“Mom! Is it true???” My 5-year-old flung her arms around me, looking up at my hopefully as if she could get me to answer that yes, it was true, just through the force of her charm and hope.
“Is what true, sweetie?”
“My friend says we are moving into that house right there! Is it true?”
In that moment, I felt like I was having an out of body experience, like I was collapsing from a sudden increase in gravity inside my body. Somehow, my mouth made the sounds, “Yes, honey. You and Noah and I are going to move in there later this summer.”
My daughter was five. She didn’t understand the implications of my answer. “Can my new friends come over to play when we move in?”
“Yes, sweetie. Of course they can.”
My daughter hugged me and ran off to share the good news.
2014 was a year for terrible conversations.
In the spring, I told my wife that I didn’t think we could be happy together. That was a terrible conversation, or really, a series of terrible conversations. The worst one was definitely the one where we both admitted that our relationship was ending, and that I was going to move out.
At the time of that conversation, we had an 8-year-old son, and a 5-year-old daughter.
After that, we went back to the counselor to ask for help on how to tell the kids.
Soon, we had a vague plan. It would be together, about a month before I moved. We hadn’t worked out exactly what we were going to say yet. We were going to talk about it with the therapist, again, to work out the details.
As with so many things in life, it didn’t go according to plan.
What happened instead was one of those experiences that sear painfully into maternal guilt.
I took the children to a block party.
It was on the block where I had a pending offer on a new house, where I planned to move. It was a beautiful block, with dozens of children, including a family we already knew in the house next door. They were the ones who invited us to the block party.
When Josie ran off from delightedly learning that we were about to move to this block, she was so giddy that I knew she wouldn’t be able to avoid talking about it even until we got to the car, much less back home. I had to tell her brother. Now, before his sister, or the neighbor kid, told him.
With my heart pounding, I summoned him over, and sat down on a slightly private segment of the curb. Noah sat next to me, and I began the most terrible conversation so far:
“Josie learned something just now that isn’t fair for her to know and you not to know. She learned that the three of us will be moving to that house right there, a little bit later this summer.”
“What about This Mommy?”
“She’s going to stay in the house where we live now.”
“I DON’T UNDERSTAND!”
“I think you do.”
His voice quivered as he asked, “Do you mean divorced?”
“Yes, sweetie, that’s what I mean.”
He started to sob, the horrible, loud, ugly sobs of totally unexpected heartbreak. It was the saddest sound I’ve ever heard. And I held him and watched our future neighbors trying not to watch us, and wondered yet again, what I could have done differently, what I should have done differently, what on earth I could have been thinking, bringing the kids to the block party.
Editor's note: This story was part of the 2016 Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee on May 1. Visit metroparentmagazine.com/ltym for more stories from this wonderful event.