I don’t exactly love my life right now. I try to be grateful for what I have (too much, always), but truthfully, things kind of suck right now. Last week was exceptionally hard as it was our first week in our new life. Simi and I live in our home now. And it suddenly feels empty and…not right. OK, I’m going to be really glad to never have to do another load of that man’s laundry, but that’s somehow not enough to make me feel better.
My girl is a stoic one. I’m careful about what I share about her because she’s pretty big on privacy. Yet, I’m finding that the “motherhood voice” has been talking to me a lot this week. You, moms, know what I’m talking about, right? It’s the voice that tells you how you are doing everything wrong, immediately after it told you that you were doing everything right. In short, I’m finding myself at a loss for how to work through all of this emotional fuckery with her. Do I force her to talk about stuff? Let her go on acting like she’s perfectly fine? Let her eat as many cookies as she wants so I know there is some pleasure in her life? I really just don’t know.
There have been so many awful things to deal with- or maybe just a few but the enormity of their awfulness makes them feel like a lot- but the worst was having to tell our daughter the news. I can’t imagine anything about this divorce will be worse than that. There’s nothing like shattering your kid’s heart to make you feel like a real winner in the parenting game.
I wrote this letter to Simi, well, to myself, before we let her know about the divorce. It says it all, really.
Dear Daughter of mine,
Tomorrow I will wreck your life. I will sit you down and tell you how this safe, nurturing home, this life of love with our cozy, little family is over. Alongside your father, I will lie to you. I will tell you that we decided this together, not that your dad just decided to quit. I will tell you that it’s OK to be sad and afraid. I will tell you that we are still your family and we love you more than anything. And we do love you more than anything. I will not be honest, though, because I am going to say these words to you: “Everything will be OK.” You will not know that while I think that things will be OK, I have no idea how to make it so. I won’t tell you that I am really terrified and angry. I won’t let you in on my secret: that I am broken and shattered. I worry that you may have to give up your home. I worry that we won’t make it on our own. I worry that even though your dad says he will provide for us, I’m still scared he won’t.
My own parents divorced when I was two years old. I have no memory of it so I don’t know if or how it hurt me. But you are eight years old. You are eight years old and you love your dad beyond measure. You love reading comics with him. You love teasing him. You love making popovers together. You love when he comes home every evening. He does not know that you ask me every single day, “What time is dad coming home tonight?” He does not know, does not want to believe, that his leaving is going to be your first heartbreak, perhaps one from which you will never recover.
I want to tell you I am sorry. I do not now how to make this better or easier for you, and believe my, I have tried. I don’t have any desire to see that face you make- the one you make when you are trying really hard not to cry. I don’t want you to feel rejected, abandoned, or unloved, but I know you may feel all of these things. I know there may be times you will be furious with me, even though I tried to stop this from happening. And I want to tell you that you have my permission to be as angry with me as you want, for as long as you want. To allow you that is the very least I can do.
Your dad is a good dad. He respects your feelings completely, and he has an unyielding level of patience. I have often watched you together and been so overcome with emotion, so overcome with joy, that you get to have the kind of dad I always wanted for myself. Nothing in this world has brought me as much pleasure as witnessing the love and connection that has grown between the two of you. I don’t know what his leaving means for your relationship. I don’t know what your future with him looks like. I want you to know that as I write this, I know he loves you deeply. You have changed him for the better.
Dear, girl of mine, I am your mother. I don’t know what kind of mother you think I am. I don’t know if I’m any good at it, or if just maintaining my regular level of mediocrity as a parent is enough. But I do know this: I will always, always do everything in my power to remind you that you are loved. I know you may never get over this divorce. I’ve read the research and I know this may mess you up in ways that stay with you for your entire lifetime. I don’t know that I can do anything about that. I only know that I can go forward, loving you, keeping you safe, and trying my best to give you what you need.
Although I don’t feel like I am worthy of it, I hope that you can someday come to forgive me. I hope that you can someday come to forgive both of us. You are a gift to me. You are more than I could have ever hoped for and you are certainly more than I deserve. I want you to thrive in this world. I want you to feel like the opportunities for joy are endless. I want you to love this life so much that you feel like it could never be long enough. I know this divorce, for a while, anyway, will keep you from feeling like you can be any of those things. Happiness must feel far away from you. It feels far away from me, too. But I promise I will do my best to get us there.