. Trust that they’ll trust their voices, one day.
On a more positive note—we’re celebrating our doggie’s first birthday this week end. I borrowed a pan shaped in a bone and we’re going to bake her a cake. Plus, I’m going to make their favorite—my special grilled beef rib recipe. So hopefully…the next few days will be filled with happiness. At least I can trust in the week end.