broken-hearted little girl

I knew it was coming.

This morning, after her sister had gone to school, my younger daughter, Bryn, asked me whether James and I had gotten back together yet.   I told her we hadn’t.  She frowned.

Bryn:  Why haven’t you gotten back together?  You always get back together.

Me:   Not this time, babe.  I’m sorry.  Really I am.

Bryn:  But why?  What happened?

What I wanted to say was something along the lines of “None of your business” or “It’s grown-up stuff” but the little voice in my head reminded me that this was a teachable moment, and I was, after all, responsible for her current state of confusion.  It was my conscious decision to begin to incorporate James into all of our lives…. to allow my children to see him as my “boyfriend” rather than a “friend”… to encourage them to get to know him and value him.  When I made the decision to finally commit myself to the relationship and not run away last May, I committed all of us.  And when he left, he left all of us.  Now I had to figure out how to put the pieces back together.

I took a deep breath, willed myself not to cry, and told her the truth:  he just didn’t love me.  Her little face scrunched up, confused.

Bryn:  But why not?  How does that happen?

Another big breath.  Swallow the lump in my throat.

I reminded her of the different kinds of love that people have for one another — the way I love her, the way she loves her sister, the way we all love the dogs, the way her dad loves his girlfriend.  We talked about how different those are and how the last kind of love doesn’t always go as smoothly as some other kinds.  I assured her that James still really liked her and her sister, and that this was only about me and him.

Except that it’s not.  And she’s way too smart to be fooled.

Bryn:  But if you don’t marry James, how can Chelsea and I be sisters and live together?

Sigh.  Bryn and James’ middle daughter, Chelsea, became fast friends over the summer.  Bryn is a popular little girl with lots of friends and activities, but she felt a special affinity for Chelsea.

Me:  Sweetie, James and I never talked about getting married.  You know that.

Bryn:  But me and Chelsea did!  We had it all planned out!  Do I even get to be friends with her now??

Me:  Yes, of course.  You and Chelsea will be friends for as long as you want to.

Bryn:  Good.  Because I’m going to write her a letter and I”m going to see her when she comes at Christmas and we’re going to stay friends!

She might as well have added “So there!” for good measure.  She turned her back to me and busied herself getting ready for school.  I left her packing her backpack and retreated to my bedroom, where I collapsed on the bed.

So, today I am carrying not only my own sadness at the relationship’s end, but my daughter’s as well.


When did it all get so complicated?  Should I never have included my children in our relationship? How long are you supposed to sneak around your kids before you trust that what you share has some long-term potential?  How in the world can I protect them from the disappointment of my failed relationships when I can’t even protect myself?

I simply don’t know the answers.

What I do know?  Someday, they will have their share of heartbreaks; they shouldn’t have to share in mine.



Filed under dating, healing, love, parenthood, relationships, sadness, single mom

17 responses to “broken-hearted little girl

  1. OH TPG, I’m so, so sorry for your girls and for you : This is so hard, it pushes us to our limits both as women and as mums …
    My boy is also heart broken when his step-dad left me, and this is one of the many reasons why I really, really didn’t want our family broken up. We cannot shelter our children from our heartbreak, let alone their own, and I know they’ll get over it because children are resilient, but not without consequences on their own ability to form lasting relationships as grown-ups.
    Sorry, I don’t have any answers to the whole “how do you mix your kids and your romantic life” question, this is one of the hardest things about broken families.
    Hang on in there, all of you x

    • I wouldn’t ever suggest that people (and especially people who are only dating) stay together for the sake of the children if the feelings are truly gone. But it’s so very hard for the children to understand, and that is what makes me hurt for them. Bryn really got her little heart set on us being some kind of family… She’ll get over it, I know. But the guilt is killing me.

  2. I feel your pain and that of your daughter as well. Been there done that
    John Wilder

  3. Oh my goodness… this is so very hard to do. I remember when I was contemplating moving out from my daughter’s fathers house. I watched his daughter who was 7 at the time skipping down the hallway and I stayed two more months because I couldn’t imagine hurting her in that way (or her brother) I loved those kids and they loved me. It was very hard.When I finally did leave, I held her in the kitchen because she asked me if I had an apartment, how could I see daddy?

    I didn’t do as well as you Precious, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t even breath. I managed to say, “I’m not going to” … and I put my arms out and just sat there on the floor holding her for a very long time and we cried so hard. Wow, it still hurts I’m getting all teary eyed telling the story. I still see them from time to time, still love them to bits it’s different than your situation of course. I felt awful.

