Said one little girl to another

by JJ Carson, author of Ex-Factor,

Saturday my sister starts her 2,000 mile drive towards our home. She’s driving cross country with her two girls who nearly mirror the age of my kids. They will be here for about a month.

Her almost 10-year-old daughter and my 8-year-old daughter are thick as thieves. The excitement is mounting. The plans are being made. The girls can’t wait to be together again. This has been the longest stint they have been apart.

In that year and a half, many things have changed. This will be my niece’s first time here without her uncle. That was a lot for her to undertake. One of the unintended consequences of divorce is how it affects the children around mine. They talk to each other and the conversations are interesting. And it can cause angst.

I’ve had many a conversation with friends about, ‘What should I tell my child about why you are divorced?’

I wish I had a good answer. I don’t. Not even for my own kids. They are just too young to grasp all of the complexities of a failed marriage. I’ve talked a lot with my daughter, my 4-year-old son is just starting to ask.

She and I have talked about different kinds of love between a husband and wife versus Mom and kids.The best explanation I’ve heard and am now going to steal from a friend is that ‘Mom-kid love is a forever love, husband-wife is a love you choose.’

She’s asked lots of questions, but the ‘why’ is still allusive. I’ve told her it’s a ‘grown-up’ problem and we’ll talk about it when she’s older.

Is that the best answer? The right one? I’m not sure. But it’s what I have and the one I’ve been using.

So, I’ve told my friends and family to tell their kids what works for them. We’ll handle what comes our way. ‘Grown up problem’ won’t work forever.

My niece is a sharp one. And a bit older. She’s heard stuff at school. When she asked about why with pointed questions, my sister answered honestly in a kid-version. (Which I think is fine and works well for their family.)

Now, the girls will be together. A lot. Talking. I’m certain this will come up.

While it’s not ‘my secret to tell’… I’m fighting against my grain NOT to. Should I tell my daughter first? If I don’t, will she feel betrayed by ME?

So, I feel in a bit of a pickle. And I realize the answer is… I just don’t know what is going to happen. Building a contingency plan is a waste of time. Will my niece tell her? Will my daughter be surprised? Will she turn to me? To her Dad? Should my ex tell her first?

The truth is… I have no control over any of this unless I tell her first. Which, leads me back to… it’s not my secret to tell. I don’t know what the magical ‘right’ thing to do is. I’ve never been here before.

Instead I’ll focus on helping her through. Whatever it takes.

So, I’m trying to have faith that I can handle it, she can handle it, WE can handle it together — whatever it is — whenever it comes. That I’ll make the right decision as the unknown become the present.

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