“This is all your fault! I don’t want you to be my mommy anymore! I want a dad and all I have is you! I have no one! I only have you! I don’t have anything everyone else has and this is all your fault!!!”
Those words cut me to the core in ways that I have never would have imagined were even still possible after everything my ex put me through.
I turned away, clasped my hand over my mouth, and squeezed my eyes shut as tight as I could, not able to look at the face glaring at me; the face of my six year old daughter.
It’s always my fault. It’s been “my fault” my entire life. I've been a supposed failure of a child, a failure of a wife, led an "apparent" failure of life really, and now I was being called a failure of a mother by my own child.
It happens to every mom at some point, the inevitable moment when your child suddenly blames you for every reason of unhappiness in their lives. It’s almost like a rite of passage to be honest; you aren’t really a seasoned parent until your child has told you what a horrible job you are doing of parenting them.
I just wasn’t ready for it yet and most of all, I wasn’t expecting to actually wonder if it was true.
“Ok….” I managed to stammer out, “everything is my fault so I guess I’m a terrible mother. Maybe we should just take a break from each other for a little while, ok? Take your apple downstairs and watch TV, I do not want to talk to you right now.”
She stood there in stunned silence.
Something tells me this was not the reaction she was expecting.
I turned, walked upstairs, flopped onto my bed, and buried my face in my pillow.
“Was this my fault? Is it my fault that her life is so hard?” I wondered. I was the one who chose her dad; it was me who chose the man that threw us away. It was me who didn’t save us sooner. She has no grandparents because I took her away from them. She has significantly less clothes, less toys, less food, less everything because I can’t provide for her in the ways that I would like to. Her life is harder because of a lot of the past decisions that I made and her life continues to be hard because of my limited time and financial resources.
Is she right, is this my fault?
I rolled over to face the ceiling, took a deep breath, and reminded myself to calm down and think this through.
“She’s obviously hurting” I said out loud. “Something must have happened because I’ve never seen her act like this before.”
I laid there for ten minutes or so trying to figure out what could have spurred all of this, when I heard a tiny, quivering, voice in the hallway.
“Mommy? Mommy, can, can I come in?”
“What do you want?” I asked her, heartbroken but unwilling to let her see me crack; holding my ground to reinforce the fact that it was unacceptable for her to speak to me that way.
She appeared in the doorway, standing there only for a brief second before running over to me, climbing on the bed, and throwing her tiny body down on top of mine.
“I’m sorry mommy! I didn’t mean it and I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. You’re the best mommy in the whole wide world and I love you to the moon and back except that I love you farther than the moon, I love you to Pluto and back! I don’t want any other mommy except for you because you do nice things for me like make dinner and tuck me in and take me to the park and I love you! Please still be my mommy! Please always be my mommy because I need you and I love you!”
I peeled her sweaty body off of mine and looked at her tear stained cheeks; her brown eyes frantically searching my face for any signs of acceptance.
“I will always love you and I will always be your mommy. You really hurt my feelings and it is absolutely not ok for you to talk to me like that, but even when I am unhappy with your behavior, I still love you even farther than Pluto and back.”
I then pulled her in for the kind of hug that only a mother’s arms can give; stroking her hair and wiping the tears off her cheeks. We sat there for a few minutes, I, still unsure of what upset her in the first place.
Eventually, I asked.
“What do you wish was different? What made you so upset that you felt like saying mean things to me?”
She took a deep breath before beginning to speak; her six year old mind trying to form words for things that her heart has yet to understand.
“School is having a pizza party for kids and dads. They said no mommies allowed, only dads and kids. They said if you don’t have a dad to bring your grandpa or your uncle but I don’t have those either. Everyone is going, everyone but me. All my friends gets to do a lot of things that I don’t get to do. I didn’t get any new school clothes, I was the only one wearing old clothes on the first day and that made me feel like everyone else was 'specialer' than me. I didn’t even get a birthday party this year. We were the only ones that didn’t go on vacation this summer. I didn’t even get to do the field trips at daycare, I was the only kid who had to stay and sit in the office all day! We didn’t even write letters to Santa! It’s not fair and it hurts my feelings. It makes me feel like I’m not special, like all the other kids are better than me. I’m mad that all the other kids get to do everything else ‘funner’ than me and all I have is you.”
She paused for a minute before uttering one last, yet poignant line in the life of a six year old;
“Everyone is gone and I’ll I’ve got is you.”
In that simple paragraph she summed up the biggest fears that I have had in parenting her since her father left, fears that I have written about before.
“All she has is me.”
Truth be told, she is right.
I don’t have enough time, enough money, enough anything to be everything. All I am is me. I’m not her father, I’m not her grandparents, and sometimes I suck at providing for her.
All she has is me and she is lashing out at me because I am the only one here to lash out at.
I wish I could say that just like on TV that thirty minutes later the entire situation was wrapped up, settled and finished so that we could move along happily with the rest of our lives, but sadly, this is just the beginning. This is the beginning of a long road for the three of us; a long journey without a map. She is getting older; she is realizing that her life is a little bit different than the lives of the kids around her.