    My last relationship took my daughter 2 years to get over and it was the same as you are describing here. I’d start feeling better, she would bring him up. We did this a long time and it broke my heart every time. I don’t think that there are any golden rules in life as to when to introduce someone to your children. It sounds like you did a pretty good job there taking your time and blending things together. How would you know? In our hopes that we can protect our kids from the things that don’t work out, it seems difficult to really make choices that have clear endings. I hope I’ve said this right…

    One day at a time honey… one day at a time.

    • Oh, MC. I got all teary-eyed reading this, too! It wasn’t nearly as bad as you described, or as bad as the scene when their dad and I told them we were splitting up. Those were truly awful. This was just one of those painful bumps in the road that we’re traveling on now. One of these days, all the pieces will fit and hopefully we’ll all fall in love with a great guy and his family.

      • mysterycoach

        I can imagine it was awful. I hate those things we say about how to have loved than lost is better than to have never loved at all. At the same time, maybe the kids can learn that we’re human, we all have difficulties and sometimes, we aren’t supposed to be together with someone and it’s okay to find someone who we are supposed to be with. Ya know? My daughter, as she got older asked me why me and her dad didn’t work out and I told her that we weren’t for one another, we were different people and that happens sometimes.

        Sure, sure … happy endings work for me too! 🙂 We will, takes time it seems. Specially when being selective.

  4. Sorry I had to click the notify button on here so I can come back. Ignore this post. 🙂

  5. I felt the heaviness of this post. I have no idea what the right answers are but it does break my heart for your daughter and her friend she wanted so badly to be family. How sad! I got all teary eyed reading this. I wish you all the best of luck.

    I wish you healing in this also. I know how hard it can be to try to explain adult relationships to children, especially when you’re feeling it all right now.

    • Thanks very much for the kind words. I knew this conversation would have to happen, and I know that variations on this conversation will happen again in the future, both about James, and probably about other men and their families. As the daughter of a single mother myself, I have similar memories, but from the child’s point of view. My ex-husband and I each waited nearly a year before taking the big step of having a partner spend the night while the children were in the home. In his case, he and his girlfriend are still together; in mine, I’m having the hard conversations…. so, you just never know, I guess.

  6. Hi TPG,

    First, I have to tell you that you did a brilliant job picking that image. Perfect.

    Not only does this failure-to-complete weigh on the little ones, as you point by your own departure to your bedroom for some Tearful Time, the ‘big ones’ pay a price too. We suffer for our children sometimes when things like this go wrong. We don’t want to see them in pain and shield them or feel it with them.

    There’s no right answers, just gambles that we hope will pay off for everyone’s sake.

  7. I can feel your heart break. I often worry about this same scenario with my daughter. I have been in a relationship for a year now and I am worried he will leave me. But, what really terrifies me, is how my daughter will be affected. I think I’m more concerned with her fragile, immature heart.

    • Sue Your new blog looks pretty cool! Ah, the warm days of suemmr, viewed from your sail boat Sure miss those days already! I had quite a wet commute this morning to work, but I’m all dry now and feeling warm and toasty now as I type this.Have a great week and fun with your new blog. I’ll have to read your posts, categories, and archives when I get a chance on my break. ) Jenny

  8. The interesting thing about my kids is that, in the past two weeks, they’ve had to face the end of my relationship with James (after I finally told them) and the end of their dad’s relationship with “Debbie,” and they are mostly unfazed. They are worried about us, but otherwise just want reassurance that we’re okay. If we’re okay, they’re okay. Bryn’s earlier sadness over my break-up with James seems to have passed. Their resilience (or is it natural childhood self-absorption?) is amazing.

    So, don’t worry too hard, I guess. We all just do the best we can, and I think ultimately they know that….

  9. Pingback: the mother figure | that precarious gait

  10. rascalfoxx

    Ok. I can’t read any more. You have reduced me to tears. Hard to read when I don’t have windshield wipers on my eyes to clear the rain of pain as I read what you dear women have been thru. I am so sorry and wish that somehow in a Harry Potter moment, that I could magic wand away the pain you and the children have endured. I don’t have any other words except I am sorry.

  11. I read this comment for the first time on my phone this morning while snuggling my youngest — the star of this post. 🙂 Sometimes I forget how far we’ve come and how painful those moments were. It’s amazing how much you can weather together when you love each other and support each other through it.

    Hopefully someday Bryn will love the future man in my life and his family as much as she did James and his family. I guess only time will tell. 🙂

    Thanks for the heartfelt comment. 🙂

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