Ever since I told the girls about my pregnancy, Terra has made it clear that she is hoping for a baby sister. I wondered why she would be so adamant about having another sister when she battles constantly with the one she’s got. I figured that a 3 year old would see all same-sexed siblings in the same light; that maybe having a brother would mean no fighting, but Terra was thinking far beyond my reasoning. After weeks of hearing her say that she doesn’t want a brother, and weeks of responding with my narrow-minded explanations of how we cannot choose what I’m having, and how we will love the baby regardless, I finally decided to ask the question I should’ve asked in the beginning.
“Why do you not want a baby brother?” I honestly expected a self-centered answer which would have nothing to do with the baby’s sex; like that she didn’t want to share my breasts or stop sleeping in my bed or no longer be my baby. Instead, I was shocked by an entirely different candid response which seemed well beyond the capacity of my preschooler.
“When he grows up he will be like Daddy,” she said, giving me that recoiled look she always gives me when she talks about her father, usually in a negative light. “He will be mean. He will make me sad.” I was heartbroken. I sucked my tongue to fight back tears, and took a moment to collect myself before consoling her.
Listening to her reasoning was difficult, but I didn’t want to keep her from expressing her concerns. I reassured her that I understood her fears of a baby brother; that since he’d be a male, like Daddy, she figured that he’d be more likely to behave like her father. I told her that although the baby might be a boy, we would give him lots of love and show him how wonderful life, family, and women could be. I told her that we wouldn’t hurt him, and that we would teach him how to treat us respectfully. I let her know how much I would work toward helping the baby become a really nice man someday, who would have a really loving family, a man who would never have to be separated from his family for breaking the rules on anger.
The Rules of Anger are simple, when you’re angry:
- Do not hurt anyone
- Do not hurt yourself
- Do not harm property
- Talk about how you feel.
I decided to take them to counseling a few weeks after The Big Incident, time I’d spent beating around the bush with, “We’ll talk about it soon,” and “He still loves you, but he made a bad choice and had to leave.” Their counselor framed my husband’s absence in this comfortable-to-repeat, age-appropriate manner; “Daddy broke the rules of anger and he cannot live with us any longer.” They adjusted to play-therapy surprisingly well; by the end of our first session I learned that they both knew much more than I hoped they’d known about the turmoil in our home prior to their father’s abrupt overnight departure.
I’d tried to keep the arguments out of their earshot, the pain from showing on my face, my disdain and resentment from interfering with the illusion of respect and contentment. Still, they knew. It was better though, even though it hurt, to be able to talk about how certain things that Daddy did had made us feel, without that looming guilt of betrayal or threat of punishment. Our initial visits were the hardest, but the issues needed to be addressed, and now we are able to talk comfortably about their father outside of the counselor’s office.
It will continue to be a process. There’s no child support yet, no set visitation, no conclusion to the court cases revolving around The Big Incident, no certainty of what will happen with their ability to see him in the future. I do not want to strip them of a vital relationship, but I do want to protect them from possible harm. It has been difficult. The girls are young but so aware of things I hadn’t told them. I’m happy with the fact that they will grow up knowing that we can be open about things from now on; even things painful to discuss.