“Maddie, open the door.”
“Maddie, I know you’re upset, but we need to talk.”
“I don’t want to talk. I hate you! And Amber, and Dad too!”
“Maddie, I’ve heard Amber’s side of the story, now I want to hear yours. Please open the door and talk to me. ”
I stand at Maddie’s bedroom door not hearing a sound. I’m about to knock again when I hear footsteps. The door opens revealing Maddie’s face, reddened and damp with tears.
“Can I come in?” I ask.
Wordlessly, Maddie steps away from the door, allowing me entrance. We face each other awkwardly before I give her a hug.
“So what’s going on? Amber says you’ve been picking on Wade. I thought you loved having a little brother.”
Maddie remains silent.
“I have to admit picking out all the marshmallows from the box of cereal was clever.”
Maddie cracks a smile, and we both start laughing. “You should’ve seen his face, Mom. He kept turning the cereal box upside down and shaking it, looking for the marshmallows.”
Still laughing, I work the conversation. “It is funny, but was it still funny after Wade found out you tricked him?”
Maddie stopped laughing. Her eyes squinted at the memory. “He made a face at me, and then ran into his room.”
“How did that make you feel?”
“Kind of bad. He used to look up to me. He trusted me.”
Putting my arm around Maddie’s shoulders, I guided her to her unmade bed where we sat down. “What’s this all about Maddie? What’s bothering you?”
“Ever since you and Dad got divorced, my life has changed.”
“The divorce changed all of our lives Maddie. It isn’t easy for any of us.”
“Yeah, but you and Dad got to choose. Nobody asked me what I wanted. Now Dad’s married to Amber, and she expects me to do all kinds of stuff around the house, like keeping track of Wade while her and Dad spend time together. At first I thought Amber thought I was grown up, but now I know she just wants me to stop being a kid and take care of things for her. I didn’t sign up for that. I’m still a kid.”
“I’m sorry Maddie. I didn’t know this was happening. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because you’re always at work. If you’re not at work, you’re sitting around drinking tea and listening to music. I don’t think you want to hear about Dad and Amber anyway. I feel like I have to pick. And you know what, it’s not easy always having to pack my stuff back and forth between your house and theirs. Sometimes I forget my homework at the wrong house, and I get in trouble for it at school. I hate this, all of it.”
How did I not know how hard this has been for Maddie? I’ve been way too distracted with my life, and it’s hurt my daughter. I need to get my priorities straight.
“Maddie, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you felt this way. I’m glad you told me. I see I need to make some changes around here. I’m going to make things better for you, I promise.”