Kids ask hard questions, there’s no denying that. When I got divorced I was surprised by some of the questions Hailey asked, it seemed that she was aware of more than I thought she was.
I tried really hard to give her good answers without pointing any fingers. Since some of the issues leading to my divorce were too adult for her to understand, I sidestepped them. After all, it really isn’t my child’s business that her father was unfaithful. I didn’t want to paint that picture of him for Hailey.
I chose instead to tell her that we just couldn’t get along anymore. It felt weak, not really a good reason. I want my daughter to grow up knowing that marriage is worth fighting for and that you have to work hard to make it work. My answer about my divorce didn’t seem to fit the bill for that. It made it sound like I just gave up.
I didn’t know what else to say. I didn’t want Hailey to think that her father was a bad person so I would not give her details.
About a year after the divorce a school counselor called me, Hailey had a breakdown in school. She just didn’t understand and didn’t accept my answer. I didn’t know what to do. Hailey thought I wasn’t following the advice that I gave her about being a good friend and forgiving people and trying hard in a relationship.
After talking with the counselor we came up with a way to explain to Hailey what had so far been unexplainable to me. Unfortunately Hailey’s father had a drug problem, which she was aware of, and while that wasn’t the entire reason for the divorce it did have a huge impact.
We explained that drugs make people act in ways they wouldn’t normally and that when under the influence of drugs people will say and do things to people they love that are unacceptable.
It turned out to be the perfect way to explain things to her. I wasn’t blaming her father, I was blaming the drugs. It was important to me that I didn’t tear Hailey’s father down, I didn’t want to change the way she felt about him.
It was wonderfully freeing to finally tell her something. Some of her hurt and anger disappeared once she understood a little more.
I tried to protect her but in the end she needed a real answer, not one designed to protect everyone.