Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday Therapy: Opaque as Cellophane Tape

The other day N says to me out of the blue, “You miss BJ, don’t you?” Good lord, I thought, where did that come from?

Trying not to look too surprised I got all clever and said, “Huh?” followed by “Whadya mean?” (Yeah, cause I totally rock at the quick answer. Totally.)

N said (and sometimes I must say he amazes me with his 11-year-old insight into things), “You’re just with Dad because he needs someone to take care of him aren’t you? But you really want to be with BJ.”

Well, that stopped me dead in my tracks. Here I’ve been telling myself I’m playing the role without too much trouble, at least for appearances’ sake, and yet my son saw right through me. I wanted to ask what gave me away. I wanted to know what I hadn’t done quite right. I wanted to “fix it up” so nobody else would catch on to the act. But I didn’t. He’s my son. He’s a kid. He deserves to be a kid without the worries of how his parents’ relationship is doing.

So I covered. . . the best I could. . . the best I knew how at the time. . .

I said, “When people get married it is a very serious commitment, one that people shouldn’t take lightly. I am living up to my commitment to your dad, and I will be taking care of him for the rest of his life. It’s what I promised to do when I married him. Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep.” The words sounded hollow to me, and I wondered if they sounded hollow to N.

I’m not sure I gave him the best answer. I’m not sure what I should have said. And this, ladies and gentlemen, will be my #1 topic for next Tuesday’s session with my counselor – how do I talk with N and model behavior for N that is helpful and not hurtful to N? What is okay to say and not okay to say? How do I navigate these shark-infested waters without losing an arm or a leg, or worse yet causing N to do so?

And what do I say when N says, again, “I sure miss BJ” without having tears roll down my cheeks as I think “Me too”?


Desmond Jones said...

Missing BJ isn't the same thing as wanting to be with him. . .

And I might be in the minority here, but I think you gave N a darned good answer. "Don't make promises you don't intend to keep" gets pretty close to the heart of the matter. Now, if teaching life-lessons to N is the question, the lesson will get driven home most effectively if you don't look miserable in the course of keeping your promise, but, you know, you do what you can. . . ;)

Val said...

No, I'm in agreement w/DJ - you gave N an honest & forthright answer. He's old enough to get a glimpse into the complexity of "grown-up" life occasionally...
Z will often chide me for being "too rough" on P - geez, 2 against 1!