Nothing in life has prepared me to watch two people I love so much struggle to find their way in a relationship together. Vespera has never had a father before. And, likewise, Dh has never been the father of a teenage girl before. He's having flashbacks of his dating years in high school trying to remember what 16yr old girls were like. And Vespera is particularly sensitive to anything that comes out of his mouth. This experience impresses on me how important fathers are to young women, and how powerful and influential fathers can be. The minute something comes out of Dh's mouth, it has gone straight to the heart. She's taken it personally, deeply. Quite simply, his opinion matters a great deal. From his perspective, he is an outcast, always saying the wrong thing, someone to be totally disregarded. You see the disjunct here? Everything he says matters to her. And he doesn't want to say much...at least, not without thinking it over a great deal.
And then these moments happen...moments of quiet connection...studying for biology, sharing headphones at the computer, a drive home in the car when she tells him about a dream she had or the guy she likes. Tentatively, a relationship is forged.
She had a very disturbing dream about him. It was upsetting...for all of us, I think. But it got something out on the table. "This relationship is very difficult." Nobody quite knows what to do. It was good to say it. At least, from my outsiders perspective it was good.
Last week saw a certain breakthrough, I think. It was silly, really. He teased her...in a way that would have never made me think twice. She was heartbroken. I asked her what happened and she dissolved in tears. I called for him. He came...he apologized...he told her how much he loves her...she did not look up. She didn't move until he left the room. I said simply, "I know you trust me. And you can trust me when I say that I know he would never mean to hurt you."
How do I bridge the gap between them? My heart is tight, constricted, tense trying to hold them both as they fly apart in opposite directions. I know she is afraid. She wants to accept the love we offer, but she doesn't want to expect it of us. She cannot relax in it, knowing that it is there, expecting it to always be there, because she is still afraid she is imposing...that we've taken her in but she's somehow getting in the way. She allows Dh in a little bit, but then any little teasing just confirms her fears...that she is imposing on our family, that she is asking too much of us. He can she allow herself to be unconditionally loved and accepted if she is worried that she's a bother? And Dh is shocked at the depth of his own emotion for her. He says over and over that it's just as though she was born to us. How is it possible to love her so much? I feel it myself...hardly believing that we did not even know her at this time last year. The attachment bonds have formed quick and strong and deep. It is mostly her. She "wears her heart on her sleeve." She is so open and vulnerable...allowing things in, and then experiecing both the wonder and comfort of love and the wounding pain of vulnerability. It hovers in a fragile balance.
She said that it was ok, that she understood he was teasing. I told her he needed to hear that then. Being silent allows him to think that she is still upset and will not forgive him. God forgive me for being pushy. I could see that they needed to mend this somehow before she stepped out of the house for the weekend. The divide between them would grow over the weekend, and I would be left with a tight heart holding them both as they again fly apart. I let it drop and went to joined Dh & Mane in the living room.
She got her things together to go home and tentatively stepped out into the living room and sat down. He said, "I'm sorry," as tears splashed down his face. She was shocked, taken aback. Here is real emotion, a tangible deomnstration of love. Dh had been trying to keep his emotions checked...trying not to guilt her for feeling bad. The tears spilled over anyway. My heart lurched. And I tried to stay quiet. It ended with them in a tight hug, both crying. A strand of trust began weaving it's way between them.
She went home for the weekend...just minutes afterward.
She bounced into his classroom Monday and gave him a big hug.
This week that little tightness inside me loosened up a bit.