I have decided to write tonight because I have had one of those painful parenting experiences that you know about, but never really get until it happens to you. My family is moving. We are moving far away, and we are excited—all except for my seven-year-old, who happens to be having some sort of breakdown.
We have known about this move for some time now, and being the mother of two very sensitive daughters, I have talked a lot with them about the move, our feelings on the move, other people’s feelings on the move, our house’s feelings about our move, the dog’s feelings about our move (she’s okay with it), you get my point. My four-year-old will be fine as long as a few key items are readily available the entire time: blanky, horribly ugly dinosaur, me, and fruit snacks aplenty.
We have done this cross-country move before. However, my now-seven-year-old was three, and my four-year-old was three months old. I thought that was a hard move, but I had no idea. Even though I have consistently discussed the move with my seven-year-old for at least six months, and even though she has been excited about the move for six months, now that we are a week away, she is having second thoughts and has decided that this is not such a good idea after all.
My husband has been living in our new city for three months already, and the girls miss him so much. I thought that the thought of being with him again would be enough to encourage them to happily pack their things and head off. My four-year-old just wants to “live where daddy is,” so that is good. But I have failed to realize something crucial—my older daughter is growing up. Please beware, other loving mothers; it can happen to you at any time. You will not see it coming, because that is apparently the way this horrible growing up thing likes to do business. It will hit you right in the face—hard. Because that is how this thing is. Horrible.
Tonight my daughter had a going away party with a few of her best friends. We have planned this move over the summer so she won’t have to leave school mid-year. But I have debated whether it would be easier to just move away quietly, or let her see her friends one last time. I made a photo album for her with all her favorite friends and their phone numbers, addresses, e-mails, etc. But my husband and I decided that maybe it was best to let her say goodbye with one last play date. Everything went well until they left, and suddenly my daughter wasn’t feeling well. She couldn’t tell me where it hurt, but it definitely hurt.
I sat her down and told her to tell me about her feelings, and to cry if she needed to cry. Well, she cried. She begged me not to make her move. She said she wanted to be with her daddy and she wanted to be with her friends, and why did she have to choose one or the other? We have had this discussion before, but tonight it really hit home. She said, could she please, please, please have one more day at her old school with her friends … PLEASE!
I had to say no, and that her new school was already expecting her, and that she would make so many new friends, and be so happy, and I promised that she would like it. I watched my child’s face crumple, and saw, literally saw, her heart break. I am not sure if I can clearly explain the feeling I had when I knew that a decision that I made had broken my child’s heart, but I can tell you that it hurt … a lot.
I made her call my husband immediately, because I was out of pep talks, and she ended up having him in tears. Usually, she fakes happiness for her dad and never lets him know how she really feels, and I end up having to deal with her anger and sadness. But tonight, as I watched her try not to cry on the phone, and fail, I felt a pain that I have not felt before. There is a specific pain that a parent gets when they know that they have made a decision that is for the best, but hurts their child in the process. We love our girls so much that we decided to face the difficult challenge of moving so that we could give them a better life. And even though we know that this is the right decision, we know that we have broken our daughter’s heart. She is such a good girl, and has given us so much pride and joy, and we want to make her happy.
I am a rational person, and I know that we have made the right decision, but I never knew how much pain would be involved. Can anyone tell me how you deal with the pain of breaking your child’s heart—your child who has never done anything wrong and does not deserve to be hurt? How do you explain to a seven-year-old that leaving all her friends is a good idea? I know all the reasonable explanations—but is there some secret I don’t know? Or is this just how painful parenting can be?