“Do you think I should stop being so forgiving of Daddy?” said my (very mature!) 8 year old after making a point of requesting that we have a private chat at bedtime. I was taken aback. We’ve had no talks recently about forgiveness, nor has there been any particular trigger that would force the issue of apologies or forgiveness.
“That’s not really a question I can answer, sweetheart. That’s one of those questions that only you can answer,” I replied. A bit of a cop out? Probably. But what could I have said without potentially misleading her down a path that’s not right for her?
She continued, “The thing is, if I keep forgiving him, then he might not learn the lesson. He might not realise how much I’m hurting. But if I do forgive him, then I might hurt his feelings and he might say I can’t see him anymore, and that would be terrible.”
“Yes, my darling, that would be terrible. Do you think there is any other way that you might be able to handle it?”
“The problem is, I just get shy when I’m with him. And I get embarrassed about talking about my feelings with him. Mummy, you’re kind and patient and loving and you listen to what I say. But Daddy isn’t any of those things.”
She looked shocked at herself and quickly clasped her hand over her mouth, as if she hadn’t meant to say what she’d just said. I could see her conflict. So I just reached out to hug her.
“He is very generous though,” she conceded. There was a pause whilst I waited to see what would come up next.
“I just have this horrible feeling. I can’t describe it.” She gestured a downward motion with her hands. Like a weight on her perhaps?
“Well close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and see if you can find out what that feeling is about,” I said. She did just that. Ten seconds later, she opened her eyes and said again, “I just can’t describe it.”
“Would you like to draw it darling?” She eagerly nodded her head. This girl will do anything to stay up a bit longer!
She spent the next half hour creating. Just creating! She drew. She wrote. She even snag. Then she came up with a fabulous idea! She’s going to write a book! A book to help other children who are dealing with difficult feelings as a result of their parents separating. I’m so pleased that she has discovered a truly creative, constructive way to explore her own emotions. Whatever the end result, the process will be healing, I’m sure.
I’m so proud of my girl. Despite her pain, which causes my heart to ache, I see that she is strong, self-aware, articulate, emotionally intelligent and both willing and able to explore her fears and feelings. Perhaps, through her book, she’ll even be able to share some of these qualities for the benefits of other children. Time will tell.