My guest today is Angela Ruth Strong. She studied journalism at the Univeristy of Oregon. Strong released her debut romance novel the year after her divorce, which was difficult to say the least. She is in the middle of her Fun4Hire series for ages 8-12, a series that deals with divorce in Book 2--THE SNOWBALL FIGHT PROFESSIONAL. You can find out more about her, her incredible remarriage, and her books at www.angelaruthstrong.com.
Before the divorce, my oldest daughter would walk into a room, look around, find a person she wanted to become friends with, and go befriend them. She was only eight at the time.
Shortly after the divorce, I took her to a new church, and she was afraid to go to Sunday school. She begged me not to leave her. In hopes that she would overcome her fear and realize how strong she really was, I told her I would be back for her after the service. She sat inside the door and cried.
I cried, too. And I don’t just mean a few tears. I mean I couldn’t go into to the service. I went and sat fully clothed on the toilet in the bathroom and sobbed my eyes out.
I hurt for her. Because she hadn’t only lost the security of family, she’d lost herself.
I told my counselor about the incident that week. I said, “I would have done anything to keep from her from the pain.”
He said, “Anything?”
I said, “Yes. Anything.”
He said, “That’s not healthy, Angela.”
And while I believe she deserved to have an unbroken home, I know now that I can’t shield her from life. I can’t fix all her problems. I can’t save her. That’s not my job. That’s God’s job.
My job is to be there for her. To love. To understand. To lead her to the One who has all the answers.
Five years after the divorce, she’s come a long way. She has some great friendships. She’s poured herself into dance. She’s involved in youth group. She was chosen first for the team of 8th graders to help 6th graders integrate into middle school. She loves to babysit. She makes things happen. I couldn’t be prouder.
But there are still days where I cry for her. Days where a boy at school tells every girl in the room she’s beautiful except for my daughter. Days where a couple of friends exclude her from an activity. Days where all her fears come out in a vicious attack on me. Days where she questions her worth all over again.
I still wish I could take that pain away. I would gladly sacrifice all my growth and the joy I’ve found through redemption so she could be a confident little girl again.
But then I have to remind myself that such feelings go back to my codependency issues. My enabling. My belief that doing the work for someone else is the same thing as loving them.
So I simply love.
I listen. I hug. I cry with her. I speak truth. And I use a little trick my counselor taught me to get her out of her funk. Are you ready?
- Validate. Always validate. Example: “I know it’s hard.”
- Encourage. This is what they need to hear. What they want to believe but are afraid to. Example: “It will get better.”
- Redirect. Example: “Shall we go shopping for your new toe shoes this weekend?” OR “What kind of cookies should we bake for Christmas?”
Children deserve so much more than what we can give them as single parents, and until we accept that, we can’t be the parents they need. No matter what your child/children are going through, forgive yourself for not being perfect and get the help you need to be present.
Neither she or I will ever be the same person we were before the divorce. But someday, when my daughter is teaching a Sunday school class of her own, she will know exactly how to help out any little girls crying by the door. And the world will be a more beautiful place because of it.
Have children dealing with divorce? Check out Angela's book.