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What to Do With Your Child's Broken Heart

Perhaps all a parent can do, in these moments, is let their child be sad; at least for the first little while. Let them have the experience, because it's something we all have to live through at least once in our lives.
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As parents, we experience many firsts in our child's life. First smile. First tooth. First steps. First haircut. First day of school.

Today, we are dealing with another first: First heartbreak.

Our daughter is 15, so the drama is huge. She really liked this boy she met in Grade 9 last year. Liked his whole family. Even spent time at his family home on the East Coast with them this summer. They were a weirdly suited pair: He the tall, lanky, gifted student, a musical prodigy who plays in a number of orchestras. She, the pocket-sized, brunette firecracker. They were equally matched as a pair of high-academic achievers, and had a mutual love of the trumpet, Dr. Who and other things geeky.

And then, last night, for some inexplicable reason, while I enjoyed a glass of wine and conversation with his parents, he broke up with her.

His reasons are as vague and silly as a teenaged boy's are wont to be: "We don't have the same classes/lunch and we never see each other." "We need to 'reboot' because it 'doesn't feel like we have a relationship right now.'" Ironically, it's the same sort of soft-touch approach she gave to the boy she dusted off just after Christmas; although I'm not sure she's made that connection quite yet. All knows is that her heart is broken. And mine is broken for her.

As I write this, I can hear the heaving sobs my daughter is trying to drown out by the shower. I didn't think she could have any tears left. From the time we came home from her now ex-boyfriend's house last night she has cried. She cried as she choked out "so, we just broke up" as she closed the car door, and cried all the way home. She cried in her room, as she texted friends, trying to understand what happened, and in the family room downstairs, where she sought the solace of the sound of the TV to drown out the endless question "Why" going through her head. She cried in her sleep (I dozed intermittently, but saw more of the night than I have since she was a baby, and woke up to the odd, strangled sob).

Of course I knew that it was bound to happen. I had just kind of hoped that when things had run their course -- as they inevitably do at this age -- that would be a mutual decision, leaving neither one hurt or angry. And I know that it will happen again. Probably more than once. But that's not something I'm going to say to her today.

The truth of the matter is, I don't know what to say. Words like, "it's his loss," and "he'll regret this decision later" -- albeit true (at least in my eyes) -- seem trite. "You're better off without him" somehow implies that we didn't like the boy. And, despite the fact that we never fully understood this whole "relationship" thing when it comes to teenagers, my husband and I thought he was a pretty good kid for our daughter to be around.

I can tell her it will get easier in the next few days or weeks, because I'm sure it will. But that's cold consolation when she has to see him at band, in the hallway and around school and has to answer the question "what happened?" what will seem like a million times on Monday alone.

I can tell her it's for the best, that she doesn't need to be tied down to one boy and that she can better focus on schoolwork and other activities without a boyfriend. But right now, what she wants is the boyfriend.

And I can tell her that there are plenty of boys who would line up to date her, but she wouldn't believe me right now and wouldn't care, anyway, because what she wants is the boy who broke her heart.

Perhaps all a parent can do, in these moments, is let their child be sad; at least for the first little while. Let them have the experience, because it's something we all have to live through at least once in our lives. Perhaps, in this case, the experience will give her empathy for when she next has to be the heartbreaker, not the heartbroken. I hope so, anyway.

But there is time for all that later. Tomorrow, she can start casting off the pall that has hung over her since last night and re-join the world of the living. Leave her room. Do her homework. Perhaps even venture outside.

Today, she will wallow in the sadness she is entitled to feel. Live in her flannel pajamas. Eat chocolate ice cream out of the tub. Cry as though she's lost the only boy in the world for her, because, right now, she has.

And I will be there with her, picking up tissues, putting away half-melted ice cream and listening while she wails, wishing my own heart was just a little less fragile, too.