My best boy, my only boy, turns six today.
Shortly after my divorce, I dropped the kids off at their house. Four of them blew kisses and ran inside. My son lingered. He wanted more time.
We did not say much. I held him. He snuggled into me. We took some pictures. I told him I loved him and always would. I knew our time was ending. Within a week, he’d be leaving for his new home 3,000 miles away.
Recently, I’ve found myself in conversations where the topic of parents leaving their children arises. While I do not openly share that I left my marriage and gave custody to my ex-husband, my heart still seizes when I hear the stereotypes perpetuated: Selfish. Cruel. They’re breaking their children. They’re messing them up. The worst kind of parent.
Not necessarily, I reply. While it may not make sense to you, I believe they were doing their best with what they had.
At the end of my marriage, there were days I could not function. I was broken. But that does not make me a bad mother. I was shouldering immense pain without help and with five small kids depending on me. Those final months were spent in such a deep depression, most of my memories took place in my bedroom. I lingered there for hours with the blinds closed.
It was in that dimly lit room that I hugged on my babies, we made silly videos, we read together, we talked, they brought me coffee, they sat with me as I cried.
It is tempting to replay these moments and only these moments. But somewhere there are thousands of pictures that tell a different story. Because I took them. Because I wanted to remember.
And I do.
And today, I remember my son.
How two men in my life told me to abort him, and I said no. How I decorated his room with bright colors, and prints of antique cars. How excited I was to see the blue rocker placed in his nursery. How when he was born, he would not stop crying until I gave him my finger and he wrapped his own tightly around it. How I finished knitting his baby blanket as I nursed him. How his hair used to be a big mop of curls. How he fought with his younger sister for my lap at story time. How he hated to take naps. How he loved Thomas the Train.
And I him.
And how we still do.
I love that though he’s getting older, he still loves to crawl into my lap and nestle against my chest. How he likes to finger my locket that contains each of their initials. How matter-of-fact he is. How he laughs when I tickle him. How he voices his opinion without hesitation. And rolls his eyes at his sisters–a lot.
I love that boy.
My heart is tender today. I cried last night. I danced to his favorite song. I bought ice cream. I shared with a friend how much I miss him.
I found a picture made when he was just six months old, his wide drooly grin captivating under a blue stocking cap I knit for him.