“Mommy, Why Don’t We Have a Normal Family?’
I turned around and looked down into my daughter’s beautiful brown eyes that she got from her father, pushed back her curly dirty blond hair that she got from me and my mind went blank of my usual, witty, question brushing off remark that has always worked for me in the past. Suddenly, I felt cold. My stomach dropping as if I were on the world’s steepest roller coaster.
How do I tell her that I failed? That I chose her father knowing he was not good enough for me? That I walked down that aisle knowing I had failed her before she was even conceived?
How do I tell her that by admitting I made a mistake in the choice of mates to have children with that I would have to concede that she is a mistake too? Which she is not. Not even close. Not even on the darkest day during the darkest hour. She and her sisters are the only reason I can’t let myself admit failure in my choices. I could not live my life without them.
But as I stood before my youngest, pondering the best age appropriate answer to a most complex question, I was lost. Why don’t we have a normal family?
My girls have asked questions over the years since I kicked my ex out. The divorce was liberating to me but I had to keep in the forefront that the girls would not see it that way. All they would see is daddy leaving to start a new life with his girlfriend. That he left them and that he was blaming me in front of them, further adding to the confusion of who they should believe. I had to be aware that years later they would still have questions. And they have. Lots of them.
So far I have been able to answer why daddy and I can’t live in the same house anymore while his wife just live somewhere nearby. I have been able to answer why he thought she was more important than his current family. I have been able to answer why it is important that they have a strong relationship with him even though his leaving confuses them. I have been pretty proud of myself, actually, able to answer them honestly for their age level without throwing him under the bus.
But the ‘normal’ family question threw me. She meant mom + dad = family. She meant that school friends have both. She meant that she felt left out, singled out, different because her family was not ‘normal’. That tore me up. That my decisions before she was born created a strife in her life that would make her question her ‘norm’.
On this day I asked her what ‘normal’ was. She laughed and giggled like a 6 year old does when they can not explain what they mean. I smiled down at her and told her that normal is no fun and that our family was perfect. She seemed satisfied and bounded off to play with her sisters.
I stood there, deep in thought, wondering how to handle this as it comes up in the future and wondering for the thousandth time since the divorce… why don’t I have a normal family?