I received an email scolding from my father for skipping Love Thursday this week, but in my defense, I was sort of busy wallowing. Yesterday was just one of those one-thing-after-another kinds of days, and I was not feeling the love, I admit it.
Which brings me to a little epiphany I had last night. But first, an update after y’all were so concerned that I was going to scar my child for life with the silent treatment: And I preface this with just a couple of things. First, I love comments, and I read and consider them all, and I love that folks get so invested and passionate in the things we talk about here. Truly. Second, I wonder sometimes if people realize that we all have our biases and fears and internal whatevers that sway our perception.
Like, you do realize that when you’re begging me not to inflict this random torture on my child that the situation you go on to describe is nothing like what I’ve just postulated, right? Maybe?
My own mother left an impassioned plea for me not to use the silent treatment because (in part) she so desperately wishes she had never used it on me. Except that… she never did. She has her own memories of the silent treatment—unpleasant ones, obviously—but I think they were enough to keep her from ever utilizing that particular method on her own kids.
So. I had informed Chickadee that I didn’t think I could speak to her until she learned to speak more respectfully to the rest of us. She went off to school; I went about my day. She came home and we each went about our business, and save for a couple of times she tried to ask me questions over dinner, it really wasn’t even obvious that I wasn’t talking to her. Apparently it was bothersome, though, because before bed she all but tackled me and refused to let go until I spoke to her. What I said then was, “Start talking or let go of me. I’m not the one who has something that needs saying.” And then she talked, starting with an apology and going on from there.
Less than 12 hours of silence, well-explained and half of it spent apart from one another, and it came to its logical conclusion without any scarring of which I’m aware.
Of course, the next day brought a whole ‘nother incident which doesn’t even bear repeating, but suffice it to say that yesterday was not one of those I Am An Awesome Parent days, but more one of those Being A Parent Sucks And My Children Are Psychopaths kind of days, and on those days, I have a hard time finding the love.
But: On to the epiphany.
Part of what happened yesterday is that Otto and Chickadee had a little showdown, and I found myself wanting to play referee as they sniped at each other, and finally I all but stamped my foot and demanded they knock it off. “YOU need to be the ADULT here and cut her some slack, because she is the CHILD,” I said, pointing at Otto, “And YOU,” turning my jabbing finger to my daughter, “need to STOP OPTING OUT OF FIXING WHAT YOU BREAK.”
I stood there glaring at two of the people I love best in the world, and an interesting thing happened. Otto spoke calmly to Chickadee about the choices he’s made. He told her that he chose us, that he chose HER, and he knew what he was getting, and he took it on because he loves us. And he knows she probably feels sometimes like he ruined our family and made her life more complicated and that it’s all his fault…
… and she stood there nodding and agreeing while my heart fractured and my eyes watered, because it’s been almost three years and HOW, HOW CAN SHE STILL THINK THAT…
… and he told her, just as calmly, that it’s okay for her to think that, and he can take it, but he still loves her and we’re still going to make this family work, no matter what she thinks.
Chickadee put her head down and nodded. Otto nodded. And there was a bit of sniffling and then some hugging, and it was over before I had time to process what, exactly, had just happened.
Later that evening, a friend who is also remarried called me in a panic, because one of her children had completely melted down, seemingly out of the blue, and finally, what came out is that her new husband (who is really not very new anymore) is WRONG and BAD and should GO AWAY and NEVER COME BACK because he is the source of everything unhappy, ever. My friend was, understandably, distraught. The whole thing was shocking and worrisome and horrible.
But as we talked I realized the common gem of truth in both of our situations, and although it’s a bit late for Love Thursday, here it is: Our children have very little control over the trajectories of their lives, at this point, and that’s scary, but the ability to express their discomfort, and even verbalize all of their “bad” and “wrong” feelings, particularly about that one person they both love and still a little bit resent, is a sign of victory. It’s a sign that they know they’re safe. They know they can spew bile and lend voice to even the meanest and most selfish undercurrents, and they will still be loved. My child can enthusiastically agree that my husband has ruined her life—and know that he will not hold it against her. My friend’s child can insist that she did a horrible thing in remarrying—and know that she will allow for that venting but that life will not change based upon the charge.
It’s so hard, watching our kids find their way through life’s changes and disappointments, no matter what. It’s harder still to watch them use the men we love as their scapegoats. But this is as it should be, and fortunately we married good men who are up to the task. And if nothing else, I think our kids know it and are doing better than we sometimes think.
They are safe, and they know it. That’s huge. I don’t know about my friend, but I am going to cling to that right now. I think our kids are doing some hard, hard work. And they’re going to be okay.
(Happy, Dad? LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO!)
If you prefer something a little lighter for your Friday, you can go on over to Five Full Plates and read all about what I learned while I was sick. Spoiler: The only epiphany over there is that I’m a whiner, and really, we all knew that already.