Two little faces, innocent and round. 11am. Awake and alert in anticipation of what that day, that Sunday would bring.
I turned the TV off. “Why?” The boys protested.
“We need to talk to you.”
6 and 9. They were 6 and 9. Savvy, having grown up in a big city. But so unaware, so comfortable with being children and so filled with wonder.
“Crushing” is the word that comes to mind.
I was a witness. The witness. The therapist said that I should be present and keep my cool. Don’t speak. Let him speak since he was the one who had decided to leave.
I had known for a few weeks and kept our secret under our roof and hidden in crevices away from our children as we figured out how we should “handle” it.
That Sunday morning, there was no escaping it. Especially because he was in charge of the conversation. I couldn’t back out. I couldn’t protest.
In his deep unaffected tone- “Mommy and Daddy are not going to be together anymore and I’m going to move out.”
I swear I saw my older son’s heart break. Tears streamed from his eyes- hazelnut in color and shape. So big and open like his heart. So incapable of filtering. He was taking in too much too fast. He sobbed silently as his dad’s words shallowly filled the room. No one was listening anymore.
My six year old’s face displayed only confusion. Then he wailed and his body writhed. He had taken a cue from his big brother but it was obvious to me that he didn’t really get it and he wouldn’t really get it for months or years, if ever.
Let me get this straight, this brutal rite of passage happens to millions of children? It felt like child-abuse. Like the worst form of verbal abuse.
We were supposed to go take a walk “all together” after “the talk” to reassure the kids that everything was okay or was going to be okay.
One of my kids called out, “I want to go with just Daddy.” I didn’t take it personally. They felt their father slipping away. They felt that he was leaving them under the guise of leaving me. They should have time with him. I much preferred to take shelter and let them leave without me rather than stuff my welling emotions down for an entire afternoon. I said a quick goodbye and hurried to the bathroom, bursting into tears, swallowing the sounds of my grief so my children wouldn’t hear.
After they left. Where could I go? I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard or longed to leave my body so desperately. I looked at the knives in the kitchen and cried harder knowing that trying to stab myself would be ridiculous and impossible. I paced frantically, shaking and crying. I looked at the bathtub and fantasized about drowning and while I sobbed audibly and without restraint, I concluded that that wouldn’t work either. I didn’t want to die anyway. I just couldn’t shake that penetrating image of my sons’ innocence dissolving right in front of me.
Does it sound dramatic? Exaggerated? Extreme? As I write this today, it’s no less apparent to me now than it was then that my children were deeply and irreparably wounded that day.
I have learned to accept. That this was part of their paths. That people survive and overcome worse events than their parents’ divorces. That my children have their wounds and can live with them and be okay.
We actually did a decent job telling them. It was by the book and we were both pretty stoic overall. But, dammit, there’s no painless way to skin a cat. And there’s no way to un-skin it once it’s done.