I tell them they need to come to our my bedroom, that we, their father and I, need to talk to them. Vivian bounces around the room oblivious, Rosalyn continues to chatter to herself, her world made up of straws and markers and people only she can see, tucked away inside her head as Vivian sings to Rudolph.
We sit them between us. My eyes start to fill but I beat them back by lashes.
I tell them that no matter what, NO MATTER WHAT, we will always love them, their father and I. Vivian looks up at me with her big brown eyes, wide and glistening. And stares into me.
I stumble, but continue as her father’s arm tightens around her shoulder. Daddy isn’t going to live with us anymore. Daddy is going to have his own house. As reality hits, as the words flutter down her chest like dying moths, her face crushes itself and the tears come, the tears you shouldn’t have to shed until you’re 17 and some boy just broke your heart. The tears I should not be staring at while my 6 year old freezes in her father’s arms.
I can’t stop it. My chest wraps itself inside out and a snake slithers around my heart, watching her. Rosalyn squirms in my arms, twisting and still nattering, but Vivian has a crashing realization of what this means, and she sobs a death call for us, and I await the requisite banshee outside my window.
Never. Never ever ever do I wish to do this to my child again. I am her mother. I should be protecting her, not wounding her, not shifting her world ten paces to the left, a little out of the sun.
I hold her hands tightly as she cries, and mutter all the pithy words I’ve read she needs to hear. We still love you-we still love each other, just not like a mommy and daddy should together. Two houses will be fun! You’ll see me all week and Daddy on the weekend and we can do stuff together now and again. If you need one of us, you just call.
But no, we won’t live together here. Daddy is leaving after Christmas.
Rosalyn asks where we’ll live. It’s the only sign that she’s been listening after all, her sunny side up disposition unaltered by the conversation. She’s young enough, immature enough to likely not be bothered.
Once Vivian’s tears have subsided, once she’s swallowed I remind her of how Mommy and Daddy haven’t been getting along, and how this way, we’re happier. She looks me in the eye and sees that I believe it. A weight goes off her shoulders much as one went off mine weeks ago.
We flip through the Sears catalogue to look at little beds for his house. We tell them that just this once, they get to pick which one they want.
I bend, remembering to whisper in their ears. This is not your fault. This is us. You have done, and can do nothing to fix it.
And we love you, more than you can ever know.
I refused to insult either child by telling them this is best. I still don’t believe that. I don’t believe that we’ve worked, TRULY worked on making this marriage work, and I will likely be resentful about that until the end of time. Maybe it’s because my parent’s had a good marriage, and Cancer stole it, and I wanted a real chance to have what they had-a home, a loving marriage, a family.
I have never thought Divorce to be the best option in cases where there is no violence. Not without trying to work stuff through.
But it’s not totally up to me. And if we can’t or won’t work through it, then this is best. Even if it crushes my heart, and makes me realize how I truly am a mother since only a mother would hurt herself this way to make it better in the long run.
I don’t know if we’re doing the right thing.
We took them to dinner, mostly to underscore the “we will still do things as a unit” point, and to give them a break from that tension. We walked to see where he’ll live, just a few blocks away, and smack dab between the walking trail, two parks and the corner store. A quiet, dead end street. Walking home, Vivian asked to play outside for awhile, the new snow too much to ignore. She asked her father to play with her.
She decided to play house with Rosalyn.
I’ll be the mother. You be the daughter. There is no father here.
How many times exactly, can a heart break in one day?