Last night at bedtime I was tucking Little Mo in after a tiring evening. There had been some conversing with her father and I was unhappy with how the conversation had gone. I normally allow him to manage his relationship with our girls, in much the same way that he allows me to manage mine. Last night was a bit different, and I found myself having to advocate for Little Mo, because I’d felt that in the conversation she had been steamrolled by him — in much the same way that I often was during the course of our marriage — and beyond.
As I stood in her room later, about half an hour after the conversation had ended, I could tell she had something on her mind.
“This is going to sound a little weird, but during that conversation with Daddy tonight I felt like a piece of cheese being grated down, smaller and smaller. I just gave in because I didn’t want to disappear.”
God, I am all too familiar with that feeling. How many times in the decade that he and I were a couple did I feel that exact same way? How many times do I still feel that way when we don’t see eye to eye on an issue? I had felt that way earlier in the day when talking to him, in fact.
Why can’t he see that he’s doing the same thing to his daughters?
I met her eyes. “I’m so sorry you felt that way tonight, sweetie.”
“It wasn’t your fault,” she told me.
I knew that I was treading in potentially dangerous waters. Imperfect as he may be, his is still her father. And she loves him, flaws and all. And he loves her, too, in his own way. While she’s a smart girl, and catching on, she’s still only nine years old. And some things she needs to learn on her own. I knew that what I said next had to be worded carefully.
“I know it wasn’t my fault tonight, but I know exactly how awful it feels when someone makes you feel that way. And you know what? You don’t deserve that. Nobody deserves that. It was disrespectful and wrong.“
Her dark eyes stayed locked with mine for a moment before she sat up just a little bit straighter. I could see the wheels turning as she slowly nodded. “I love you, Mommy.”
“I love you, too, sweetie. So much. You are a wonderful girl.”
I just pray that my words will stay with her longer than his.