Did you ever set out with clear sights and end up doing exactly the wrong thing?

I’ve swerved with my 6-year-old, between working to help her face the tragedy of her mom, who not only can’t take care of her, but can’t even manage a visit or card, and letting her forget about it and just be a kid. I hope I usually look to my daughter for which is the right way in the moment, but sometimes I push it one way or the other, and I rarely know if I’m doing the right thing. But tonight, I’m clear I blew it this week.

With Mother’s Day approaching, and no news of her mother and no way to contact her, I was worried about Shayla and how she’d do. I checked with the teacher about when they might do something for mother’s day, because in past years there have been upsets out of the blue that later we traced back to something I wish we’d thought of. I wanted to be prepared. To my surprise, the teacher said they weren’t doing Mother’s Day this year, something about diverse families and they’ll do a generic family day in June. I fear she may have changed plans she had, which was not my intent. My daughter has to grow up in a world where there’s a mother’s day every year, and I don’t want to hide that from her.

Yet with no activities in school, somehow it didn’t come up all week. I thought I should say something, but hated to bring it up. I put it off and put if off, and we got well into the day with no mention. I’m ashamed to say I even called my stepmom in private, so Shayla wouldn’t hear. I’d gone from sensitive to hiding the facts.

Late in the afternoon she heard it mentioned. “It’s Mother’s Day?” she asked, as if slapped. I’d done exactly the wrong thing. It came up several more times. Of course it would, and I was a fool to imagine it wouldn’t, though the truth is I wasn’t consciously thinking about it.

Her upset was brief, a little cloud passed over her, passed quickly. Yet the more I thought about it, the more exactly wrong my approach seems. I don’t ever want her to think I’d rather not talk about her mom, even when that’s true. The hard to talk about has to be ok. She’s entitled to denial and avoidance when she wants it, but I should not encourage that to make things easier for me.

I don’t think it’s something she thought about much the rest of the day. She had a busy, happy weekend, and if she’d been brooding about her mom we’d know. But I see I’ve got to set the course more clearly, and face up to these hard conversations earlier and more often. It would have been a 2 or 3 minute conversation tops, and I could have been her ally in facing this.

Of course this was a minor blip, and I realize I have to tack back and forth between the extremes. We’ll find our way. But what I would do to not have left her stranded today.

Next time. Happy Mother’s Day everybody!