Dear Lily,

It’s almost midnight (11:47 pm). I’m sitting next to your bed in your room. You’re finally asleep. It’s been a rough night.

You really put up a fight about bedtime. You admitted today, just recently, before you fell asleep, that you do feel out of control. Yes, I bet you do. Parents fight, talk about divorce often, father checks out, mother loses hope and checks out (leaves the room, so you will put yourself to sleep). You self sooth by distracting yourself with games, playing, talking, dancing, being disruptive, my phone, anything to keep the bad thoughts at bay. For perhaps a year, you’ve talked about bad thoughts. The one you told me about tonight (and last night) was that you’re alone in a baloon drifting away into the sky. Horrible. Helpless. That’s how I imagine you feel. Then why do you push people away?

I want for you to fall asleep in a place of total comfort and security, peace. Tonight was the typical pattern: you hit Daddy, he blows up at you, kicks you out of the bedroom, I read to you, you push me, I cry and feel sad, I leave you alone (emotionally abandon you), you come find me in all parts of the house, yell at me that you want alone time, I give you space, you want to reconnect, I shut you out (sit with my back to the office so you can’t get in, sit alone in a dark room so you can’t find me), then eventually we reconnect when we are both so emotionally spent and raw that it’s that or I think about packing my bags and spending the night at a hotel.

I told you several times tonight that perhaps you’ve seen and heard to much. I never saw my parents fight. If I objected, my dad beat me with his belt. I slept in a bedroom with Ciocia Monika, not in their bed.

You asked about having a sibling several times today. I said it would do you good to have someone in your life who you can’t control. I also said (likely a mistake, I already regret) that I couldn’t bring a baby into our home life. I said, parents fight, hitting, arguments, who would want to be born into that. Then right before you fell asleep I said I didn’t think our life was that bad, Daddy and I both try try again, we love each other, we want to make it work. And you said, are you kidding? (your exact words). I guess you think it really is that bad.

You also asked if anyone read the baby diary I write for you and I said just me. I told you I write it so you’ll have a record of your firsts, so you’ll know what you were doing at certain ages, and know how it felt to be your mom, to be a parent. My mistake is that you’re just too young and emotionally unprepared for the tremendous stressful concepts (parents fighting, abandonment, divorce, moving, etc) that I put on you. I still can’t believe Daddy said right in front of you that he was so stressed, something about blowing his head off (committing suicide). I hope you don’t remember that. He’s at the end of his rope. Perhaps we need a drastic change like moving to Costa Rica or giving up our devices, being farmers or something.

Luey is laying in your bed licking himself. I’m glad he’s here. I feel comforted. I resolve to just shut up about my feelings. You’re too young to know them. I told you before you feel asleep that I never saw my parents fight and they kept adult decisions to themselves. I decided to be honest with you and hide nothing, to let you see me cry, to hear all my thoughts.

I originally came into your room after sitting alone in my dark office, because you cried out for me and I wanted you to know I would come and be here for you. You were upset about the Longhorn Steakhouse bread not being eaten and going to waste. I drew you a picture of the bread, and butter, cutting board, knife. Then you asked about making some and I started writing down Longhorn Bread recipe on the paper and you grabbed the pen out of my hand. I told you it was rude. I asked if the bread is really what bothered you. I asked does bread love you, try to be a good parent for you, raise you, etc. I’m not upset about the bread, I’m upset about us.

You seem at peace now. What are we going to do about bedtime? What? What?

I’ll wake you tomorrow. We’ll go to the co-op. Then the next day, violin lessons, early this time. We’ve come 20 min late to a 30 class before. This Saturday, gymnastics starts back up.

Today, we took Grandma Marilyn out to lunch, then went to Sylvania Playland for an hour. Daddy walked around with you (good, Daddy daughter time finally). I sat and talked to Marilyn, It was pleasant. We got to be judgemental of fat people and single mothers; I indulged my vices to criticise. Grandma said Daddy was a perfect little boy. Guess she forgot his wild teenage years.

Luey seems sound asleep. He’s comfortable here. I want to turn off the bathroom light in the big bedroom. I can’t sleep. But I know it’s all imperfectly perfect. All of it. Is this what you wanted in a family? How did it all go so wrong? I want to search for “why do children push” on the internet….

OK, the internet says children push boundaries to know they’re still firmly in place, to make sure they’re safe. So you feel unsafe and out of control. Great! I’m really messing up as a parent.

At Longhorn today, you wanted to be a hostess in training. They server let you press buttons on the screen, clean and put away menus (my suggestion), and walk people to their table (seat people). I know you want to feel significant. I know you need something to do.

Yesterday, Daddy worked. You went with me to a coder dojo and met people for an hour, ate cookies. We had turkey sandwiches for lunch (Earth to Oven, later Zingerman’s), ate next to the stream at Northview, went to the farmer’s market before that. Watched some Dragon Riders, which I have decided is too violent. You like some show called Skylanders now that I think is too violent. They put each other down and have bad jokes. Many of these kids cartoons talk about missions and enemies and are essentially war movies with all the associated melodrama. Like Army recruiting films. Another mistake. Well, experience and learn, I guess.

How will I ever get to sleep? I almost feel at peace. I want to numb myself, too. Not sure if I should sleep in your room or not. Not comfortable, but want you to know I’m there for you… like I wasn’t earlier tonight. Will I ever stop failing? I do reflect on my parenting, daily. I want to be better.

Love you. Please feel loved, please.

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