Lilly slowly walked up the stairs and reached into the front pocket of her backpack for the house keys. She could hear the fighting between her parents from the landing of the stairs and thought “Will they ever stop?” She then became mad at herself for not staying longer at the playground with the rest of the kids. As she placed the key in the door she slowly turned the knob trying not to make any noise that would aware them of her presence. The staircase was a couple of feet to the left of the entrance. She knew it took five long steps for her to make it to the base of the stairs to begin her incline to her room, where she could put her head phones on and read about far off countries, escaping from the home she lived in. As the door opened she saw her father’s briefcase on the hardwood floor and his black shinny shoes. Lilly wondered, “Why is he home so early?” For the past six months she heard him come home around 9:30 pm when she had just dozed off to sleep. His entry would alarm her and she would have to try to fall back asleep with the fear that they would begin fighting at any moment.
It has been a difficult day at school. She was told that morning when she came to school to stay behind while the other children went to recess. She had been arriving early to get out of the house as soon as she could. She would clean the dry boards for her teacher before school while her teacher prepared her lessons. She enjoyed the company of her teacher, as she spent most of her time alone when she was at home. She told her mother that the drama club had a production coming up and she needed to practice her lines with the other students before school so as to be allowed to go to school early. Today her teacher left her alone in the room while she cleaned the boards because she had a meeting with another teacher about the upcoming class trip to England and France. Lilly hated that she had to wait until recess to talk to her. All she could think of was…….
“Did I do something wrong?” “If I did something wrong this will make my parents even more upset and get divorced? I hope she doesn’t tell them that I did something wrong. I hope I can convince Ms. Adams to keep this between her and I. I am such a bad kid. I tried to do everything perfectly lately because I do not want to make them more upset and have them fight even more. They will decide to get divorced because of me. Maybe I have to try harder. Maybe if they see that I am really trying to be perfect they will stay together. Oh no.”
Lilly could not concentrate on her time tables that morning as she was too nervous about the talks she was going to have. She usually finished math before anyone in the class but today she was mixing up numbers. During bathroom break she went into the stall and threw up from nerves.
Finally 11 am came. All her classmates left for recess. Lilly waited anxiously for Ms. Adams to start speaking. She thought, “OK I am ready for whatever she has to say.” Ms. Adams started off by telling Lilly what a bright and pleasant child she is. Lilly’s heart began to beat faster as she was waiting for the bad news to come. She knew that people always start off with good news and ended up with bad. And then it finally came. “Lilly I am a worried about you. Lately you seem rather sad. You never talk about any fun times you have with your friends or family like you use to. Is everything ok?” Lilly had no idea what to tell her. She wanted to scream and cry and tell her that the two people she loved most in the world were not getting along and that she was so sad to see her mother cry every night because she was angry at her father. She never saw her father anymore because he always had to stay late at work. She could not remember the last time he took her to one of her soccer games. They shared the same passion for the sport as he played college soccer and always encouraged her to do the best she could. She didn’t know if he was aware she was the top scorer so far this season. She thought “Why doesn’t he care about my soccer anymore or me?” She wanted to tell Ms. Adams this but also did not want her parents to look like they were bad people. She loved them more than anyone. She replied to Ms. Adams by saying, “Everything is ok. I am a little sad because my grandfather is sick.” Ms. Adams told her, “It is normal to feel sad about someone you love being sick. If you want to talk about this I am here for you. “Lilly thanked her and immediately left for what little time was left of recess. Lilly hated to lie but knew that she could not tell anyone about what was really going on because she had to be strong for her family.
Two months later Lilly’s grades began to drop. She would go to the bathroom at school and cry two or three times a day. She did not remember the last time she saw anyone in her family happy. Her stomach was always in knots and she had no appetite. Her mother would send her to school with a lunch that Lilly would throw out so her mother would think she ate it. She no longer was the leading scorer on her soccer team. The sport she loved so much became dreadful to go to as she had no energy and could not focus on the drills. All she wanted to do was to escape to her room with her headphone after school and sleep. She had lost about 10 pounds in the past month and had no idea until her coach mentioned his concern. He had told her that she needed to see her doctor before she could return to practice and that a doctor’s note was necessary to continue with the team clearing her physically. She did not want to ask her mother to bring her to the doctor. She had a hard enough time asking her mother for anything as she spent most of her time sleeping.
At the doctor’s Lilly sat in the waiting room with all the bright toys the little children were playing with. She watched the younger children and thought, “It must be nice to be so little and not know about your parents problems.” Her mother sat there with her eyes closed, slouched down waiting for the nurse to call them in.
The doctor’s visit was quick. The doctor examined Lilly and then made her wait in the waiting room while he spoke with her mother. Lilly did not know what they discussed but she knew it was not good when her mother came out her eyes were red from crying. She grabbed Lilly, hugged her like she had never done before and told her she was so sorry. She could not stop crying. The next week her mother brought her to Carly’s office. Lilly loved it there. She drew pictures, played board games and talked about school and her parents. She started having more energy and wanting to play soccer again about two weeks after she started seeing Carly for therapy. When this happened Lilly noticed that she stopped hearing her parents fight. She knew that her dad still came home late but he always made the effort to bring her to her soccer games. This made Lilly so happy. Her dad had told Lilly that week that he was looking at an apartment in the city and was excited to have her come over a couple of times a week for a sleepover. Her mom had more energy and stopped crying all day. She started taking yoga and decided she would finish the photography class she had started a year ago. Lilly saw that her parents were happy again and began to be happier herself. With all these positive changes Lilly stopped going to Carly’s every week and began to see her once every two.
Questions you are probably asking yourself….
Studies show that children who grow up in homes where there is constant marital conflict are at a higher risk for developing depression, anxiety and ADHD so…. Is it better to stay together or separate? Is there a way to still live together with your spouse while showing your children a happy environment? Children want their parents to be happy. If their parents are not happy can they be happy. How do you create happiness for yourself when you are struggling in your marriage? Isn’t that a key lesson to teach your children, that the most important thing they will have to strive for is their own happiness? How can they know what happiness is if they do not see it from their most important role models, their parents? All of these questions arise when parents are having a difficult time in their marriage. They are not easily answered and take much thought and many times are revisiting in order to truly come to an answer that works best for you and your family.