I’ve notice that when kids get older, their questions and issues become more complex. It’s actually a form of balance when you think about it: sure, they’re letting you sleep more but now they’re frying your brain during the day so you often feel as if you still can’t get enough sleep.
Kids, man. (Read: affectionate sarcasm)
The six year old and I attended the high school musical “Oklahoma” this weekend, which I had forgotten was actually full of content that is probably a little much for a six year old (flirting, dating, abuse, fighting, relationship drama of all kinds, etc.). So I probably should be grateful that the conversations from the weekend weren’t actually any worse than this one.
It started at the musical. The six year old was happily chatting away with my dear friend, and explaining to my dear friend’s mother that the “dad” she was referring to at home was actually her step dad.
Sometimes, when she gets on a roll in conversations, my little linguist can get a bit carried away. I should have seen it coming. She has a certain look on her face and an added dramatic flair when she is about to say something that will surely elicit a shock factor from her audience. But I didn’t catch the shift in time to get my hand over her mouth before she belted out that the reason he was her step dad was, in fact, because her mom “got divorced and HUMILIATED herself!” (Except she pronounces it “di-versed” because she is six and does not know as much as she thinks she does. Shocking.)
I laughed and jokingly (seriously) told her that the topic was now closed while I tried to regain my composure and resisted the urge to crawl under the auditorium chairs.
The next day at lunch, the opportunity to reopen the conversation presented itself.
Me: Do you remember what you said yesterday at the musical when you were talking about your dad and me getting divorced?
Her: About you humiliating yourself?
Me: Yes. Do you know what that word means?
Her: Um…. Not really.
Me: Okay… well, it’s not a good idea to use words if you don’t know what they mean. You should be careful about what you say and you can’t do that if you’re using words you don’t know.
Me: So, what it is that you were trying to say when you said I humiliated myself?
Her: I guess just that you, like, embarrassed yourself because some people think that divorce is embarrassing.
Me: (what is that candy bar that you cram in your mouth when you need a few minutes to think before responding? Twix?)
Me: Hmm. Okay, well I think the first think that I need to tell you is that I don’t feel embarrassed about getting divorced.
Her: You don’t?
Me: Nope. You dad and I thought very carefully about what the right thing to do before we got divorced was. In the end, we decided that it was the best decision for us as a family, and for us as parents. As your mom, I wanted to make sure that I was being the best mom I could be to you. That meant setting an example for you. If I was ever going to expect you to be kind to others and to expect others to treat you with kindness, then I needed to model that behavior. And for your dad and I, it was much easier to be kind to each other after we got divorced.
There are other people who feel that getting divorced is embarrassing. They feel that, if you get married, you should stay married forever. And it’s okay that different people believe different things. I don’t like divorce, because it is a very hard thing to go through. It is better to stay married if you can. But I also believe that sometimes it isn’t that simple, and that you have to make the best choice that you can for your own family.
So that is what your dad and I did. I’m not embarrassed because I still think that we made a good choice. Your dad and I are much better parents to you now, and we are much nicer to each other. And, now you have even more people who love you and help take care of you. Our family has grown.
And lastly, I know I’m talking a lot about this so I will give you a chance to talk after I say this. But I need you to hear one more thing: It’s not up to you to decide what is “humiliating” or embarrassing for someone else. You get to decide what your own feelings are about things, but you don’t get to decide what someone else’s feelings are. So when you talk about big things like divorce, you need to be thoughtful about how you talk about someone else’s decision. It’s not up to you to decide what is embarrassing for someone else. Do you understand what I’m saying?
Her: I understand. I’m sorry I said that. Can I have a snack now?
Me: We are literally still at the lunch table.
And then I reminded myself of all the reasons why it wouldn’t be in my best interests to drink wine out of a straw in the middle of the day.
Ug, you guys. These complicated conversations with kids are so hard and I almost always feel like I never get it right. But that seems to be the trend in parenting for me.The thing is I’m also pretty sure this was small potatoes compared to the complex conversations that await us in the future.
But that doesn’t make my brain hurt any less.