Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Revelation (I think)

I have to give a little background info here, which frankly, I wasn't feeling like sharing because it pains me, but I'm finding it necessary to do for cathartic reasons. (My therapist is no longer on my insurance plan; I've got to get it somehow!)

At the beginning of this year, I was in quite a bad place, emotionally. There had been events with the girls' father, and then fall-out to that which was just really hard for me to bear at the time.

Bear with me, because this is a hard post for me to write. I'm still struggling with how much detailed info to give. Oh, screw it! I'm going for it.

I'd written previously about how the girls' holiday trip got canceled because of their father, and how I'd finally told the girls about their dad's drug problem. I thought we were getting through it okay, and then Sylvia had a bit of a breakdown when she returned to school.

She started seeing the school's therapist, and I went in for a session. I came back from that session, and sobbed like I've probably never sobbed before. The issue of how much we've moved since leaving my husband and coming back to L.A. came up - it was presented to me as a question about the "lack of stability." I took that very personally.

Each move was for a good reason. The first move was from my parent's house to our first apartment - a one-bedroom (all I could afford at the time). I gave them the bedroom, and slept in the living room. The second move was an upgrade into a 2-bedroom apartment. Unfortunately, I didn't learn until after the move that it meant a change in schools for the girls (stupid me, I know). The next move was this latest one to the condo for Sylvia to go to KIPP. Every move was pretty much for them, but I can also understand the comment about the instability, and it was something I had never thought of before, and I was devastated and angry at myself for never having thought of that.

This is something that goes back to my own childhood. We had our fair share of moves as well. The first couple, I either was too young to understand, or young enough to just think of it as exciting. But I very clearly remember one move absolutely devastating me as a child. I even remember (and for me to remember anything, really, is quite astonishing in itself) writing in my diary how much I hated my parents. I didn't understand it, I was an egocentric kid (aren't they all?) and I was very upset, and personally offended.

So I can see it from my children's point of view as well. And that's what hurt so much, is to know that I'd most likely hurt them in ways that I should have been well aware of, but had that grown-up mentality about - 'hey, I survived it, they can, too.'

Anyway, I worked through that about a month ago. Had a few good therapy sessions myself, Sylvia and I have really bonded lately...even to the point where she told me a few weeks ago that she's glad I'm a single mom. All was well.

And then, the condo thing happened. I don't know why it hadn't even occurred to me as a possibility, but somehow, having signed that 1-year lease, I felt protected. Which was stupid. So, yet again, I feel like an idiot for not thinking of this as a possibility, and yet again, I'm faced with having to move again.

(BTW, I have faced the reality that I'm going to have to move. In every possible outcome, I don't see it being financially viable for us to continue to live there.)

Okay, so that's all the bad news. Here's what I think may be the good news; or at least, the lessons learned.

I have been keeping this whole thing secret from my girls. I didn't want them to worry, I wanted to protect them. But here's the thing. I think this may have been where I've previously failed them. I think that I kept it all too secret from them until things were known and final. I most likely did not give them a chance to process all the information, be involved enough in the process. I made them feel like things were just happening to them.

Not this time.

I'll most likely wait until the weekend, but I think the best thing I can do differently this time than in the previous times is to be upfront early in the game. Let them know what's going on, let them see what I'm trying to do about it. The biggest concern is keeping Riley in the same school, so I've already talked to a friend about keeping an eye out for me (this is East L.A. - not going to find a lot of listings on the Internet, and you really have to drive the neighborhood in order to know whether or not it's going to be safe). Start looking now, since my needs are so specific, and let them come with me. Drive around on the weekends, and walk around. Let her know that I'm doing everything in my power to keep her world as stable as possible. And hope that something works out.

I'm hoping that the more time they have to digest everything, the more they are involved within the process, the easier it will be for them. I could be wrong...but I don't think so.

