Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Promises X Can't Keep

I told the girls that their dad was in jail again. Sylvia blurted out, through tears, "but he promised!" X had actually promised Sylvia that he'd never go to jail again. Along with his other problems, apparently he's delusional. She also wanted to know if she could tell her best friend. I told her it was completely up to her.

The next week, I was in Riley's kindergarten class - I went once a week to do their reading time. An older girl was being a helper there, and she pulled me aside to tell me that the day before, there'd been quite a large drama at the playground that involved Sylvia. She'd been crying hysterically, apparently, and shouting at everyone to leave her alone, and her best friend had pulled her away from a crowd.

Sylvia told me, after I asked, that she'd told some of her friends that her dad was in jail. One of them told her that he'd probably get the electric chair this time (they knew he'd been in jail before).

Once again, I was beside myself. I was heartbroken that she hadn't told me about it, I was furious at the school for not telling me about it, and at a loss as to how to handle it.

Thankfully, my therapist saw children as well, and so I told Sylvia that we were going to see a "feelings doctor." While I was humbled by the thought of having my 8-year-old in therapy, I knew it was the right thing to do.

X was sentenced to six months. I wanted to celebrate - we would be free of X drama for six whole months - but I also knew that probably wasn't going to be how Sylvia saw it. Our therapist and I worked together to deal with it.

Through those sessions, we learned that after the last time, X - while promising not to go to jail again - had also made Sylvia promise not to tell her friends if he did (apparently, there had been issues before with her telling friends at school, but I didn't know about it). Setting aside the dichotomy of those two promises, I was furious that he felt he had any right whatsoever to tell her how to handle it. After all, HE wasn't around to deal with any of the consequences of those promises. No, that was left for me, of course.

I don't know how I would've gotten through all of this without our therapist. When we first told the girls that he was in jail, we explained as much as we knew about the situation. That he had been accused of stealing a check (which we had to explain was like money), and that X was saying he didn't do it - but that people don't usually get arrested for things for no reason, and X probably had done it. When we knew he'd been sentenced to six months, we told the girls that X had been given the "consequence" of 6 months in jail for his wrong-doing, Sylvia's response was, "I'm just happy that Daddy told the judge the truth."

Both of the girls went to the feelings doctor sometimes, but mostly Sylvia and I went - separately. Sylvia would have a session, and then I would go the next day, and the therapist would tell me how to cope with Sylvia at home.

The hardest part was figuring out when Sylvia was using my empathy for her against me to get away with things, but also allowing her to feel her emotions. That balancing thing again.

Slowly but surely, we were getting through it.


Anonymous said...

Oh wow. I was wondering why X kept going to jail. I thought maybe it was drug-related.

Not to make this about me, but you made me realize something. I'm going through a different, but sort of the same thing with Son right now. I'm trying to balance my emotions with Son and his behavior--trying to figure out when I should discipline him or something and when I should just let him have that temper tantrum.

You are a very strong woman, April!

P.S. I want to say I can't believe the school wouldn't tell you something, but you know where I am with that right now, so yeah, that doesn't surprise me at all. It's a terrible feeling to not know what exactly is going on with your child.

Kori said...

You continually amaze me; look how far you have come!

Anonymous said...

Seriously girl, your story is so important. Thanks for continuing to share how you were able to overcome this.

Jen said...

Oh, April, what a mess... You handled it so well. And you were so patient in terms of letting Sylvia have her space and then working with the therapist to help her.

Anonymous said...

Feelings doctors or not, you are the feelings mommy! You seem to be doing a great job balancing this untenable situation so that your daughters are no weighed down by the weight of their father's actions.

Tara R. said...

It's hard enough for an adult to deal with kind of life interruption, but for a kid to have to sort all this out is heartbreaking. I think you are doing an amazing job helping your daughters to understand what is happening with their father.

Unknown said...

I love this series, April. I love getting to know the situation better and knowing where you come from, in a sense. Your strength as a mother continues to amaze me the more I read this series. Keep going.

Anonymous said...

Oh, kids are smart little buggers aren't they? We spend so much of their very young years TRYING to understand that they don't even know what manipulation is, but once they figure out what it is, it is hard for us to accept.

I know it was with me. My son is downright manipulative sometimes, but not usually in regard to his father. Unless he's telling me how much he wishes daddy could live with us, and I don't think THAT is manipulation, I think that is real emotion.

Interesting...my momand sibs never knew their real dad and her mother would never tell her why. They were adults when my grandmother finally gave in and admitted to some information, and it was the same thing as your ex was accused of. I'm glad your kids know the truth about their father, because otherwise they might spend their lives blaming you for his absence.

You are a such a good mom for recognizing all of this!

Shiona said...

Thank you for continuing.

I too am of the belief that our kids are smarter than we give them credit for. I think it's great that you are telling them because I think it is important to know how their father is. I would have been doing it for selfish reasons at the time I think. But you guys face the situation and then deal with it. I think that is commendable.

My concern would be with how much is too much. J's dad is an avid pot smoker. That's not bad but he puts it above a lot of things. And I know that won't change anytime soon. I wouldn't want to shelter him but I think he should know. How do you maintain the balance?

You're simply amazing.