I told the girls that their dad was in jail again. Sylvia blurted out, through tears, "but he promised!" X had actually promised Sylvia that he'd never go to jail again. Along with his other problems, apparently he's delusional. She also wanted to know if she could tell her best friend. I told her it was completely up to her.
The next week, I was in Riley's kindergarten class - I went once a week to do their reading time. An older girl was being a helper there, and she pulled me aside to tell me that the day before, there'd been quite a large drama at the playground that involved Sylvia. She'd been crying hysterically, apparently, and shouting at everyone to leave her alone, and her best friend had pulled her away from a crowd.
Sylvia told me, after I asked, that she'd told some of her friends that her dad was in jail. One of them told her that he'd probably get the electric chair this time (they knew he'd been in jail before).
Once again, I was beside myself. I was heartbroken that she hadn't told me about it, I was furious at the school for not telling me about it, and at a loss as to how to handle it.
Thankfully, my therapist saw children as well, and so I told Sylvia that we were going to see a "feelings doctor." While I was humbled by the thought of having my 8-year-old in therapy, I knew it was the right thing to do.
X was sentenced to six months. I wanted to celebrate - we would be free of X drama for six whole months - but I also knew that probably wasn't going to be how Sylvia saw it. Our therapist and I worked together to deal with it.
Through those sessions, we learned that after the last time, X - while promising not to go to jail again - had also made Sylvia promise not to tell her friends if he did (apparently, there had been issues before with her telling friends at school, but I didn't know about it). Setting aside the dichotomy of those two promises, I was furious that he felt he had any right whatsoever to tell her how to handle it. After all, HE wasn't around to deal with any of the consequences of those promises. No, that was left for me, of course.
I don't know how I would've gotten through all of this without our therapist. When we first told the girls that he was in jail, we explained as much as we knew about the situation. That he had been accused of stealing a check (which we had to explain was like money), and that X was saying he didn't do it - but that people don't usually get arrested for things for no reason, and X probably had done it. When we knew he'd been sentenced to six months, we told the girls that X had been given the "consequence" of 6 months in jail for his wrong-doing, Sylvia's response was, "I'm just happy that Daddy told the judge the truth."
Both of the girls went to the feelings doctor sometimes, but mostly Sylvia and I went - separately. Sylvia would have a session, and then I would go the next day, and the therapist would tell me how to cope with Sylvia at home.
The hardest part was figuring out when Sylvia was using my empathy for her against me to get away with things, but also allowing her to feel her emotions. That balancing thing again.
Slowly but surely, we were getting through it.