Being left behind…..
One minute we were having a `girl to girl’ secretive conversation in the bathroom so the boys wouldn’t hear, and the next, my 9 year old daughter was in floods of tears. Finally, I had decided to give her an answer to the constant question: “So, Mummy, do you have a boyfriend yet?”
I had managed to have a year long relationship (recently ended) without the kids having a whiff of what was going on. They suffered enough when my 10 year relationship with their dad ended, why should they live through any more of my mistakes. I like to keep things separate.
But this new chap, (let’s call him Brian), had managed to infiltrate his way into the family with amazing dexterity. He had already swopped DVD’s with my children, giving them some of his kids’ films to watch in return and spare clothes from his youngest son were currently being sported by my 7 year old. My daughter was not fooled – she could see something was going down.
I had decided to confide in her. The boys were not included only because I was afraid of the implications of me coming out the cupboard about having a `boyfriend’. I knew that the kids were so keen to have a full time father that I didn’t want to give them false hopes. I rarely have `girl’s talk’ with my daughter –something else I must work on – and she seemed excited to share this secret with me and old enough to accept that this was a new relationship and that we were not yet `in love’.
But suddenly, here she was, in floods of tears as I stood by bemused. She began to blurt out past events, rewinding the clock back almost three years to the day when her father had left. I was shocked and confused at the meteoric mood change and bewildered by how me having a boyfriend could trigger her most painful memories.
“I remember you crying when Daddy left” she blubbed. “And when we woke up in the morning he wasn’t there in bed when we came in to cuddle him.” I comforted her, still searching for a logical connection that would give me a handle on this situation. This was the first time in three years that she had opened up some of her pain and let it out so directly. I waited.
“I don’t want anyone to leave us again” she explained, and it was all suddenly so obvious that I felt angry at myself for not having seen it all before. I realised that despite spending three years telling all three children that their daddy left me, not them, the sense of abandonment was so strong that the fear of it happening again was as alive as it had ever been. Once again, I felt the guilt of having brought them into the world into a relationship that had not been strong enough to give them what they deserved – life long security as part of the package of feeling loved.
I reminded her of how daddy never left her but continues to see her every week and loves his children very much and she put on a brave face but I knew that the hurt went too deep to be fobbed off by my attempts to console her. What I had interpreted on the surface as a childlike longing for both parents to live at home, had been exposed to be three years of fear of abandonment that she could carry forward into adult life intact, a gift from both her parents. I wondered what crept into the dreams of my two sons, who had also seemed to cope so well with the family break up, as they sunk into sleep each night. Knowing you are loved by both your parents is one thing, feeling that they will never desert you is quite another.
We carried on the bedtime routine and I sung them all songs and hugged them all tight. That night I told `B’ that I would not be joining him with his kids at a family party he had invited me to – it was too early. My children will never act as barriers to my future happiness (far from it), but just because I am human and will make mistakes in the future as I have done in the past, the potential for making mistakes that will impact on them is on my mind. So there is a tightrope to be walked. Allowing new potential relationships to blossom, yet at the same time, acknowledging that just a little more thought, time, and ruthless honesty with how I grow those new relationships could make all the difference. It could affect the kind of relationships my children seek out for themselves in the future.