Windows are likely one of the most overused metaphors in writing. They stand for opportunity, for clarity, for a view into what is happening next. For my two-year-old daughter, they were a view into the past—a longing look into the past and a search for the person who used to be there. Her post was there, at the window, each night before bedtime waiting for what had been to return. Waiting for her dad to come back.
I watched each night from the oversized white chair in her room thinking about what strength it would take from me to make it better for her. My thoughts were typically interrupted by her questioning where he was. We’d talk again about her dad’s new apartment, and I’d offer for her to call him. She never wanted to. And I never insisted. She was two, but she was on her own journey. I knew I had to guide, and I knew she had to steer. It’s one of the uncomfortable seats we sit in as moms. When our kids hurt, all we can do is guide.
Two months earlier, she was living the life she was used to. She spent her first years being watched by her father, whom she adored. A daddy’s girl to her core, she thrived on his attention and sought it out in her interactions. She liked what he liked. She wanted to wear his hat and sunglasses everywhere. As expected, he was a big part of her identity.
Then the day came. Not one that was expected. As she played blocks on the living room carpet, he made the choice to walk out. There wasn’t a hug goodbye. No word from him to her about what was happening. She was two, but she knew. That night, she looked out her bedroom window for the first time, eyes locked on his spot in the drive.
Time goes by. You can remain stagnant, or you can move with it. My daughter moved with it. Eventually her eyes unlocked from the drive and her station moved further and further from the window. Her world resumed and morphed quickly as it often does for two-year-olds. I watched as she discovered who she was. She made new friends and kept them. She learned, she coped, and she thrived. She allowed her relationship with her dad to change, and she allowed it to remain loving. She steered.
When divorce happens, we wonder how we’ll make it through. For me, I worried most how my daughter would make it through. In a world where children from divorced homes are viewed as “broken,” how would she ever feel whole? I knew that I had to be strong. She’d need it. And I thought I was strong until I watched her. Watching her balance, I learned what moving forward looks like. Strength is a child who was hurt but never lost her sense of self, whose family shifted but knows with certainty she is loved.