Acceptance: inviting the dragon to play

“I just can’t believe it, everything is different now,” Madeline sobbed, shoulders shaking as she reached for the tissue box. “What do you mean?” I softly asked. “We were fine. Mom and Daddy weren’t together, but we had our 2 houses and everything. Now it’s all a mess.”

Madeline and I were sitting in the play room, filling two adjoining doll houses with happy families grilling and playing on the playground equipment. “What happened this week?” I asked. “Daddy told us he’s getting married. We get to be in the wedding with new fancy clothes and flowers, but I don’t care.” With that, the big dragon puppet came in and knocked over both happy families.

Over the past couple of years Madeline’s parents worked hard to create a healthy divorce for their family. After meeting with their own counselor to determine when it was time to end their marriage, they sat down with the kids and shared the news in a developmentally appropriate way. And over time as they’d started to date new people, they slowly introduced them to the kids, and gave their children the space to get to know their new partners. Madeline was on-board with everything, until now.

“I’m so sick of summer bbq’s and get-togethers!” Bob exclaimed. “Why?” I asked. “I thought you were enjoying seeing your friends?” “Of course it’s good to see everyone!” Bob uttered with annoyance. “But, all I want is a beer. Summertime, parties, long-time friends, hot dogs on the grill, that always included alcohol for me. I’m a Colorado micro-brew expert, and here I am drinking a soda. I feel like such a looser. What’s the point of even going?”

After a series of DUI’s Bob decided to eliminate alcohol and focus on creating a healthy life with his family. It hadn’t been easy, but he’d approached his sobriety with resources, support, and a commitment to changing his behaviors and thinking. He’d been proud of his progress and successes and felt good about himself, until recently.

Up until now, Madeline felt like whatever happened with her family, her opinion counted and she could impact her family’s decisions. Bob too just spent the last few years discovering what it felt like to be in control of his health and life, as he took radical steps to stop drinking and saw the dramatic results.

But even when we’re doing everything right, “feeling the feels,” continuing healthy behaviors, and following the best advice and steps we can, there are still situations in life we cannot control or even impact. Madeline’s father and his girlfriend are getting married, and Bob cannot drink and still be healthy. The heart of this moment for both of them is, acceptance. Madeline worked on inviting the dragon to play with the kids, and Bob focused on accepting his new sober role in social situations.