I just want the love I deserve."
Those were the words my 8-year-old daughter uttered when describing her weekend with her Dad. They broke my heart... as her words often do. She is an incredibly, emotionally astute (and articulate) 8-year-old. Not much slips by her. Even though, sometimes, I wish it would.
As a Daddy's girl from day one with a strong sense of family, to say this divorce has hit her hard would be an understatement. (I'm not undermining the effect on my 4-year-old son, but this post is about my gal.)
When I think of how shocked I was with the divorce, I can't even imagine how it felt to a (then) 6-year-old. One day she was literally singing Taylor Swift's 'Love Story' while my ex and I happily acted it out. Six weeks later, he was moving out.
She was shocked. Upset. Questioning. And feeling uncertain.
A few months later was the second (at least) 'accidental' meeting of the mistress disguised as a 'random Mommy in the pool.' She was hauled out again 5 months later as 'Daddy's new girlfriend.' Problem is, my gal happened to remember her.
More questions. More uncertainty.
My point is... it's a lot to undertake for an 8-year-old. Hell, it was a lot to undertake for a 39-year-old. But now that a lot of my anger and hurt has faded and passed, I'm understanding my role better. I've been more equipped to help her.
And so we talk. And talk. And talk. A lot of these conversations happen during pillow talk... one of my favorite times of day. We started it long before the divorce. A safe haven as we snuggle at night where she can tell me anything, ask me anything without fear of judgment, anger or punishment. I've promised to always be honest even when then answer is, "I just can't tell you now.'
Pillow talk was always a great bonding time between the kids and I. It's been even more so during, and since, the divorce. There's something about talking in the dark that makes the tough things easier to say.
I answer all of her questions and do my best to help it make sense. And I listen. To all of her fears, all of her concerns. (Which, have I told you, I'm an unbelievably horrible listener? I admit it, this is not my strong suit. But I'm working to get better.)
My role has been not to fix her problems. Rather to help her come up with her own solutions, bolster her self-confidence and help her voice her feelings. Stand up for herself.
And yes, I'm driven by wanting her to succeed where I feel I failed. I want her to be strong. Independent. Able to ask for, demand even, what she needs and wants. Because she deserves it... and that is a good enough reason. Yet, I want her to still be able to love with all her heart. Because she will have the confidence to know she can recover from the days her heart gets broken.
So we talk. And talk. And talk.
Last night, after a long pillow talk about 'feeling invisible around Daddy's girlfriend and her kids'... a discussion we've had multiple times... she got on the phone with him. In the smallest, tiniest voice with just a hint of strength... I heard her tell her idol, "I just want you to give me the love I deserve. I don't want more attention. I just want the love." She was then specific in how, when and what she meant.
Now, we've also talked a lot about expectations and 'whose job it is.' We were clear... it's her job to express her feelings. It's Daddy's job to listen and decide what he can/will do about it. That's the best she can do. Which is a lot to take in for an 8-year-old. (Honestly, I'm not that good at it either.)
When I heard her hang up the phone, she was sleepy. Drifting off. I laid down next to her, smoothed her hair and told her how very proud I was of her. How strong I think she is and how she amazes me every day.
That garnered me the world's best hug, a smile with closed eyes and a soft whisper, "Thanks, Mom."
For as much as my heart was broken over the words, "I just want the love I deserve..." that simple moment made it nearly burst.