how to listen to a child

“She doesn’t get to be traumatized!”

Firstly, let me say that my munchkin and her biological mother have a strained relationship.  There’s plenty of reason for her to feel angry towards the woman who gave birth to her.  Of course, that would almost be an upgrade to her current coldness and indifference.  Except when moments like this happen when her emotions break through.

But that isn’t what I want to talk about now.

It’s the first afternoon she’s spoken to her mother, in, well, ever, as far as I know.

I’m cross legged on my oldest munchkin’s bed.  She’s collapsed in a fit of tears.  She believed her mother listened to her.  She was so excited when she returned from their lunch together.

After which her mother went straight to court and outright lied about everything her daughter said.  And her daughter knows it now.  Oh, her mother will deny everything, pretend it was the court’s fault or her father’s or the daughter’s.  But everyone knows the court would have given in to the daughter’s wishes, if her parents had both agreed.

She refuses to look at either of us.

Her dad does his best, “Your mother is traumatized, too, by all of this–”

“She doesn’t get to be traumatized!”  Her words are jerked out of her mouth.

Only the words stop.  She just sits there, crying.

I’m desperate to say something, but I don’t know what I can say to this little girl, and she is, despite her bravado, still very much a little girl.

It’s true what it says in The Little Prince, “It is such a secret place, the land of tears.”

We allow her to talk as long as she needs. Eventually we both exit the room. I hope she’ll be okay. No, I know she will be. She always is– it’s me that has trouble moving on.

Tomorrow, she’ll have forgotten the whole thing.  Or at least she’ll not want us to mention it again.  She’ll be a little cooler to her mother, a little less affectionate.  I’m not sure her mother even notices.

I return to my bedroom and stare at the high ceiling.

Does her mother deserve to also feel traumatized? I don’t know. All her dad said was, “Your mother is in a traumatic place, too, and–” Before she snapped at, well, the world really.

If you ask me, her mother has zero rights to feel trauma. She had full decision making (not legally, but that doesn’t really matter a lot of the time, if you haven’t noticed how our legal and criminal systems work). Everything that happened was because the mother wanted it to happen.  She should be goddman ecstatic.  She got it all, didn’t she?  Her daughter has to go to the school she wants for her.  Leaving behind her friends, her passions, and her chance at being part of a skating team.  But since when do emotions follow reason?

I am sick of this scene replaying, only sometimes it’s a different child, but it’s always a direct result of their mother.  Every time the children are told, “Give your mother a chance.”  They did, they do.  I don’t want to keep putting them through this.  I’m tired.

People feel what they feel.

Justified or not. “Real” or not (I’ve said before, and I’ll hold to this, feelings may be valid but that doesn’t mean they’ve anything to do with reality). We don’t get to tell them how to feel.  Emotions are both simple and complex.

You can manipulate them, you can encourage or discourage them; but you can’t control them. You certainly can’t tell someone, “You can’t feel this way!”

Which I wish we could, because it would be so nice. Just pretend they’re sour grapes, Kitty. Like the fable. You don’t want them anyway.

When she’s older, I’ll talk to her.

When the trauma is further behind her, and she’s open to listening.  After her brain is formed to the point where she’s even capable of a significant conversation on this subject.

I’ll tell her that I think she was right, and that she was wrong.  That it really wasn’t ever about being right or wrong.  I’ll ask her to process how she felt. I’ll tell her I didn’t mean that her mother’s trauma was an excuse to hurt her, but it doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. And that when people operate within their trauma (related to my piece on “reevaluating, “abused people, abuse people”), they do things that they wouldn’t otherwise do.

It’s not time yet.

I’ll wait a little longer.

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