“The bad news is nothing lasts forever, the good news is nothing lasts forever.” –J. Cole
I came home from a nighttime run to the drug store. I’d just received a phone call from my ex-husband telling me that he is going to be taken into jail the next morning. It was not a very good conversation….at all. We argued. Why? A million reasons, but really that’s just what we did during this time of our lives. However, the whole time we were arguing, all I could think about was that when I got home I was going to have to tell our children that he was in jail. How does a parent even do this? I hadn’t even known anyone who had gone to jail at this point. How do I communicate this to our 5 and 3 year old? Again, I felt like he had made this massively huge mess, and I’m stuck with the hard work of explaining it to our children and breaking their hearts.
When I got to my parents house, I walked in from downstairs. I watched my feet go from step to step as I could hear my kiddos’ laughter fill the house. I must’ve not looked too good, because when Paisley saw my face she knew something was going on. I took them upstairs where we had made our new little home, and we all sat down on the floor with our legs crossed over each other. We got as comfy as we could get. I looked into their sweet innocent faces. The thought crossed my mind that maybe they don’t’ really need to know what’s going on. I could just kind of skim over this part in their lives, and they wouldn’t really know the difference. They don’t really see their dad that often anyway. So, it wouldn’t be a huge difference in their lives.
But, then I remembered my promise I made to them. At the very beginning of all this yucky-ness, I made them a promise that I would always be honest with them….even with the hard parts…especially with the hard parts. Something happens to your heart when people you love don’t tell you the truth. You feel dumb, and hurt. You feel like there is something wrong with you that they couldn’t trust you with this information. I had become their safe place. It was a responsibility that I did not take lightly. I never wanted them to feel like they couldn’t trust my words. I’ve always handled their hearts with so much care…I still do. I looked into their eyes. I wanted to capture this moment in my memory because they will be changed after this conversation. It will be different after this….always.
So, this is how it went:
Me: Guys, I’ve got some bad news to tell you.
Me: Well, remember when I told you that daddy did some things that kept him away from us? One of those things was that he took money without asking.
Paisley: Isn’t that stealing?
Me: Yes, it is. Do you know what can happen if you steal?
Paisley: Go to jail?
Eddie: (on the verge of tears streaming down his face) I thought only bad guys go to jail. How can daddy go to jail?
Oh my soul! This is exactly what I’m talking about. It’s so wrong that I have to tell them all the bad news ALL THE TIME! It totally kills me to see their innocence chipped away when I have to tell them the things that he did. No child should have to think about such things. It’s just a stark reminder of how we are not promised life to be fair; we are just promised that we are not alone in our struggles.
Both kids are just in tears now. I scoop them up closer and let them just get it all out. Their little whimpers tear at the very core of me. Part of me wants to explode at my ex-husband for creating such heartbreak, the other part of me wants to curl into a little ball and pretend none of it is really happening. Either one of those choices wasn’t good….
Me: Guys, I know we think that bad guys go to jail. But, it’s really just people who have made bad choices. Since daddy made a bad choice and broke the law, he has to go and think about that in jail. It’s like his very own long time out.
Paisley: Will we ever get to talk to him?
Me: Yes, he can call us and write you letters, too.
Paisley: (crinkling her little forehead, and looking up with those teary brown eyes) If daddy makes bad choices sometimes, does that mean I will too?
You never know when the kids are going to throw a curve ball, and here one was. Here I am thinking this is all about him and their feelings. It never even entered my brain that they see him an extension of them. I’m sure there are parts of him that the kids admire. So, poor Paisley now thinks that since he made some terrible choices, that she is destined to make the same ones.
Me: Nope! Of course not, Paisley! Jesus made us all our own individual selves. Daddy made daddy’s choices, and Paisley makes Paisley choices. Just like I make my own choices, too. We all have the opportunity to make good or bad choices everyday.
That answer seemed to satisfy her question. I could feel her small tense body relax a bit. I held those babies as long as they wanted, and then the silence was broken by Eddie wanted to watch T.V. He’s always been good at breaking the silence…still is!
I had a lot of difficult days throughout this divorce journey, but that was one of the hardest. I couldn’t protect them from that. They needed to know. We tend to underestimate our kids resiliency. Sometimes we handle them like they are made of glass. But, they will totally surprise you. They are truly able to roll with the punches as long as they know we will be by their side guiding them through the process.
The Lord was with me when I was talking to my children that day. He was there every day before, and every day since. But, just as my children looked to me for direction, we are meant to look to Him for ours. He will never lead you down the wrong path. All we have to do is trust that He’s got us.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12