"Mommy, why did Daddy leave us?"
I feel my heart breaking as I look into her big brown eyes, tears brimming to the edges but not yet spilling over, eyes wide with the hope that maybe, just maybe this time, my answer will be different.
"I love you. I am so sorry that daddy made a choice that hurt us when he left, but this was not your fault. He is not a bad person, he just made a bad choice that hurt a lot of people and I am really sorry that it hurt you. I love you. I love you more than any daddy ever will because I will always love you the most."
That's what I said, but what I wanted to say, what was rolling around in my brain and filling up my heart in ways that hurt so much I was sure my heart might actually explode, sounded more like this:
"Daddy left us because he is selfish. He left because he never should have had kids in the first place. I wish every day that he could see the damage that he has done to you, the damage that he has done to our family. He is a horrible excuse for a human being, he is a waste of working organs, I hope we never see him again, and quite frankly we are all better off now that he is gone."
But really, what do you say to the wide eyes brimming with tears that are looking up to you? What do you say to a child who carries half the DNA of a person that causes your heart the daily battle of learning to forgive?
You assure her that she is loved. No matter how much you want to, no matter how deep the anger runs, you do not talk poorly about him. You assure her that the person that gave her half of her DNA is not a bad person, that she does not have evil in her. You acknowledge that she is hurting, you acknowledge that what happened is causing her pain. Because she just wants to be heard.
You be honest, that you don’t have all the answers, that you wish you could make things better but that you can’t. You let her know that it is okay to be upset and that you will always be there when she wants to talk. You remind her on a near constant basis of how wonderful she is, reinforcing that her father did not walk away from her because of anything that she did.
You tell her the most honest and powerful truth that you have which is this: That to the ends of the earth, to the sky and beyond, that you love her and that you will spend the rest of your life loving her enough for the one that is missing. You assure her that you will never leave her because every minute you get to spend with her is a blessing.
You tell her that daddy may have left, but thankfully when he did, he left the best part of him behind.
Eden Strong is a single mother of two young kids. When she isn't writing to supplement all the money that she doesn't make at her job as the founder of a nonprofit that serves abused women, she can be found speaking what's left of her mind on her blog, It Is Not My Shame to Bear.
This article was originally published at Scary Mommy. Reprinted with permission from the author.