She is right. She doesn’t have a dad, she doesn’t have uncles, or a grandparents. She doesn’t have new clothes and an always full pantry. She has a medical condition that until recently forced her to wear leg braces. She didn’t get a birthday party and she may not get a Christmas because of our financial situation.
She is realizing that she doesn’t have what the other kids have. She has fully grasped the concept that I am the only one here and that people do leave.
She is feeling abandoned.
She is feeling left out.
She is feeling as if she isn’t as good as the other kids.
She is realizing that the most concrete thing a child should have, the love of a parent, isn’t always so concrete.
She is feeling a tiny bit of what I felt growing up.
It kills me.
All she has is a mother and I sure as hell hope I count for something because as she pointed out, I’m all she’s got.
“I know it hurts baby. I know that I have to spend a little more time working than the other mommy’s do and I know that you get sad that you don’t have a daddy. Mommy gets sad sometimes too that our family is so small, but then I look at you and your brother and I realize how lucky I am because you are the two best people in the whole entire world and you get to be mine!”
We went on to talk about all the things that she likes about her brother and then I told her all the things that I love about her. As she started to pep up she insisted on telling me all the reasons why I am the best mommy in the whole world.
They are as follows:
-Sometimes I sneak a cookie to her when her brother isn’t looking.
-I climb into bed with her at night to read books.
-Even when she yells at me, she knows that I still love her.
-I work very hard putting laundry away even when she can tell that I have sleepy eyes.
-We have silly dance parties in our pajama’s.
She finished it up with “I know that you are the best mommy in the entire world because I know you would never leave me.”
Unfortunately at her age she isn’t able to understand that I’m working so hard for her. She doesn’t understand that I’m busy and tired because I’m trying to take care of her. She doesn't understand that while she doesn't have everything, I have even less.
She is six and she only see’s what she sees. Her reality is the situation directly in front of her eyes with no admissible and applicable circumstances whatsoever.
Mommy is busy and doesn’t always have time for her, mommy doesn’t buy her what she wants, daddy is gone, I won’t let her see her grandparents, and all the other kids are enjoying things that she does not get to participate in.
That is her perceived reality.
I’m going to make an effort over the next few weeks to spend some time with just her, a movie on the couch, an extra book before bed, special notes in her lunch box, and a new school outfit if I can afford it; the one that I didn’t realize was so important to her, something I wish that I had understood before. This isn’t about her wanting everything the other kids have, this is about her wanting to feel some semblance of being just as special as them. She wants to know that despite the fact that she has only one parent and no extended family, that she isn’t missing out on receiving the same amount of love and attention as the other kids.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I can’t give her everything that the other kids have but I can offer her something unique to our situation. I can offer her lessons and life experiences that will better shape her into being an amazing human being; but what I need to remember is that while that is all great and dandy, she is only six right now and she only see’s what she sees.
Breaking the cycle of abuse was only the beginning of raising a better generation in the DNA line.
Luckily for her, she seems to have a mom who loves her very much.
Luckily for me, she seems to think so too.
Now I just need to make she that she knows how special she is despite the fact that she is living in a situation where her perceived circumstances are telling her otherwise.
That night as we were eating dinner I was asking the kids about their day. My little guy piped up with “Sara hit me, she not my friend anymore. She make my feelings sad.” Before I could say anything my daughter looked at him and said what I have been whispering in her ear every night of her life since the day she was born “You are amazing. You are precious. You are smart. You are beautiful. Don’t let anyone tell you differently and don’t ever forget it because you are loved.”
I stopped chewing mid bite as I felt like my heart was going to explode out of my chest. I’m thankful we were eating ravioli because I think I ended up swallowing the whole thing without chewing; my eyes fixated on the situation unfolding before me.
She reached over and rubbed the back of his little three year old hand and told him “It doesn’t matter if anyone is mean to you, I think you are the most 'specialist' brother in the whole entire world. I love you to Pluto and back and mommy does too. Sara just didn’t know how special you are but mommy and I do, so don’t be sad. We are a family and all very important to each other.”
She might be realizing that she doesn’t have everything that the other kids have, but thankfully she is grasping the concept that to at least a couple people, she is the most amazing person in the world.
It’s just the beginning of a long road for us, but I like the path that we are starting out on.
Don’t forget to let the people in your life know how special they are to you. Just as I started the whole “no work weekend” campaign over at my house with the intentions of tending to the things that mattered most in my life, it is important to realize that while we may fully grasp the concept of “I am doing this to make our lives better,” it isn’t always that apparent to the people closest to us. Our long work hours, our household chores, they sometimes get between us and the people that we love the most. As much as we may understand why we are doing what we do, we need to remember that the people around us only see what they see.
Pull those people close to you and give them the kind of hug that only you can give them. You might not be able to give them what everyone else has, but showing them in any way you can that they are the most important person to you goes a long way in making up what you don’t have to offer.