She’s 7, by the way.
The other night I heard my daughter crying softly after I put her to bed. I went in there to see what was going on and I asked her:
“Why you cry?” in the same voice I use when I am speaking as her favorite stuffed animal.
It takes her a while to fess up to the issue so I waited and dabbed her tears in the meantime. Finally she said, “My life is crap!”
I wasn’t entirely surprised by this. She’s like her father in that she doesn’t divulge her feeling readily and sometimes needs to be coaxed into discussing an issue. She was teary a few days ago and wouldn’t tell me what was going on. I tried to coax the information gently, but she stood fast and wouldn’t budge. No sense making her dig in deeper.
I asked her why she felt this way and she went on to tell me about an issue at school, then she said that she was upset about daddy and I getting divorced and just “all the stuff!”
The first instinct is to discredit her complaint, that her life is crap.
In my opinion it isn’t crap. I’ve done my best to do what I can for her and her brother within the context of my income and also keep trauma at bay. Instead, I asked her to tell me about the school thing. She explained the issue and for her privacy, I won’t divulge the details. Suffice it to say that I said that to have good friends, you need to be a good friend. I explained how that would work for her and gave some suggestions. I did tell her that what she isn’t trying to actively change, she is actively choosing. We discussed some things she could try to make lunch and recess more pleasant.
We then moved on to the subject of the divorce. Going right back to the “What you don’t change, you choose,” thing, I told her that I was confident that she would understand why I chose to leave my relationship with her father, despite still living here, in the future when she was grown up and had had some relationships of her own. She admitted that she didn’t completely understand and yet trusted me when I said that she would someday.
In the past when this topic has come up and her anxiety about how the future will look troubles her, I talk to her about how there are some things I just have to do. That I am being pulled to do these things, that it is important for my soul, for that thing that makes me me. We discussed why I can’t do them in the city and a move to the countryside is important. We talk about how things change all the time and that some changes are small and slight or they take a long time, like growing up, and they don’t seem like such a big deal. Then there are abrupt, big changes that happen quickly and they make a big splash and it takes time to get used to the new.
This is why I talk with her, and her brother, about the upcoming changes as much as I can without sounding like a skipping record. (What the equivalent of that in the new century? Do mp3s skip?)
Then we moved on to the old adage, “Count your blessings.” I don’t guilt trip my kids by saying stuff like “Other kids live in foster care or on the street. Be grateful for what you have!” I don’t think that really resonates with children who don’t know what that’s like.
Instead, we really do count our blessings and go through the things we are grateful for: a safe, warm house, our pets, her favorite stuffie — Larry. We talk about good food and getting ice cream. We talk about walks in the park to see the bison or playing in the creek in the summertime. We talk about sunny days laying in the grass with our cat Ziva and also Christmastime. We talk about trips to see family and playing with her cousins on the big swing at their house…and watching the bees do their thing. We talk about those small moments that make life wonderful. The list goes on. Those are our blessings.
My mom would say to me “This, too, shall pass” and it does. When the going gets rough, we have to be reminded that it doesn’t stay that way forever, unless you’re the Cleveland Browns. Things have to swing back the other way but impotently waiting for that to happen isn’t the way. The way to is to make those change, the changes you can make, to help the process along.