The follow-up appointment to the divorce-group thingie was yesterday afternoon. It was good and bad: she agreed with all of the concerns I’d had about PP when I signed her up over a year ago.
She’s a delightful, clever, happy, fun little girl who charmed everyone. And she’s deeply identified with being happy, hates talking about her feelings, is a full-on budding perfectionist, sometimes bossy and will not talk about the divorce.
It’s simultaneously reassuring to know that I was so right about it and disheartening to know that she’s struggling.
But the worst is that PP said early on that she feels she has to be happy or Mom and Dad will be sad (and then refused to talk about it).
And that over the six weeks, she kept playing a game where the baby kangaroo kept looking for its mommy and couldn’t find her. And the other kids kept giving her suggestions of how to find her and she wasn’t having any of it.
The therapist thought that this was partly related to her size issues–that she may have internalized some denial about that, or be over-compensating or something–but whatever the reason felt it was pretty obvious that she needs to be perfect, feels that means being happy and not talking about hard feelings, and so also tells other kids what to do. But that she also wants more of a connection with me and doesn’t know how to get it.
So we both have some work to do.
She had some ideas about different things to try when we’re playing or talking, and how to plant some of those seeds that it’s ok to be bad sometimes and not be happy all the time, but she also felt that it was very obvious that PP would not tolerate talking about feelings for more than a few minutes at a time so it would have to be very subtle. That if I did bring her back for some more support one-on-one it would probably be for 20-minute appointments once a month, because she wouldn’t stand for any more than that. I’m going to try out her ideas for a month or two and then see what I think about bringing her back.
The list–before I forget, and mostly for my own reference:
Try to let the bad guys be bad (the bad guys in PP’s games are not allowed to act bad. The good guy talks to them and convinces them to be nice and then they are good guys, always). Introduce more fantasy and see where her imagination goes; apparently she really liked that. Maybe I’ll make her a magic wand or a wishing book or something. Maybe Santa will bring her something. Pay more attention in the mommy-and-baby games. When she’s talking about her feelings, ask fewer questions and engage in some make-believe. Basically some semi-directed play and active listening skills with as much nonsense as needed to get around PP’s defenses.
I know her father won’t see this or do this. We’ll talk about it, but ultimately he has already decided that she is perfect and there’s nothing wrong with a little kid who refuses to talk about her feelings or be sad ever. He gets to be the perfect dad who has the perfect child who never troubles him with anything messy or inconvenient–why change that? So he won’t let her be sad. And PP adores her father.
But it’s me too. It’s me having no practice talking about feelings or hard things, it’s me feeling like I have to be perfect to earn my oxygen, it’s me seeing her as too perfect, it’s me not knowing how to talk about her size either when it so obviously distresses her, it’s me not knowing how much independence to require when she can’t open the fridge or reach the counter and way too often letting her boss me around. And it’s me not knowing how to let her find me.
Maybe she’s not looking for her Dad. Maybe she already recognizes that an authentic emotional connection with him is impossible as he will not tolerate her sadness. Maybe she is and I am projecting all over this or wanting to be better than he is. It doesn’t matter I guess.
I suppose what matters is that the mama kangaroo has to find a way to do better.
(on the way home from the appointment, were a mama worm and a baby worm, and we wriggled in our seats to find nice soft piles of dirt to sleep in with leaves on top so the robins couldn’t see. And then when I was tucking her in to bed her bed was a nice soft pile of dirt, and she burrowed under the blankets to hide from the robins. The robins were hiding behind the piles of books, and the baby robins were behind the rocking chair, and they might get through and nibble on her while she slept! No, I said. They won’t. If the adult robins get through I will use my magic super-powers to make them go away (you can shoot them with a gun that shoots tiny teddy-bears! cried PP), and I will block the baby robins with a thousand rocks, and if they try to get through they will only break their beaks. Baby worm can sleep safely.
This morning she was the baby robin and I was the mommy robin and we went downstairs and ate corn bran worm cereal. Don’t ask me what that means.)