We had a weekend filled with friends. Friday night slumber party. Saturday trip with friends to visit Miguel at the land school. Sunday movie with a friend from school. When we arrived home yesterday after dropping her friend back at his house, Zeca was quiet – too quiet. I found her standing in the pantry and I asked what she was doing. I expected her to be planning our dinner but she shrugged and said, “I’m lonely.” My mind started shuffling through possible responses: “How can you be lonely? We’ve spent all weekend with friends!” and “I’ll play with you! I’ve been playing with you all week!” and “We’ve been having fun, right?” Denial, guilt and insecurity all culminating in a desire to fix it. But, I didn’t say any of those things – well, not in that very moment. I took a breath, wrapped my arms around her and asked why she felt lonely even though I wasn’t sure she could answer. How many times have I felt lonely in a roomful of people and found myself unable to explain? She said, “It just feels lonely here without Mãe and Miguel.”
It’s true. We are usually four but now we are two and, though I looked forward to the ease of solo parenting one child, it has been too quiet at times. I know that I have done the best I can. I’ve finished my work during the day and postponed deadlines when I couldn’t. I’ve played Minecraft and built legos and cuddled on the couch. I’ve been more present – intentionally so – than I am a lot of the time so yes, for a split second, I took her loneliness personally. And then, I remembered that it’s not about me at all. It’s about her love of Luisa and Miguel, about missing them, about this quiet that seems strange. It is about a routine disrupted and a life pared down by half.
We held each other in the pantry and I knew there was only one response. I’m getting better at recognizing my limits, at understanding that I cannot fix everything. I know that sometimes you just need to speak the hurt aloud, to give it space to exist outside of yourself in order to let it go. I was never a fixer until I had kids. I want to remake the world for them but I also know that I can’t. All I can do is take a breath, hold them close and say, “I understand…”