Me: Hey kiddo, are you about ready to go? You’re not going to be late for school again today.
Lib: Sure…just about. Oh, and Mom…I just want to let you know so you can stop asking about Eric*. We broke up. But it’s okay because it was mutual. I mean…it makes sense.
Me: Uh…are you okay? Who initiated it?
Lib: He did. Through a text message. So…yeah. I mean…that was crappy and stuff. But…yeah. I’m good. Totally good.
I saw in her face behind her smile that she was not, in fact, good. But dammit that 11 year old girl is me. Through and through. Her eyes began to water and turn a rosey shade of “this sucks so bad”. But she continued to smile as I stuttered through what I thought she should hear.And what is that, exactly? What do you say to your sweet girl who just got dumped by her very first boyfriend?
I’ll tell you what my instinct told me to say…
“Honey, boys are stupid…except your dad and brothers of course.”
“You don’t need him…his loss.”
“He’s obviously too chicken to talk to you face to face…better you know what he’s made of now.”
Ah yes…all of the accoutrement that goes with the emotional masonry lesson I so want to teach my daughter. “Here’s your first spade, and your first brick…build carefully.” But I can’t. God, I can’t build her up by teaching her how to harden herself. How to build those walls tightly around her heart. While I have made brick-laying an art-form, do I really want that for her?Has it always been satisfying for me in relationships past to smile, nod, agree and wish the boys well when they suggest we need time apart?
Even if I cried myself to oblivion in the private comfort of my bedroom, those boys never got the satisfaction of knowing they had the upper hand or were in complete control of the relationship. In fact my reaction, or lack thereof, always seemed to shake them a bit. I liked that. And as they walked away I quickly slap down that next layer, or ten, of brick and mortar.
While I want to protect my daughter from hurt, I don’t want to prevent her from feeling love. I mean real true deep love. Can you ever really experience that if you’re only peering at the boy over the fortress you’ve built around you? I realize she’s young…but dammit right now I’m laying the foundation for her. How to navigate through relationships and break-ups. I’m teaching her how to feel about it. How to respond. Do I want her upset? Hell no. But she has a right to feel emotional about it. I can’t brush that off and expect her to be tough as steel. She shouldn’t be. I want her to let boys in. Because they AREN’T all bad. In fact some are quite wonderful. And nurturing. And careful. And I want her to experience THAT. She deserves to feel swept off of her feet. And the boys she may encounter (waaaay down the road)…the good boys…deserve to be loved fully and freely by her.Yes she will encounter some d-bags-in-training along the way and have to experience a few heartaches in the meantime. It’s my job to be her soft place to land. And help her steady herself and focus on the good in her life. Take the spade and brick from her hand. And the next time she experiences this kind of hurt…my job…is to embrace her and say:
“I love you, my sweet girl. It’s okay to cry. And I’m so sorry.”
* Names have been changed to protect the innocent.