Have you ever had to reach down deep into the pit of your soul to find the courage to do what’s right? I know there are some of you that have. I’m not talking about returning a lost wallet, or giving back change to the clerk at the grocery store who thought you gave her a twenty dollar bill instead of a ten. I’m talking about one of those life-changing decisions you must make when you are a parent.
I am a mother. I am many more things than that, but first and foremost, I am a mom. It’s how I have defined myself for the last 12 years. My ex-husband and I split before our son was born, and our divorce was final when he was a few months old. Our son has never know us as a couple, and he has been pretty comfortable with being co-parented. Recently, he has been testing boundaries, and being disrespectful, at times, to teachers and to me. I am a fairly domineering parent, more so than his dad, but will freely admit I am sometimes too exhausted to follow up with punishments for extended periods of time. Don’t judge; it happens often with single parents, and I don’t feel ashamed of it.
My son turned 12 a couple of weeks ago, and I decided it was time to dive head-first into teaching him certain life lessons like laundry, how to clean the bathroom, etc. I have also gotten a bit harsher when it comes to dealing with his mouth and how he treats me. Everything kind of came to a head on Monday evening when I got to school to pick him up and found out he had gotten in trouble again during the after-school program. It was the same issue as three times previous–disrespecting teachers. We got to the car, and I lost it. I’m a screamer. Once again, don’t judge. Some people yell, and I am a yeller. At times I feel it’s the only way I can get him to listen to me. I was angry, because we had just discussed the disrespect issue during parent-teacher conferences. Obviously, he wasn’t getting the point. Monday night discussion carried over into Tuesday morning and ended badly with him back-talking, and me losing patience again. I talked to my Dad on the way to work, and called my brother on the way home and discussed it with them. I come from a family of “he needs a 9 1/2 up his ass” men. The men in my life believe raising boys is like raising dogs or horses; establish dominance and show them who’s boss. I do think there is something to this rationale, however, I can’t get involved in a pissing contest with a male because, well, I am female, and it just doesn’t have the same result.
All of this led me to a lot of thinking and soul searching. I had to start asking myself some hard questions that I really didn’t want to hear the answer to. For years I have known the day might come when my son might ask to live with his dad. I had no idea when it would occur, and there is nothing you can do to prepare for it. I had to ask myself on Tuesday, if that day had come. My son was helping me cook supper, and after he got his plate we sat down at the table. My stomach churning, I asked him if he he ever thought about wanting to live with his dad. I steeled myself for the answer. “Yes,” he said, “I think about it all the time.” “I think it’s time for me to go and live with my dad, because I am almost a teenager, and he needs to teach me how to be a man.”
I couldn’t help it. I started crying a little bit. Sometimes children are wise beyond their years. Sometimes, they are too smart for their own good. I have always tried to do what is best for my son, even though it has been quite painful, and exhausting at times, and I knew at that instant, that allowing him to go live with his dad, was the best thing for him. Am I sad? I think devastated would be a better word for it. For 12 years every waking moment, and many sleeping moments also, have been dictated by taking care of my son 24/7. His dad has never had the pleasure of doing that. He is a good dad to our son. Doesn’t he deserve a chance to have the same joy I have had? How many men in this world would gladly step up and be full-time parents to their children if they had the chance? A lot of them would, and do it gladly. Our society doesn’t allow this to occur often enough. Judges often think children are better off with the mother, and don’t even consider giving the father a chance.
As I sit here, watching a beautiful snow fall, crying as I am writing this, I know I cannot be selfish and try to keep my son to myself. I have always freely shared time with his father, but now I have to let go of my son even more. I had to reach deeply inside myself 28 years ago, to find the courage to give my daughter up for adoption. Now, I must dip into that well again, to allow my son to go live with his dad. I don’t like it, but I know it is for the best. Why does doing what is right always have to hurt so damn much?