Having wanted to keep that entire custody thing on the down low from Aspen for the last year and a half, a situation arose last night where I felt Aspen was due for some answers that might help quell some issues she has been having over the last 6 months.
Up to now all she has known was that her mom moved away and she stayed put with me. Of course, as a child grows ans she becomes more cognizant of what's around her, more details are needed.
It started last night when I was upset with Aspen for habitually forgetting homework assignments or books or projects at school. Running out of options I told her to pack up all her Webkins (her most prized posessions these days) and that she would get them back when she had a full week of not forgetting to bring stuff home.
Of course she started to get teary eyed but it was what she said that started the conversation. "That's the last thing left I have that I care about."
I figured I knew where this was going but I bit.
"What do you mean?" I changed my tone a notch from anger to confusion.
"First mom moves away and then Nanna dies. Everything I love goes away."
It was a 30 minute conversation that followed so I cant transcribe the entire thing. What I have concluded from this and the past months of her getting weepy at night saying she misses mommy is that she needs some serious validation put toward her feelings. An 8 yr old tends to think that any anger or frustration or other 'negative' emotion leveled toward their beloved parent is somehow 'wrong' and probably tends to second guess or stifle their feelings. Afterall, a child shouldn't be in a scenario where they face daily sadness or anger due to their parents' actions.
Am I alone in that conclusion?
So my aim was to for once give Aspen's feelings of confusion, hurt, dissertion, anger, sadness and confusion some serious affirmation.
"Honey, anyone who had a parent move away from them would feel everything you're feeling. Your brother feels the exact same way you do about your mom moving away. I am upset at your mother for moving away from you. I thought she should have stayed out here and gotten a job and apartment so you could stay at her place 3-4 nights a week just like you had been doing for years. Of course you are sad and hurt and angry and you have every right to feel that way. And you have every right to speak out about your feelings. If you are sad because your mom moved away you need to let her know. If you're angry that you don't get to see her everyday you have to talk to her about that. You should never be afraid to talk to people about your feelings, even if it's me or mommy."
She listened well and asked more questions than I thought she would. She wanted to know how she reacted when her mom told her she was moving away. She wanted to know why she moved away in the first place (something I couldn't give a good answer to because I don't think there is a good answer).
Then she asked who decided that Aspen would stay with me rather than go with mom. I was glad she asked this question. I wanted to make sure that she understood that it was not her mom's goal or desire to not have Aspen with her as she moved (I know her brother has a serious sense of abandonment about his mom's move and I suspect Aspen does too. I want to try to quell that as much as possible). So I told her about how I asked a judge to make sure that she stay with me.
Of course, she had no idea about any of the trial and many more questions arose:
"Where was I when this happened?" "You were in school."
"When was this?" "Just over a year ago before Christmas."
"Was mommy there?" "No, she knew it was best for you to stay out here with me so she didn't have to show up."
The entire conversation was a fine line for me to walk between being honest and open yet not speaking negatively about her mother.
While I want to keep my issues with her mother to myself they are not entirely irrelevant at this point. It is vital that Aspen know she is not the only one who has all these feelings based on her mother's moving away. She needs to know for her own mental well being that others (her brother, her grandfather, her aunt, her daddy, her granmama) are just as upset and dissapointed about her mother choosing to move away as she is.
Later on that evening when Aspen called her mom I could hear Aspen taking my advice and expressing her feelings and asking her mother questions that to this point she either hadn't had the courage to ask or hadn't had the clarity to think to ask.
I was proud of her. And I'd love to share some of those questions but that was a conversation between Aspen and her mom and I would be intruding by doing so.
I'm fairly certain that her mother is pretty steamed at me for it surely seemed from her end of the line that I had been speaking ill of her to her own daughter. In reality I went as far out of my way as I could to not let my feelings for her mother cloud the objectiveness of my advice. In reality I feel there is no justification for her mother moving away so I can't very well create a justification to tell Aspen. That is called 'lieing' and I try to avoid it, particularly when it comes to conversing with my child. If her mother wants there to be a positive spin on her moving away she will have to spin it herself. That is why I direct Aspen to ask questions about her mother to her mother as much as possible.
But if Aspen has the clarity to ask me my thoughts on the answers her mother gives her... once again, I will be honest.
And hopefully Aspen will get her Webkins back at the end of the week.