I knew there was something bugging my 7-year old son as soon as we got in the car.
“So how was it while we were gone?” I asked my two kids as they buckled themselves in.
“Great!” my daughter replied.
“OK” said Zach, and gazed out the window.
Mackenzie enthusiastically shared the details of movies, swimming and other fun things they did with grandparents and friends while Adam and I were away celebrating our 17th anniversary.
However, Zach remained quiet and shared only vague details.
By the next day a dark cloud settled over my little guy’s mind, darkening his usually cheerful mood and dampening the air of the house.
After dinner, he withdrew to his room while Mackenzie and I cleaned up the dishes. A few minutes later, our dish washing routine was interrupted with screams like someone had seen a ghost. Zach came running into the living room, flailing his arms and screaming.
While he was playing in his room, he heard something in his brother’s closet. Since his brother wasn’t home, he wondered what it could be. When he walked over to the door to look inside, the dog dashed out the closet, scaring him to death.
But what my momma eyes saw as his daddy pulled him close was a little boy haunted by fear. And not just of the dog making noises in the closet. There was something deeper. And I wanted to pull it out.
So I invited him to join me on our overstuffed bean bag chair in our newly remodeled room. It was our favorite place to relax and Zach curled his little body next to mine.
“I feel like there’s something bothering you that you need to talk about,” I said.
“I know, I feel that way too,” he agreed.
Good, I thought. This will be easy!
“Well then, what is it?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied, the dark cloud producing tears that streamed down his little face.
I lovingly asked a few more questions, scratched his back, and prayed for the truth to come out. But basically, the conversation ended with the matter left unresolved.
Not knowing what else to do, I held him close, told him I loved him more than he could ever love me (a little inside argument we have) and the next thing I knew he was asleep in my arms…at 7pm.
The next day while all three of us were eating lunch, we uncovered more to this story.
The conversation turned to some friends who came over while Adam and I were away on our trip. Unfortunately this family had recently gone through a divorce and the kids were still adjusting. So as everyone played together, the idea of spending time with mom and dad separately left our son a little unsettled…and afraid that it could happen to him.
Zach squirmed in his chair with his head down as the conversation continued. My husband, sensing this had something to do with the recent darkened mood, asked both kids, “Do you guys ever worry that the same thing will happen to your mom and me?”
Mackenzie shook her head no, but Zach looked at him and nodded, “Yes.”
I instantly understood the issue that had been buried in his heart. No wonder he didn’t know how to talk about it!
This fear actually surprised me because a few weeks ago he and I were talking about kids whose parents are divorced and I could see him trying to understand the situation. But then he concluded, “But I know that will never happen to you and Daddy.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you love each other. You’re always kissing and hugging.” I smiled and reassured him he was right and didn’t need to worry.
My husband and I do strive to show our kids we love each other. We make it a priority to go out on hot Friday night dates and extended anniversary trips. Sometimes we tell the kids to go to bed early so we can have extra time to talk or watch a movie, just the two of us. It takes time and energy to talk through issues so they don’t get swept under the rug.
Adam tells the kids, “Before you guys came along it was me and your mommy. And one day you all will leave our house and it will be me and your mommy. So I’m going to make this relationship a priority because I’m going to be with her for a long time!”
Still, even with that history, our little guy was worried and afraid that his family, his world, would be torn apart like his friends. That fear was gnawing at him and causing him to react fearfully to normal situations.
It broke my heart to see the weight my 7-year-old was carrying!
After that conversation the dark cloud disappeared, taking with it the doubts, fears and worries that hung in the air.
I know marriage is hard, but do we realize a strong marriage is the greatest gift we can give our kids? It’s worth more than the most expensive Christmas present.
How are you investing in that gift?