When I walked in the door this morning after taking one of our cars for an oil change, I saw that Kaitlyn was going through the motions of putting a puzzle together in front of our fireplace. Basically, she was just examining the same piece, oblivious to the world around her. I asked Amber what was wrong, and she gave me somewhat of a clue but said I should hear it from Kaitlyn, so that is exactly what I did. I squatted down and asked her what was bothering her.
“I feel like I am invisible,” she told me with tears in her eyes. I knew there had to be more, and she was quick to offer more details (which is somewhat unusual for her).
Whether it is not hanging out with a friend for a few days, plans with a friend falling through, or simply not getting hardly any chances to be the center of someone’s universe, other than mine and Amber’s, Kaitlyn said she has been feeling more and more invisible lately. I quickly assured her that she is not invisible to us.
Kaitlyn has a self-esteem that is constantly perilously close to being in the gutter. No matter how much Amber and I try to boost it, she only lets us build her up so much. For her, and for us, it is really difficult to dance back-and-forth between us being the discipline police and not being the discipline police; at best, it is confusing for Kaitlyn because she thrives when things stay relatively the same.
Some of her sense of being invisible comes from how much she invests in planning things with her friends. When plans fall apart at the last minute, she is devastated and thinks it is because of something she said or did. Nothing could be further from the truth, and getting her to understand that is a constant challenge.
Some of her sense of being invisible comes, at least partially, from seeing some of the benefits her other friends have in having family living close by. She sees a friend going out to dinner with an aunt or uncle, or sees a friend’s grandparents pick them up from school, or hears stories of a friend spending the weekend at their grandparents’ house, and she naturally becomes envious and naturally understands that she does not have those things. We try our best to explain that we live where we do because we feel that this is the best place for her, and that it would not be fair of us to ask or expect people to uproot their lives to live near us, but she has a lot of trouble understanding our logic. She will sometimes ask us if she is the reason why we don’t have any family close, and we assure her that she is not the reason. We have done our best to surround her with people who do treat her like family, like her “big sister,” and we are appreciative of every one of them, but Amber and I both know that Kaitlyn longs for even more.
The best Amber and I can do is to continue what we have been doing. We build her up all the time by reinforcing everything good she does (although apparently a hug from me is not a good enough reward for her having a great week of school. It’s cool though.), while also making sure that she learns from her mistakes. We try to get her as involved as possible in activities outside school, but we will not push her into doing something that will make her miserable, so we have had to make concerted efforts to ensure she has at least one friend doing the same activity so she is not left out. Most of all, we continue to make sure that she knows that we love her and that she will always be able to count on us, even though she doesn’t get that chance to miss us at all. Lifting the cloak of invisibility off of her will be a lifelong effort for Amber and I, but it is one that we are more than happy to tackle.