I had one of the most strangest, yet heartbreaking conversations with my son the other morning. His father wanted him at 9am on Saturday, which was sort of a surprise. Usually he wants him much later where it cuts down time to about 3-4 hours of a visit every two weeks. However, he had explained to me that he wanted to take him to a water park. It was a nice change.
I got my son up, packed and ready to go. I was excited for him. We hopped in the car for me to drop him off to his father’s apartment. After making the first turn down the road, my son piped up, “I really love daddy”. I replied enthusiastically, “That’s good!”. Then, he said, “I love you, too. I love both of you”. I didn’t find anything wrong with his heart to heart, until he made an interesting turn. “But I love daddy more….just kidding, I love both of you the same.” We both just kind of laughed it off. Then, after an awkward pause, He said, “It’s just we have problems”. Catching me off guard, I responded hesitatingly, “You mean me and you?”. He said, “Yeah, because we argue about bedtime and stuff”
I know this is coming from an eight year old child and he doesn’t comprehend exactly the realities of life yet, however my heart was broken. I never wanted to hear that he was disappointed in our relationship. I always felt we had a great bond and connection, however I understood what he meant and where he was coming from.
I simply explained, “Well, that’s because I have you more. I have to correct you and give you structure, because that’s what a parent does. My job is to raise you correctly and properly. Daddy doesn’t see you all of the time, so he’s not going to use that time to yell or discipline you. If he had you a lot more, you would deal with the same problems with arguing about bedtime, too”. I felt my mind circling, questioning whether that was the right approach. Although, he seemed genuinely understanding of my answer, “Really? Oh okay”. I thought the brutal questions were over, but I was wrong, hurling me into an array of emotions.
He stared out the window in a way I’ve never seen before. The expressions on his face revealed his daunting thoughts. “Remember that house you and daddy lived in down the road by mom mom’s?” This was odd for him to bring up, especially since, he doesn’t actually remember us living in this spoken house. He could only recognize it from the stories I tell him when we have passed by it before. I like to explain some of his history and some of the history behind his father and I as he doesn’t remember us ever being together. We split, when he was 18 months old. “You guys fought a lot” He continued, “It’s just unfair. You get me all of the time, and daddy only gets to see me sometimes!”
I could feel my eyes straining to hold back tears. I felt a tightness in my chest, because I knew that either way I chose to justify this, it was going to be a lose – lose situation. How do I explain this without interfering with the natural judgement that my son needed to manifest on his father, yet explain that I was not selfish with custody?
My emotions were getting the best of me at this point. It was way too early for so many loaded questions and statements. My response was so raw that I couldn’t believe the words that were releasing from my tongue. Honestly, I panicked, “Your father has the chance to see you more, he loves you very much, but that was the reasons for our fights was that he often puts other things and himself first. He is selfish”, I looked straight at him as I put my hand over my heart, “I hope you know that I’m not stopping your daddy from seeing you more. Me, your mom mom and pop pop try to get him to see you more all of the time, but he just says he’s busy. Just take what you can get. Enjoy this day, have fun and hold those memories tight.”….I wanted to burst into tears. I just knew I said all of the wrong things. Moments later, I thought of some other options I could of said. I just couldn’t believe that I went full throttle on such a sensitive subject that could either make or break my son.
I followed that up with, “You are so wonderful, amazing and incredibly smart. No matter what I’m always here for you”. He seemed okay with my answers. I asked him a couple times if he was okay, and he just smiled, “Yeah, I’m fine”. When we arrived at his father’s apartment, he jumped out of the car and took off for the door. I asked him for a hug before he could reach for the door knob. He turned to me and gave me a big hug. I asked one last time, “Are you okay?”, He looked up at me with his mocha brown eyes, and with a genuine smile of excitement on his face, he said, “Yeah, I’m okay”. I chose to not fret on the issue anymore, so he could have fun with his dad. He really needed this day.
