Those five words left me feeling like I was punched in the heart. Like this little human being I had spent 28hours in labour with -yes that old chestnut- wiped his ass for 3 years, fed, bathed, ferried around, nurtured, sang too, played with and all that other stuff we hold over them when they act like brats; had just leapt across the car and slammed a knife right through my heart to my soul.
But then I looked over at him. He looked sad about that fact too. Like the feeling confused his little mind and he wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. I softened as I saw he didn’t say it to get a rise. No he wasn’t trying to upset me… Hang on…He bloody meant it! OUCH!
As if she could sense my pain, my little girls voice piped up from the back seat and said, “It’s ok mum. I like you better”. I turned around to see her staring at me intently, with the biggest beaming smile and I couldn’t contain myself. I burst into laughter. They quickly followed and the car erupted into fits of giggles. It went on and on and on until our cheeks hurt. My daughter is gold like that. She often lightens the mood.
So how did we get to this point? The point where my child had decided he had a favourite parent. Well to be fair, I don’t know. He is his own person who experiences things from his own individual perspective, but I did feel certain life experiences may have contributed to the statement. Namely, mine and his Dads’ separation. Although, I am sure most people have one parent they find easier to relate to than the other, regardless of their parents marital status, I sensed for my son it was deeper than that.
Throughout the separation, I have come across many people with very strong opinions on divorce and single parenting families. Either which way they go, it is definitely a topic that people are passionate about. Usually due to their own experiences in life, which can often be the catalyst to strengthening a biased opinion on any matter. Other peoples thoughts on the topic are valid and important but it always shocked me how open some people were to pushing their opinion on me about a life decision that I had chosen for MY life. They did not understand why we had come to the conclusion to part ways and they were going to do their darnedest to let you know that they did not approve. These were and are people I love and respect but in the end of the day all that mattered to me in this instance was, and is, myself and my children. So looking across at my son in the car on this day and hearing those words come out of his mouth, well, it was heartbreaking. It was a definite, have I done the wrong thing by my child moment. A, this will be a story he will discuss with his therapist in 15 years moment. An, I have failed as a mum moment.
I often say my son and I are different. We are chalk and cheese. He is a mini version of his dad and our daughter is a mini version of me. And in many ways anyone who knows us all, would agree. However, my beautiful son has one of my traits for sure. Deep, strong, hard to put into clear words, feelings. We both feel things and hold them close to us. This can be both good and bad. If we love you, you are blessed and we will do anything even completely out of the realm of reason to please you, but if you hurt our big hearts, we can find it very hard to let go of that pain. Only because we just seem to feel things so strongly. It’s both beautiful and at times exhausting. And admittedly, it can be scary to parent someone of this nature, when you understand it so well yourself. Do I always handle it well? Most definitely not. But I am human and I try my best with the skills that I have, and as a parent thats all you can really do.
Our son was 5 years old when we separated. He was just old enough where by psychologists advice, we sat him down at the table and actually had the conversation that Daddy was moving out to live in a different house. He instantly cried and the whole experience was crushing. For everyone. The space I was in at the time though was a downward spiral. I know my son could feel that. So it stands to reason he would warm to his father even more at such a tumultuous time. This is the kind of blame I put on myself in the months and years that have followed. The idea that I have negatively shaped the children’s views on love and relationships. On loyalty and commitment. On compromise and resilience.
I have laid awake at night wondering if they will hate me when they are older for breaking up their family? Will they resent me for not being able to now give them all the things they want and desire? Will they want to spend more time with their dad than me? Will they still come to me when they need love, support, care and guidance or have I displayed to them on a deep level that relationships come and go and I am not dependable? God, there could not be a job on earth in which you doubt your own capabilities like you do in parenting. The consequences of stuffing it up seem too stressful to bare at times.
So, me being the rather dramatic over-thinker that I am, had all these things racing through my brain as I heard those five words escape my sons lips. Thank god for my daughter breaking the tension. Nothing calms stress like a bout of laughter. So when the laughter died down and I looked over at my son, now also staring at me with a beaming smile, I said, “It’s ok to feel that way. I just want you to be happy.” And do you know what he said in reply…
“I love you too Mum, it’s just that Dad is better at Lego and chess than you are.”
Cue another fit of giggles and the realisation that over-thinking can be detrimental to my health and cause me to miss a beautiful moment. A moment in which I learnt another wonderful thing about my sons character. He is already learning how to master channeling those deep feelings we share into life experiences that work for him and I could learn a thing or two from him. There is a lot of beauty and peace in simplicity. And in the beaming smiles of my two glorious children.
Much love, Michelle xxx