Telling the Girls

The time had finally arrived. Every time I thought about it, I felt sick and the tears pricked at my eyes.
I was about to break up our family and move out. And I had to tell the children.
What do you say to a three year old and five year old? How could they possibly understand the complexities of adult relationships? Did I even want them to? They’ve witnessed enough in their short lives as it is. I didn’t want to be the one to make it worse.
But I’d made the decision to leave, so it was down to me to explain it.
I decided after we’d eaten but were still at the table was the best time. Of course, DD2 took forever, and the evening was getting later. My resolve was faltering with every minute that passed.
And then it was the right time. The only time.
I started, my words stumbling as they came out, the girls watching me intently.
“Tomorrow, I’m going to move into a different house”, I told them, “Mum and I have stopped being friends and keep arguing with each other which is horrible for everyone.”
“We’re going to live in different houses so that we can learn to be friends again because we keep making each other sad while we live together.”
“Sometimes, you two will come and stay with me, and sometimes you’ll stay here with mum. Because we both love you and want to be with you as much as we can. It will be hard at times, but we’ll try to make it fun and enjoyable for you. You’ll need to decide what toys you want to take to the other house and you’ll have a whole new bedroom to share.”
DD1 looks at me. Her eyes are gleaming but not with tears as I’d expected from my sensitive older daughter. She is excited. Her sister begins to gabble random sentences and I panic that she hasn’t understood what I’ve said, but DD1 reiterates it for me in simple terms and she nods her head to denote comprehension.
And then they get ready for bed without fuss or play and give me the biggest hugs as they tell me how much they can’t wait to see their other house.
It went OK. Better than I could have hoped. Maybe all wife’s warnings about breaking up the family, destroying the girls’ lives and being the bad guy in all this were fatalistic and dramatic. Maybe this could work out.