I don't have to say who I am. You already know me. I am the mom you are on the phone with for an hour or two from time to time and occasionally, a few times a week to discuss and ponder my daughter's behavior. I am the mom who calls school during the day, "just to check" and see how her kid is doing. I am the mother who had a panic attack after you sent a note home from school telling us how much my daughter is struggling. I am the one carrying guilt and burden on my thin, slightly-rounded shoulders. The short blonde woman who hopes for the best, but knows it is the worst when I get a voicemail from you, Teacher.
I am sorry, Teacher. I am sorry that my daughter's behavior is what we call "challenging" in the classroom. That she interrupted picture day with a meltdown. That she didn't want to leave the gym the other day and instead, stayed in the gym, refusing to back down. I am sorry that my girl doesn't amicably just "go with the flow" and transition from activity to activity with ease. Instead, she fights, manipulates and snubs your request. And sometimes, if it's a tough day, she is hurtful intentionally. She may not hit, but she hits with words. In a sea of happy face stickers and bright blue stars, my daughter did not earn a reward from you today.
Smart as a whip with the social maturity of a 16-year-old (your words, not mine), my 4-year-old daughter gives you a run for your money. You go home wondering what to do differently. Why you wonder, does she behave as she does? You wonder what variables need to be tweaked in order for tomorrow to be hopefully better.
She wasn't always this way, Teacher, and you know that! She was with you for months, happily listening and complying. Bright. Taking direction. Earning all happy face stickers and bright blue stars. But since her dad and I split, Teacher, it has been hard. On all of us. Some days I feel great about my divorce and other days, not so much. I imagine it is the same for my little girl. Almost a year later, though, and she still grieves for the family she knew. She still wonders why mommy can't participate in activities on "daddy's days." She wonders why today isn't a "daddy day," but a "mommy day," and tells her parents, dad and I, that she is sad. Her father and I remember our happy girl so well, it's as if she has never left, but she has... at least temporarily.
You know as well as I do, Teacher, that I listen to your feedback. The therapist's. Her father's. On the "repair my daughter's broken heart list," I have checked off all items. I have done my due diligence and then some. There is nothing I won't try to get her back on track. If you told me shaving my head would bounce my daughter back to "pre-divorce" normal, I would grab the buzzer now. The desperation a mother feels when she wants so badly to help her child is an energy that cannot be reckoned with. There is no one that can keep me from finding my happy girl again.
For some reason -- most likely fatigue -- my daughter is excellent each morning... and a "challenge" (there's that word again) in the afternoon for you. I want you to know, Teacher, that my daughter has long days. She wakes at 6:45 in the morning and sometimes doesn't get home until 6:45 in the evening again. She goes from house to house -- dad's house and mine, and has to navigate two sets of rules, two sets of families and two different lives. Everything about her two homes is uniquely different even though we try to be on the same page, which is challenging for a young child. What she undergoes as a child of divorce is beyond what I went through as a child in one house. One family. One set of rules. My kid must negotiate her morning class, her afternoon class, her father's house, my house, and the rest of the world. We all try to have the same guidelines and principles, but it can't be identical no matter how hard we try. And the bottom line is, she is hurtful to you, to me, and to the other people she loves because she is hurting inside. She walks around with a broken, confused heart.
Teacher, when I shed tears for my daughter and worry about her, I know you do too. You ask me how I am. You offer to listen. You call later at night when you know I am home from work instead of avoiding me. You give suggestions. You go the extra mile. It doesn't matter if we give you holiday gifts or end-of-the year gifts... your gift of who you are and what you do for our daughter can never be equaled. Your support of my daughter's "new family" is a gift that no one else can match. Each time you call, I hope that this will be the last, even though I know it won't be at least for awhile, and I want you to know that when we hang up, your words affect me. I listen to your feedback and try my best to support you.
So I am sorry, Teacher, that so far, we have not yet found the magical answer. Besides, you and I both know it's not magic, but simply time and consistent love and support that will bring my old daughter back "home." And thanks to you I know we will get there. We wouldn't have it any other way.