Youngest daughter asked (again) why I had separated from her father. She wanted to know why a marriage could be unsuccessful. Her tone was not particularly accusatory or aggrieved; she seemed genuinely curious.

It’s not always easy to answer such question to an “almost 8-and-a-half” year-old. Especially as I try very hard not to say negative things about her father because no matter how many grievances people have when a relationship breaks down, it’s not really fair to the kids to dump all this emotional garbage on their shoulders.

I came up with an analogy I think works.

Imagine two ingredients, I said. One is broccoli (she loves broccoli) and the other is chocolate. Separately, each is perfectly good. But if you put them together in a meal it doesn’t work so well. One ingredient is just as fine as the other. But yuck, they don’t mix.

That’s what happens sometimes, I told her. There’s two people who think maybe they can make something together and have it taste good. But no matter how hard they try, it still comes out wrong. So the broccoli leaves to be on its own, searching for melted cheese or something, while the chocolate tries its luck at finding strawberries or toasted coconut.

She seemed to understand that, even though as I think she realizes, broccoli should have known better than to think it could mix with chocolate. Sometimes I think she’s wise beyond her years.