I think I've gotten through the worst of my own emotions about it now so that I can be strong enough for them; and that I could use needing to be strong for them to keep myself from wallowing in self-pity about it. We can live the KIPP motto of "when there's a problem, we find a solution." There are life lessons to be learned here about getting through it, and hopefully, coming out better for it. No, we don't always get what we want, but it doesn't mean that it has to break us. It's not about "there's a reason for everything" but that we can get through anything. [insert appropriate cliche here; yes, I'm the queen of cliches.]


Anonymous said...

Oh dear, I can certainly relate to the stability thing. If you read my archives you will see that is a HUGE concern of mine because we move way too much for my comfort level. I also moved too much as a kid and it's part of the reason it drives me so insane that I'm forced to do it as an adult.

That said, I think you are definitely approaching this in the right way. Kids like to know they are involved in the decision making process, it makes them feel that they have a little control over their out of control world.

Kori said...

Is this a proper time to say "I told you so?" NOT really, I am teasing you, but I really think this is a HUGE revelation, not just for you but for any of us. Live in the solution, not the problem, and you will teach your girsl by example that yeah, sometimes it sucks and it doesn't work out the way we had hoped or would have liked, but we can deal. Yay for you!

Jen said...

I'm glad you're gaining some knowledge and not beating yourself up about circumstances which have been very difficult. You've put your daughters first and foremost - that's all anyone can ask. And yes, keeping them involved in the decision will be empowering. Just huge hugs to you - you all need a break.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you are doing the absolute right thing and are going about it in the best way possible. Involving the girls early and as much as possible will hopefully help them embrace this move.

I lived in 17 different houses before going to college (my dad was in the miliarty) and I would never consider myself having lacked stability in my childhood. Because my family around me was my stability...we were always there for each other.

And, like you, for very good reasons and through forces I cannot control, my son Jack (not yet 4) has lived in 5 houses in his lifetime. But I know he's okay because I am a constant in his life and his brother is a constant in his life. As is extended family that will visit us wherever we live.

I think that you, the emotions swirling in a house and the tone you set are what will create stability. Never mind the change of addresses.

You're doing the right thing and doing a great job!!! I'll be thinking of you this weekend...

OHmommy said...

You sound like a very good mommy that is constantly thinking about your girls. You worry. You care. You love.

Kids are strong. I lived in a refugee camp when I was 5... our family of four slept in one army style bunkbed. THAT was our home. I guess I turned out okay.

Hang in there! You are so loving. THAT is what they need most.

GoMommy said...

The only thing you can do is raise them the best you can. I think it's great that you want to include them in the whole process, especially your oldest. There is no "right" way to do it, you know how to care for your childs needs the best.
I wish you guys the best and hope that everything works out!

Tara R. said...

I'm so sorry all of you have had to go through all this. As a kid of divorce, I think being as upfront as you can, in an age appropriate way, is best. That way they can ask all their questions and feel a part of the decisions. Don't beat yourself up about what is done and over, you were doing what you felt was best and that is all you can do. Good Luck!

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

I think you're making the right choice. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for and more sensitive than we'll ever know. Openness and honesty is (almost) always the best policy - and in this case I think it is. Good choice!

Don Mills Diva said...

I really feel for you - you are obviously doing everything you can to provide the best you can for your children...HUGS

Unknown said...

Cliche Master April!

I think it's really awesome of you to be upfront with them. They do need that and I'm sure they won't be thrilled, but will be appreciative of your efforts to include them in the new house hunt. It could even become somewhat exciting in the long run.

Anonymous said...

I know saying this probably isn't helpful at all, but I moved at least a dozen times when I was a kid and I turned out OK. My husband had 25 addresses by the time he was 18 and he turned out great. They will know how much you love them even if you don't think they do and having to change houses won't ruin them.

You are doing the best you can for your girls. I think that you have a really good plan to keep them informed and involved. I'm sure they will appreciate it. Getting them involved is not the same thing as burdening them.

Good luck to the lot of you finding them a new place to live in the same school zone.

KG said...

I'll be honest: I'm skeptical about therapy in general . . . it seems to provide one with more ways to blame one's self for things in retrospect. It sounds like they made you feel bad for doing what you had to do and doing your best.

Good for you for teaching your daughters how to cope!

Martin said...

Best of luck with everything!