We Are Seven

Wordsworth is my favorite poet, and We Are Sevenone of his best.  It recounts a conversation between a gentleman and a delightfully “innocent” eight-year-old “little girl.”

Ten years, ago, when my husband left, my daughter Ella was seven; a few months later she turned eight.  She’s the baby of the family and, to her occasional dismay, I suppose some part of me will always think of her that way.  Sometimes I forget how she looked at say 9 or 10, without getting out the family photo albums.  Seven I remember.

The other day I did a Google image search of “seven-year-old.”  Have a look at these faces.

At seven, most children are transitioning to second grade.  In general, they’re curious, ask lots of questions, and choose to take on more responsibility and become more self-sufficient.  They even understand sarcasm!  In school, they’re learning how to measure, beginning to memorize their times tables, and developing a broader understanding of the world beyond their own.  Their vocabularies consist of several thousand words; fluency with reading, writing and storytelling is really taking off.  And they’re forging friendships.

But these little ones are also prone to worry and self-criticism.  They care how others look at them, and their self-esteem can be fragile.

With all these developmental changes, it’s no wonder pediatrician guidelines recommend 10-11 hours of sleep per night.

I have dozens of boxes loaded with school work and other mementoes for both my daughters, labeled year by year.  Ella’s second grade box is filled with stories.  Poems about sharks and sea monkeys and rock stars.  Haikus, shape poems and comic strips.  Family tales involving mom, dad and sister about baking bread without yeast and lobster ice cream.

And then our family was blown apart by divorce.  And Ella joined the ranks of the one million other children who are victims of divorce in the U.S. every year, thereby required to divert their time and energy “adjusting” to the break-up of a family they never asked for.  Time and attention they would otherwise spend playing, sleeping, doing homework, and just being a kid, instead get taken up with traveling back and forth between two homes, packing and unpacking, laying their heads down at night on a new pillow, and learning — and keeping track of — the new rules in another home.  Many children must also “welcome” others into their lives — stepmoms, stepdads, step-siblings, and boyfriends and girlfriends who now sleep in mommy’s and daddy’s beds.

A few years ago, researchers of The Longevity Project from the University of California concluded that divorce was harder on children than death.  Imagine that – experts believe it’s generally easier for a seven-year-old, or any kid, to “adjust” to the death of a parent than to the death of their family by divorce.  (Not “easy,” of course, but “easier.”)

My own father died more than 20 years ago, and at times the heartbreak still feels like yesterday.  Sure my father could have stopped smoking and taken better care of himself.  Still, I don’t consider that choosing to walk out on me.  I’m a grown woman and “adjusting” to a divorce I didn’t ask for took its toll even on me.

If you have a seven-year-old of your own – or a child of any age – I imagine you’ve often watched them sleep.  Try also imagining this.  Envision yourself in your child’s place if you decide to walk out the front door.  And then carry that memory around with you for awhile.  Because seven only comes once, you know.  Or 8 or 9 or 10.

If your spouse is abusive or threatening, or you’re living with some other high conflict situation that makes staying dangerous for you or your children, perhaps it’s better if you walk.  But otherwise, is it really too much to ask of yourself that you think long and hard about getting over your own frustration or anger or marital boredom – and doing whatever it takes to get help for you and your spouse to make your relationship work?

If I’m happy, my children will be happy, too. That mythical logic has been floating around since at least Wordsworth’s time.  Indeed, the gentleman in We Are Seven thought he knew best, too, exasperated to the very last stanza by the “little Maid’s” refusal to see things his way.  Her final words, however, leave no doubt who possessed the greater wisdom.



6 responses so far:

  • The Desert Rocks – Mar 14, 2018 at 2:32 PM

    I like Wordsworth and I also remember seven. Big changes in my life. We left my tree house and the creek out front for the suburban and cement jungle. I wish someone would have listened to me….Great post Beverly.
  • Chump Lady – Mar 14, 2018 at 2:34 PM

    Hi Beverly, I just wanted to let you know that I blogged about our conversation. We have some common ground, although I am a reluctant cheerleader for divorce. Here is the post: http://chumplady.com/2012/10/a-reluctant-cheerleader-for-divorce/
  • Calucha – Mar 14, 2018 at 2:35 PM

