She was combing her hair when it happened. I didn’t see it coming. I thought we were in the middle of playing dress up or lego or some other kid game. She just hit me with it right between the eyes:
“Why did you and mommy divorce?”
I just stared at her, blankly…
I’ll save you the suspense. If you have a daughter and you are a single dad, and if the question hasn’t been asked yet, it’s coming.
Here are a few things NOT to say when that happens:
1. Because mommy caught daddy sleeping with <INSERT NAME OF MISTRESS HERE>.
Even if that’s the reason, sometimes the truth doesn’t set you free. It puts your kid in therapy for a long, long time. Don’t get me wrong, your daughter will eventually find this out, but let it happen at the right time, like on her prom night or just before you walk her down the aisle.
2. Because mommy is a bitch.
See my comments above.
3. Sometimes adults fall out of love.
I hate this one. You might as well say to her “sometimes adults are just fucked up in the head”. Both will have the same impact, and it won’t be a good one. Young girls believe in eternal love and that’s a nice fantasy for them to preserve for as long as possible. Don’t mess that up. They will have plenty of time to become jaded, angry and cynical – no need to accelerate the process.
4. Because we were fighting over <INSERT ONE OR MORE OF THESE WORDS: money, you bratty kids, religion, my parents, mommy’s parents, my work, mommy’s work, my unemployment, mommy’s unemployment, my halitosis, her weight problem, my buddies, her loser friends, etc.>
You get the idea. There are lots of “reasons” why your marriage ended. Don’t share any of them with your daughter. It will lead to more questions, and more nasty conversations with your ex when your daughter runs back to her to report what you just told her. Leave specifics out of this.
5. Because daddy wanted some alone time.
Laa-aame. If you want some alone time, go read a book or go for a fishing weekend. You don’t leave your wife of a dozen years because you need some alone time. And, any self-respecting 11-year old girl has already figured this out, even at that age. If you want to get stuck in an endless loop of “But why?” questions from her, use this answer.
6. Because I only have to wait another 10 years before I can start dating your friends.
That one is not cooI. It gets you locked up in jail, you sick pervert
In all seriousness, I have found that being open and honest with my daughter has been the best route. Keeping in mind that it is important that she feels protective of both her mom and I and needs to feel that there is no underlying anger between her parents. This has not been easy, but at least it is one thing my ex and I agree upon.
Newly Divorced Dad — Father of 2
So… What are you supposed to say? You’ve given all the things not to say but no advice on what to say.
@Kristen I told my son that ‘your mom and I live better apart’ and we’re happier that way.
A loving mother
Although I appreciate the simplicity of your article, I would have to side with Kristen on that one. As you stated, being open and honest is the best route.
Without going into the nitty gritty details which may trigger undesirable emotions, I think there is a happy medium between it and being deliberately vague.
Your daughter deserves more than a politician’s answer. Kids are smart and too often, we do not give them the credit they rightfully deserve.
My personal opinion, of course.