A Child’s Insight
My eldest child and I have a tumultuous relationship. We clash. Constantly. He doesn’t listen, can’t follow multiple instructions, loves mess and organisation is his least best skill. He’s a procrastinator, a ‘do as little as possible’ kinda kid, and he feels deeply. He’s me. He looks like me, thinks like his father, loves like me. But he’s also annoying, a practical joker, impulsive, has low self control – did I mention he’s not good at listening (to me!)?
We go through cycles of extreme closeness, then we clash. And it hurts me. The look on his face cuts me to my core. I say things like “do you understand why I’m so angry?” “would you please just (whatever it is at the time) put your lunch containers in the dishwasher, hang up your school bag, get dressed, set the table”. The way his face goes blank and I can see his eyes glaze over when I’m talking. It penetrates my heart and I worry he doesn’t know how amazing I think he is and how truly wonderful I believe him to be – how much my heart swells when I think of him; how I would give my life if it meant saving his.
The biggest problem we’re facing at the moment is his emerging greater independence. He’s 12 in the body of a 14 year old, going on 22. He’s the eldest child and often parents his siblings at his dad’s place. I’ve always explained why things are important, why things need to be done a certain way or in a certain order, involved all 3 of them in ‘family’ decisions. He’s always been asked to contribute more because it’s just the 4 of us and the kids need to do more and help out – I really can’t do everything like I thought I could!
My kids know I do my best to tell them the truth about things. They talk to me about everything and trust me with their confidences. Even when things are hard, eldest child and I can talk about what’s going on, share our feelings honestly, and come up with a plan to make things better.
Something happened about a week or so ago. All 3 of my children have always had access to my phone – especially since we got rid of the landline. They’ve used it to text their friends and communicate with their dad and grandparents. Sometimes they play games. But this uneventful afternoon, eldest child decided to go through my text messages to see if I had text one of his friends for a playdate. In doing so, he found some texts he didn’t approve of, to my last boyfriend, who assaulted him. He got very angry and couldn’t understand that going through my messages wasn’t okay – my crime was greater and therefore his was justified.
I mentioned to his Dad, how we were butting heads and that he’d recently gone through my phone. Mistake #1!! Never leave yourself open!
But back to the issue at hand. My ex-husband decided to talk with eldest child about violating my privacy (huh, ironic, right!) and eldest child told his dad all about the text messages he found. So, there I was, being asked to explain why I was in contact with a man who assaulted my child. The truth is that I hadn’t been in contact with him. I often write texts, to ent my anger, but don’t send them. Eldest son found the latest instalment of written but unsent texts. Of course his dad wasn’t buying my story – but that’s irrelevant to me. What happened next though …
His dad accidentally sent me texts that were about me but meant for someone else! The content was how “something had to change” and “he’s so unhappy”.
Well, I know as I’m sure you do, what the “something” they’re concocting would be. Their dad has always told them they can live with him full time once they’re old enough to choose. And clearly he thought this was his chance!
One night the following week, when we were cooking together, I said to my son, “don’t be surprised if dad says something to you in the near future about living with him full time.” “Why would I think that?”, he enquired. So I explained about the texts. I was ready to talk with him about how he might feel, what he might want to say, what he thought about it. But his response shocked me.
“Don’t worry Mum, that’s never going to happen.”
I was curious. I had expected him to say that maybe it would be better to live at dads because his dad requires less of him, life is easier at dad’s, they watch all the tv and play all the video games they like; he rarely has to take out the rubbish!
He said “you’re my mum, he’s my dad, I just want to be with you both. Even when you and I fight, I know you love me, and I love you. We always get through it and I know you’ll always love me. I couldn’t live with myself if I stopped our relationship. I would always regret it.”
My eldest child is 12 years old. His dad left not long after his 5th birthday. He has always spent (almost) equal time between us. The insight this child has, blows me away. He is wise beyond his years and I am SO PROUD of him.
Kids just want to love both their parents, spend time with both of them, and have that be okay with both their parents. At the end of the day, my son couldn’t live with himself if he chose not to have both his parents in his life in a meaningful way.
Being apart from my children for (almost) half their life is the greatest challenge I have ever faced. Often times, it’s heart wrenching. But it is a sacrifice I HAVE to make, because my children want and need a relationship with both of their parents. That relationship, comes from significant and substantial time with each parent. Even when there’s fighting, and parents aren’t perfect, kids STILL love them. They just want to be loved by both mum AND dad. It’s an innate need, and as parents, it’s our responsibility to support, encourage, and fulfill that need.
His father and I have never seen eye to eye regarding parenting. I’m not a great advocate for his parenting style. My kids Dad sees me as judgmental and probably feels like how he parents never lives up to my ‘high’ expectation. But you know what I know? My kids love him and he loves them.
He’s not the Dad I wished my kids to have. He didn’t become the husband I hoped for (forever). But at the end of the day, as long as my kids are safe, he is the Dad they need because he is their Dad. And nothing can ever alter that (nor would I desire it to).
Kids simply want both of us, and it’s our duty (given all things to ensure their safety) to make that happen. ☺
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