Dear family in the pool….
You’ll probably never see this letter, or realise it refers to you. After all nothing out of the ordinary occurred. You enjoyed playing catch in the pool – a grandad and his grandson & grandaughter. Your fun effortlessly swelled out to include other children , as you played catch, interspersing basic throws and catches, with powerful throws that splashed water in their faces, causing peels of laughter.
One of the children who quietly moved closer to your group was my daughter. I didn’t notice what happened, whether she asked to play or you just threw the ball to her after your grandchildren, but I stopped my swim to watch her be a child.
The sound of her giggle brought a tear to my eye, seemingly it’s becoming a rare & precious sound for this often anxious, sometimes sad, frequently lonely child.
Perhaps you noticed a sadness under her smile, a nervousness behind the brash exterior. But you welcomed her despite this. You didn’t respond badly to the slightly rough edges, the slightly too loud voice, the slight bossiness and happily reacted to her demands to do more, higher, faster.
For a long time you included her in your family group, ( a group with an older boy & girl to have fun with).
Something her heart has longed for for so long.
You see, it wasn’t meant to be this way.
There was once another child.
As you looked at us in the pool, you’d have assumed maybe she was an only child – and to all intents and purposes she is.
Somewhere in another dimension, just beyond the mind’s eye, our family looks a lot like that little group today. A 10 year old girl, a 9 year old boy and an almost 8 year old little girl. My heart sees what my eyes don’t. My heart hears what my ears don’t.
She knows she had a brother and for a long time it was enough. She loved the magic of the baby in the clouds, the excitement of imagining what he was doing, shared her toys with a gravestone. But she grew up.
Somehow I blinked and she is now almost 8 and her loneliness is palpable.
I can hear it when she tells me her classmate has a new baby sister. I can see it when we go out for the day and she gazes at the other children. I can feel it when she carries a younger child. And it breaks my heart that we cannot give her her deepest desire. I know that desire will shape the person she is, I work in mental health services. I see the impact of trauma on trauma every single day of my working life.
I hate the fact that the trauma shaping her life and her very being happened before she was born, but has extended it’s pain over her whole childhood. I blame myself for so much. The pain we all carry ripples outwards and onwards, perhaps gentler with bigger spacing between the waves now, but ripples all the same.
So thank you to the family in the pool for including the lonely, not-quite-only child, in your games today – perhaps you created a ripple of warmth and kindness that will spread over the hole in our lives.
A little sticking plaster for our broken hearts.