The girls had a slumber party last night. In total, there were four little girls under the age of 7– tiny, giggling girls who stayed up way past bedtime creating memories that will last a lifetime. It was the girls first real sleepover and spring break was the perfect opportunity to do it.
As the girls were eating dinner they began talking about where they were born. Before I knew it the conversation shifted to divorce and before I knew it, four little girls were discussing a very grown up topic. I continued cleaning the kitchen and listening to their conversation- ready to intervene if necessary. Then, my daughter said something that gave me chills. She said to her friend, “One time, I did something bad and my dad squeezed me really hard around my stomach”. I stopped in my tracks and said, “Honey, you didn’t do anything bad”. She looked confused. “I didn’t?”, she asked. “No. Remember when we talk about making poor choices? Daddy made a poor choice- you did not do anything wrong”, I stammered. I then gracefully shifted the conversation back to a slumber party approved topic before leaving the room to catch my breath.
Back in 2008 when our marriage was coming to an end, I heavily contemplated staying in the marriage to protect my daughters. I discussed this decision with my family and remember saying to my dad, “I can pretend for the next 16 years”. Over the next few months I let that statement resonate in my head. Did I really want to show my daughters a pretend marriage. Did I want them to think that this is what love is? Did I want to set them up to fail in their own marriage? The answer was “no” – I could not pretend for the next 16 years.
I felt that I was doing the right thing by leaving when they were very young. I still feel like I made the right decision. I hoped that the memories of our last year together wouldn’t impact them because of their age but that was naive of me. Three years after the fact, my daughter holds onto those memories and to many others. While I don’t know how to fix it for her, I can work with her counselor to ensure that she can talk about these issues in a safe environment. I am thankful that she has other friends from divorced families so that she can openly share memories and emotions.