The last few days I have been feeling off-center from my “norm” and trying to shake feelings of anxiety, guilt, sorrow and desolation. I knew that I was not suffering from some random holiday melancholy; the fact of dealing and processing these emotions has been difficult for me. Over the weekend I had decide to take my children to a Christmas light display that was about a two hour drive from my house. On the way over there my daughter started to try and express her feelings about her father and me. (This is the first Christmas apart as a family since our divorce.) As she began to tell me how she didn’t like us broken; (This literally sucked the air out of my lungs as the tears started to flow down my face) she managed to obtain my full attention within less than a minute. She went through her list of things that she had been inevitably trying to process. I was filled with compassion and unbearable guilt for responsibility for her pain.
I immediately started feeling the impact of this conversation with my daughter. She had set off an emotional trigger of mine that I had thought, I put to rest some time ago. I have a dysfunctional family; my triggers are only available to very few people whom I love and care about unconditionally. These triggers I keep a tremendous amount of effort to keep guarded from other people. I’m aware that one of my emotional triggers are influenced by “unavailability” due from being abandoned and neglected as a child. As an adult, it turned out to be the very reason I divorced my ex. Sadly, during the most devastating and shattering experiences of my life, I had to learn to deal with and experienced them alone; both as a child and as an adult. I found myself having emotional flashbacks to my childhood, of losing my son and the emotional and physical disconnection it caused for my ex and me, as well as, my current feelings of having a failed marriage. Emotional support and encouragement is something I have not had from those whom I needed it most from. As a result, it took me most of my early 20’s to figure out how to heal these wounds and move forward. Strangely enough, here I was feeling these emotions once again and all these things brought on by a conversation with my daughter.
I decided to call my ex today to discuss our daughters feelings. I went through the story of telling him about the conversation and feelings our daughter had shared with me. He then decided to reveal to me that his girlfriend had moved into his home and that it was very serious between them. I think I was barely breathing when he told me that. I felt rage running throughout my veins and I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs on the phone with him as I was walking through a local dollar store. How dare he not tell me or consider talking to me about it to help prepare our daughter for this change. If I could have thrown myself down on the ground and had a temper tantrum I would have! I was completely dumbfounded by his lack of awareness of his actions and the impact it would have on our children. It never occurred to him that our daughter would be trying to process things going on around her and she was taking her cues from her parents. I was mortified by his actions and felt like it was my duty to advocate for our daughter. Communication is so important and by the end of the call I had gotten my point across followed by a few text messages with genuine support for one another.
Of course, I knew this day would eventually happen; that one or both of us would move on. I truly wish my ex all the best wishes for happiness and love. However, I will do everything within my power to prevent my children from experiencing anything close to the hardships and emotional scars I have. You can’t simply avoid things; pretend they never happened and think it will make everything better. I can’t protect my children from everything or know how things will impact them but, I am a huge advocate for communicating with children. Regardless of how big or small it may seem to an adult, their feelings are very real and important to them in that moment. Those imprints later turn into triggers because, children lack the knowledge to maturely process those feelings. Yes, inevitably pain will happen and the only way we can help them is by acknowledging it, supporting them and simply emotionally being there for them. You sometimes don’t know how something will make you feel until the moment has happened. You will not always appreciate something until you have experienced or lost it. The same things goes for our children.
Ironically, my horrific and great experiences have made me wise beyond my age. I’m grateful for my past, the good and the bad. Due to those things I’m able to step back and consider the bigger picture and my children. My children are my most valued and greatest treasure in my life.
It is so easy to impact children with both good and bad actions. Our actions as parents will leave imprints on their emotions. Hopefully, by accommodating to take the time to learn their feelings we can prevent some of their emotional triggers. I am a very strong believer that children are aware of more than adults realize. It’s my opinion that it does no good to try to raise them in a glass house with the world being as crazy as it is. Within limits we need to be open with our children, communicate with them, and teach them the opportunities to consider responses instead of just impulsive acting.
Children are more durable then we give them credit for sometimes. Henry Ford said, “Life is a series of experiences, even though it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that setbacks are grieves which we endure, help us in our marching forward.” When it is all said and done, our children need positivity, stability, encouragement, involvement, compassion, and love. Children do learn by example and our actions do influence them. We can respect and give them the needed attention to meet their individual needs and by doing so; we are not only influencing them but, their future. Being a good parent is a tremendous responsibility that no amount of mental preparation can prove; we can only do and be the best we can, with the best intentions for their happiness, success and future.