My Healing Through the Mirror of My Daughter.
When my daughter was seven, she announced to me after returning from a weekend at her dad’s, “Mommy, daddy is so sad.”
To which I responded, “I know, baby.”
While I was grateful for her trust to share, after having spent 14 years with him, I already knew this. Not shocked in the least by her level of awareness, as for as long as she could talk, I’d taught her about feelings, how to express them, how to recognize her feelings and the feelings of others, and whether a feeling comes from a foundation of love or fear, however, I was very much surprised by what came next…
“Mommy, I tried everything I can to make daddy un-sad and nothing works.”
This hit me like a ton of bricks as I clearly saw my seven-year-old codependent rescuer in the making.
Looking back, now I realize that I was still very much a codependent rescuer myself at that time in my life. Sure, I had the vocabulary on how to heal, the terminology had been digested, I’d read the books on how to transform that aspect of my psyche, but I didn’t have the work behind it yet to clear that pattern from my life.
I knew enough at the time to sit my daughter down to explain to her that daddy’s happiness, anybody else’s happiness for that matter, was not her responsibility.
“Daddy needs to speak to a grown-up about his sadness just like mommy did, honey.”
While I knew even then that my children will do not as I say, but will directly model my behaviors, it was incredibly challenging to see myself in such an excruciating light through the pain of my child.
I want so much more for her than I’ve had thus far in my romantic relationships, yet I realized, the same as I could not fix my former spouse, I cannot actually fix my child, therefore, in the mirror of my beautiful baby girl, I was forced to come face to face with the parts of me that still deeply needed my own love and attention.
This epiphany led me to sit in quiet solitude at new depths, to look at pieces of myself I’d not yet had the courage to examine, and to know that while I’d not yet been inspired to heal for myself, I absolutely had to heal so that my precious baby girl could, someday, have happy, healthy partnerships.
Fast forward four years, my baby girl is 11 and just now noticing boys. She has a mad crush on B. He is a sweet boy who I suspect is also quite smitten with her, but, ultimately, just an 11-year-old boy and so shy and scared. While completely in love with B, G expressed an interest in my girl through the 5th-grade grapevine.
My daughter’s initial reaction was “Yuck! No way!” but as time went by, B didn’t make his move and my daughter really wanted to experience her first boyfriend. Subsequently, she approached G, blatantly asked him to make his intentions known (yes, she is her mother’s child!) and next thing I knew, they were dating.
As I calmly tried to understand dating in the context of 11-year-olds, I found out that it meant they would occasionally stand next to one another before school, after school, and in the lunch line. There would be some texting. He would take days to tell her his deepest secret, which is that he thinks she is beautiful. She would gracefully take the compliment and call him handsome. That was the gist of dating at age 11.
When I told her she could invite him on a family outing with us, I was met with “Mom! Too much, too soon, mom!”
Needless to say, I was incredibly relieved that we were not headed down Too much, too soon Lane.
Given my relief, you can imagine how I felt when two days after they started dating, my daughter announced, “Mom, I miss being single.”
What culminated over the next few days was an epic breakup that broke a little 11-year-old boy’s heart and left him in a crying heap on the floor in the 5th-grade cafeteria.
While I am sorry that G got his sweet heart broken, to see myself, my independence, my love of solitude that transcends years of heartache and loneliness, my worthiness and my unwillingness to compromise just to be with someone, anyone, and that I no longer take a hard right at lightning speed down Too much, too soon Lane reflected in the life of my beautiful girl, lets me know I am on the right path.
I am by no means perfect and I do still have work to do, but I’ve done enough healing to know that every bit of my child’s behavior is a direct reflection of my healing energy and my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.
I still worry about her choices, but I know I can’t make them for her. I know I can only model healthier options and be a soft place to land until she begins to do that for herself.
I am grateful that as I heal, my children are also healing, but even more so, I am grateful that I finally recognize myself in the crystal clear mirror of their eyes, that I finally see that doing my own work is, in fact, the one and only way to heal my children.
Christie Del Vesco is a College Administrator and Professor, a Universalist Minister, a member of the RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) Speakers Bureau and single mom. She’s a survivor, a thriver, a seeker, a rebel and a teacher. Chris is a firm believer that we go through what we do, to help others when they go through the same. She also believes if we would all just “be the change,” we can change the world. You can find more of Chris’ writings on Facebook, and more information on her courses, workshops, support groups and community offerings can be found here.