If you haven't seen the movie What Maisie Knew, I highly recommend that you do. It is a beautiful study of childhood as well as a young child going through divorce. When I went to this movie, I did not know that it was about divorce with a focus on the child's perspective. While I work with families in transition day and night, I never tire of advocating for children and better understanding their reactions, including their emotions.
Maisie was an extraordinary child. She was able to understand her parents' major challenges and inability to devote time to her in the way that most children need. She knew that they loved her but their love was limited. Her eyes spoke volumes as she endured countless disappointments. I don't know for sure, but I don't think she thought it was her fault that her parents were always leaving her. Most children are not that sophisticated in their thinking. They often blame themselves as not being lovable enough for their parents to want to stay and be with them.
Interestingly, the significant others in each parent's life appeared at first to be minor characters but wound up being significant in meeting Maisie's needs in a truly genuine and often tender way. Mom's significant other didn't know very much about children. Maisie guided him and he took his time to 'hear' her and get to know her. Many children and teens we work with have difficulty accepting parents' significant others but this is usually because their parents are there and the children want to remain the central part of their parents' lives or the significant other becomes a threat due to disciplining the child or creating loyalty issues particularly if the child likes the significant other. I have seen many stepparents and significant others develop a very special relationship with their partner's children when they take time to connect -- really know and join the child's world.
Maisie was extremely resilient, just like most children. She could endure being "dragged" from one parent's to the other, to strangers, to bars. She bounced back when she could reach out and take an adult's hand and trust that adult to care for her. During the most difficult times, tears streaked Maisie's face. These are the silent tears I see all the time with the "kids" I work with. They are resilient to a point, then often feel like they are discarded.
Try to see this movie and let me know what you think. There are many themes and lessons to be contemplated. There is no perfect parent, but we need to try for our children. Our needs can't sublimate theirs; they need our love or the love of responsible caregivers. They can't take care of us because they need us to help them grow -- to do normal things that children are supposed to do.
This is a movie that is pertinent for all adults. You will want to go home and hug your children and do anything you can to let them know you are there for them.