    Emotionally, mentally and pcyaihsl exhausting, grief for the loss of the person but they are still there, depression and anxiety, fear for the future, paranoia about almost anything, shock, anger, loneliness and isolation., loss of confidence and self esteem then the dirty tactics start, you realise any promises made whatever they may be will not be kept. Then the solicitor you appoint to help you get a fair share, totals up all the matrimonial assets and then know exactly what you can afford to pay for their services leaving you with little or nothing and expects you to be grateful, you realise that yours’ and their’ solicitors are working hand in hand prior to court not to get the best deal for their client but to barter for an agreement and if one party won’t budge on something at all and demands simple clauses like not being contacted at work or having their employers contacted before they agree, what it really means is that when they fail to pay court awarded maintenance, you have to spend 8 years fighting a clause before you can get an Attachment of Earnings order ( which involves contacting their employer)Oh boy is it stressful, if you survive and if you do you may still end up a gibbering wreck or an alcoholic or addicted to perscription medication or just not trusting anyone, so it totally changes your outlook, your relationships and in my case a total fear of any type of commitent.It isn’t long before you realise that court orders and judgements mean nothing and will not be honoured by your ex or soon to be ex and the courts will do little or nothing about it .and that legal justice is non existent.You notice married friends keeping away thinking you are all of a sudden after their husbands, people crossing the street so they don’t have to speak to you, invites from friends drop off so more paranoia sets in and so you avoid them.My ex told our kids, I had cheated throughout our 24 year marriage several times and he had always forgiven me but I never had, I never even thought about anyone else but him, I loved him to bits, but he put enough doubt in their mind, reminding them of times ( a week or two) he was not at home when they were younger, saying he had left me several times because of my affairs, the reality was he was away on business and we spoke everyday on the phone .and I could go on.10 years on I have never gone out with another guy, it frightens me to death, he re-married 2 months after the divorce the girlfriend he told the kids he met after he left me, reality is he was setting up a new home 6 months prior to leaving me, re-mortgaging our paid for home and hiding the money in new accounts he set up, emptying our joint bank accounts, forging my signature on our share certificates and cashing them in, selling our second home, emptying our childrens trust accounts you name it he did it, all to stop me getting anything, yet it was all my money which purchased our first home. if you want to get away with criminal activity it is easy to do it when you are divorcing as it is a civil case and you just haven’t got the energy or the money to fight a criminal case and because of the divorce the police and the CPS just don’t want to know ..and when the court awarded me the house because of his deceptivenss, it means you sell it, then pay off the mortgage ( he took out and hid) and get the very little left which goes to pay solicitors fees , so you end up with nothing.I had two friends who listened, gave me a shoulder to cry on ( when I had the energy) they accepted me whatever mood I was in, whatever I ranted about, arranged simple things like a pub meal or paid for an eyelash tint, they would sit and listen for hours and bless them smile and welcome me everytime I called, they encouraged me to fight and not give up and gave me some hope that I was not totally mad however bad it looked or sounded, they believed in me they were real GOLD friends.Just be there, listen and believe in your friend.
  • Admin – Mar 14, 2018 at 2:35 PM

    Calucha, My latest blog talked about writers I admire. One thing I said is that I admire those willing to reach down in their gut and put truth on the page even if it’s not all pretty. There is so much truth on “your page.” It is beyond heartbreaking to even contemplate that the person you bore children with and gave your life to could ever do the things you speak of, let alone live through the reality of it. From my experience as well as those of the many I have spoken with, your description of the legal system is dead on. It sounds like you might be in England perhaps? But the American system is mostly the same. I, too, had a few “gold” friends in my life. As we know, divorce is about money, but through it, it sounds like you, too, learned the real meaning of “gold.” No doubt you’re a strong woman. I hope life is getting happier for you.
  • Stephanie Dockery – Mar 14, 2018 at 2:35 PM

    I also love Wordsworth and share your views on divorce. My mother left my father for another man who would beat her to a pulp when he was drunk. She also drank heavily. My father was a good man and my mother had everything she wanted and needed but, she was never satisfied. Their divorce took its toll on me and my sister as the years went on and continues wreaking havoc nearly 40 years later as I am diagnosed with PTSD from all the trauma I had to deal with every year of my life under the age of 18. I truly believe that if my parents would have worked out their differences all of our lives would have been so much better and easier. My father never wanted a divorce. Sadly, he died still in love with my mother.
  • Admin – Mar 19, 2018 at 4:36 PM

    I’m so sorry to hear about what you lived through as a child. As hard as it may be to tell, people need to hear stories like yours because so many parents are in denial when it comes to their children and divorce. “They’ll adjust,” seems to be our national mantra. And in the majority of cases, the research confirms that it just “ain’t” so. Sorry to hear about your mom — it sounds like she suffered, too. Sad also that your father died with a heavy heart. But he nevertheless remained true to his vows and there is comfort in that.


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" Ostensibly about the break-up of her marriage and loss of her dream house, a four-story Victorian brownstone in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens neighborhood, Beverly Willett's absorbing memoir is really about finding a home in one's own skin. A delight."

Courtney Hargrave, Author of Burden: A Preacher, A Klansman and a True Story of Redemption in the Modern South, a major motion picture starring Forest Whitaker

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