Motherhood, fatherhood, parenthood in general, truly is the toughest job you’ll ever love. I thought my job was tough when my son’s dad asked for a divorce when I was only a couple month’s pregnant with him. I thought my job was tough trying to deal with behavioral issues, accompanied by extreme anger and huge temper tantrums, which cropped up in my son at the young age of three. I thought my job was tough when he was butting heads with his third grade teacher, and crying himself to sleep every night because he hated her so much he didn’t want to go to school. I thought my job was tough the first time I had to put my son on an airplane, by himself, to fly halfway across the country to spend five weeks of the summer with his dad. I thought my job was tough when my son started deflecting my hugs and kisses, and acted like returning my “I love you” was a struggle to get past his lips. But as I wrote in this post, nothing can prepare a parent for when a child reaches the age when they have the desire to go live with their other parent. That particular moment is when you know for sure, that being a parent is a tough job.
Weeks ago my son’s dad and I sat down and discussed the possibility of my son going to live with his dad. At that time his dad informed me of his intent to retire from the military, and possibly take a contract job in Afghanistan. His dad had a two year plan, which had my son going to live with him the beginning of his freshman year of high school. Needless to say, after years of deployments and separations, I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of him being absent for another year of my son’s life. His dad’s end goal was to do this contract job, and then fully retire once his wife finishes nursing school and goes to work, thereby allowing him the chance to be a stay-at-home dad. Honorable intentions, but I believe these next two years are particularly crucial when it comes to my son.
But last week, after my mother informed me she isn’t willing to transport my son to and from school in the coming year, his dad and I sat down for another chat. His dad offered me a possibility I’m not particularly comfortable with. He told me he wants me to consider my son starting school next year in the town he lives in, whether he is there or not. Do you understand what I’m saying here? He wants my son, to live with his wife, for possibly a whole year while he’s gone to Afghanistan, instead of living with me. He did preface it by saying he knew I might not be comfortable with it, and he was afraid I would have terrible guilt feelings about allowing my son to do it. After all these years he knows me very well, because even hearing the words come out of his mouth immediately made me sick to my stomach and made tears well up in my eyes. I left the restaurant that day not knowing how to feel about any of it. I wasn’t even sure how my son would feel about it, but I knew I needed to sit him down and ask him about it.
Yesterday we had almost an hour in the car to talk, so I brought it up. I asked him how he would feel about living with his dad’s wife, even if his dad was in Afghanistan. I told him his dad and I had talked about him starting school next year in the town his dad lives in. He said it would be okay with him. I told him I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, that I had reservations. I asked him why he felt he wanted to move. He said, “So you can have a break, and because I want to go to a different school, and because I feel like you’re annoyed with me all the time.” Wow. . .gut punch. I told him I don’t feel like I need a break from him, and I am not annoyed with him all the time, but maybe it seems that way since I feel like he’s always testing limits with me. And when I felt like I could do it without breaking down and totally losing it, I told him none of this has anything to with how much I love him. And he told me he knows that.
So now I am left with all these feelings, and all these questions. Should I allow this? How do I really feel about this? What kind of mother am I if I allow him to be parented by his stepmother the majority of the time? If I do allow it, can I live with the guilt? Is there a possibility this will make my relationship with my son better? This is all I have known for the last 12 years. How do I get up every morning and walk past his empty bedroom and not feel like a total failure? Since the day I brought him into this world, he’s the only thing I’ve been living for. How do I let him go?