Monday, August 02, 2010

They Were Strangers to You

“Mommy, do you have a Dad?”

“Yes, Roo. Pop is my Dad.”

She was quiet, thinking.

“But Grandma Seattle un-married him.”

“They did get un-married,” I said, using her language, “but he’s still my Dad and she’s still my mom and they still love me the same as when they were married.”

She was quiet again.

“What did it feel like when they got unmarried,” she asked.

“What did it feel like to me? I was sad, I guess.”

“How was it sad?”

“Well, things weren’t the same.”

“Like what?”

“Well, like Christmas. We used to all have Christmas together, but after they decided not to be married, I had to choose where to spend Christmas – with Grandma Seattle or with Pop.”

“Who did you choose?” she asked.

“I took turns for awhile,” I said, “and now we all have Christmas with Grandma New York so I don’t have it with either of them.

“What did it feel like when you got a new Dad and a new Mom?” she asked.

“What do you mean by new mom and new dad, Roo?”

“What did it feel like when Grandma Seattle and Pop decided to marry other people?”

“You mean when Grandma Seattle married Mark and when Pop married Nana?”

She nodded.

How did it make me feel? I wondered what to say.

My mom’s (now-ex) second husband was both physically and emotionally abused as a child.

The bruises of his early years seemed to remain forever purpled beneath any cocksure hide he ever tried to wear.

I think my awareness of this made me more tolerant of him - especially at times when I otherwise I might have found myself impatient with the way he repeated things he’d already told me or came across as the foremost authority on whatever was being discussed.

What does it feel like, she asked...

My father’s wife talks a lot -- more when she’s nervous or anxious.

She’s often both nervous and anxious.

She’s kittens and rainbows to my sushi and gourmet coffee. We’re both clichés, but not necessarily complimentary ones.

My Dad’s wife has ideas about the way our ideal relationship should look.

I think she wishes I would let her to provide me with comfort and closeness like a second mom or at least a treasured confidant, but it’s not something I need or want from her.

I don’t feel that kind of connection and I don’t pursue it.

I think she routinely feels rejected and hurt by me though it is not my intention to make her feel that way.

I am grateful for the companionship and care she provides my father.

What did it feel like when they decided to marry someone else?” Roo wanted to know.

A long time passed as I struggled with how to respond.

“They were strangers to you,” she said, somehow finding the right words on her own.

It did feel like that, strangers suddenly part of my family.

“I don’t want that to happen,” she said in earnest.

“I don’t either,” I assured her.

My mind drifted to the impending separation of our close friends.

Soon they plan to tell their children, friends of our children, about their decision to separate.

We will have to talk about it with our kids too.

I will have to find the right words because while I support anyone's decision to end a marriage and trust that the choice has been made for good reason, I lament the way it causes the little ones to fret.


Jenifer said...

I think you answered her as honestly as possible and with answers that she could comprehend.

My parents were divorced when I was really young. Both remarried. My Dad passed away at Mom is now married (happily) to her third husband. When the girls were younger I wondered how on earth I would make sense of this in terms of how I would explain it all. They have a relationship with my step mom (they call her Grandma) and of course a close relationship with my Mom.

They still sometimes get confused though. It is an on-going process this understanding of how people can still be your parents and not together.

I am sure your friends separation is going to cause both the kids to worry. I think you will be reassuring them quite a bit. Having two households was all I really knew, but deep I longed for the simplicity of a family with no lengthy explanations. It makes me fight harder to never be in that situation.

Maybe you can find some good books to help the kids understand what their friends are going through. Best hurts our parent hearts when the big bad world comes crashing in.

Sayre said...

Roo is very perceptive, isn't she? You handled that well.

Kyla said...

It is a tough situation to explain or to experience.

Merrily Down the Stream said...


Anonymous said...

Roo is so special. And so are you. Grandma Seattle

John Ross said...

One of those difficult to get a handle on discussions, for sure.

At some point I get to try to explain to my now six year old, the difference between me, his Dad since his birth, and biological father, whom he has never met(and hopefully won't at least until he's grown).

Lora said...

my four year old is really interested in divorce and falling out of love and what happens after.

My folks are split and remarried/recoupled but my inlaws are still together. And of course Jake is afraid that it could happen in our house someday.

Poor guy.
Poor Rooster Girl.
I love this age, but I have a hard time with how smart they are.

colorbox said...

Sometimes reading your blog is therapy. Today was one of those times. Thanks, as always.

Leah said...

That quite possibly is the hardest part-the children. I am very close to my Dad's last ex girlfriend who he dated 5 or so years and I call her mom. She is like a second mom to me. My stepfather who married my mom at 11(i'm in my 30's) we have an ok relationship.

Kevin Charnas said...

Sometimes I fool myself and think that children see the world through rose colored lenses... And then, they remind me.

Thanks for sharing that, my friend...

SUEB0B said...

I didn't comment, but I was moved and nominated you for Five Star Friday. Hug