His smile said that he was okay, but I was not. I continued to question my reactions. Was I wrong? I was in between the thin line of lies and actuality. My usual go to plan during these rapid sea of questions is to constantly make excuses. Of course, I can’t explain the real reasons of why me and his father broke up. The multiple definitions of abuse that he projected upon himself and towards me, those were the reasons – not for an eight year old to know. However, he straightened up enough to get visitations, because after our split, his visitations were supervised by his mother until he turned himself around. I know he loves our son, it’s just not a primal and sacrificing love. He also has never been abusive to our son, however, the real abuse is that it’s emotionally shattering to deal with his father’s ups and downs of existence. I have seen his father actually take parental duties a few times in his life. He is capable. My son also knows he is capable, which is why my son is questioning why he is not now.
My dilemma was do I make excuses for him, constantly hiding the fact that his father never knew how to organize priorities in life? While I do that, I make myself look like the bad guy that keeps his father away from him, enabling for him to build a bond that he’s been longing for? I was trying to protect him from the feelings of rejection since truth would bring light to that. Also, I never want to interfere with him making his own opinion of his father, while doing so would cause some resentment towards me.
Then, there’s the other option of which I chose – not covering up the realities anymore, because my son seems to be done with the excuses. I had to remind myself that this wasn’t my fault to start with. Had his father just done what he was supposed to naturally do for our son, neither of us would be in this position. He may be at the age that he needs what is real, and not the fairy tales of things anymore. I have since wondered if he has felt my building lies and I’m creating this wall of rejection in itself, and giving the truth was the correct tool to breaking it down. He genuinely seemed much better after our talk. I think he has finally accepted his situation. The look on his face was almost testimony that the weight of his hidden pain and confusion had finally fell off of his shoulders. Maybe it was exactly what he needed to hear. Children can sense things and have more inner emotions than we realize. So, when a parent is hiding things, they know it. This is too much for an eight year old to endure. So, am I still the bad guy?
Unfortunately, I still am…you know? the bad guy. It’s apparent to his statement, “I love daddy more. It’s just me and you have problems, because we argue about bedtime”. Should I be offended by the perspective of my eight year old son? No, I don’t believe so. However, my emotions poured out when I got home. I was sad by our conversation, but then I became extremely angry. Angry at his father, who has made parenting so difficult for me, while he gets a free ticket out of his primary duties, and I continue to cover up his mistakes and allow the blame to be put on me. I am belittled as a parent in the eyes of my son, because I’m actually trying to raise him properly, while the other parent is always showing examples of amusement. The perspective that we have been viewed, is that I am mean and the bad guy, and his father is fun and the good guy. Tears rolling down my face. I began to yell out in frustration. His father, the man who gets glorified for not taking parental duties, while I create schedules for a well-balanced and structured life for my son. He doesn’t discipline him, while I have to be the bad guy that does, so I don’t raise an entitled future adult. He doesn’t help him with his homework anymore, while I struggle with my son who thinks he’s not smart. He doesn’t send him constant encouragement, while I have to embed in my son of how important he is even though he’s being rejected in life. He doesn’t make him go to bed at a certain hour or puts him to bed at all, while I struggle every night to put him in bed at a decent hour knowing that it’s detrimental for his emotions and health for the following day. He doesn’t do anything, but take him places for fun or drops him off to relatives, while I take him places for fun, to the doctors when he’s sick, creating connections at home, take him places to buy his necessities and go to all of his school meetings. He buys Christmas presents and labels them from himself, while I AM SANTA CLAUS! It looks bad that one parent gives several presents, while the other has to double herself to make it appear that the other parent gives a crap, too. Fact: he is his father. Fact: I am mommy, daddy, teacher, counselor, cook, provider, cheerleader, friend, nurse, Santa Claus, Easter bunny, Tooth fairy and hopefully sane. So, why do I feel defeated? This is the true weight of a single mom, that has an occasional co-parent.
One day, I can only hope that my son will grow into the mature realities of who has really been there for him and made him the man he will have become. So, I will continue to do what I’ve been doing. Answer his questions and heartaches the best I can possible without hurting him worse. I will continue to raise him into the man I want him to become with the utmost of respect, wit and compassion. I will continue to love him wholeheartedly and be there for him when no one else is. He is just so amazing and smart, I will continue to prove it to him. He has such a beautiful heart, as he has mine, I can understand his nature and endearment towards people. He just wants it be reciprocal.