Today my oldest child turns 18. He is embarking on the adult stage of his life with a respectful dedication and desire to serve his country. He leaves on his new journey in just three short weeks. I can’t be more proud of the young man he is becoming and the heart and mind he has developed. I envision him as a father when I see him interacting with other children and taking them under his wing. I see the leadership he possesses when he talks about the goals he hopes to achieve in the service.
Getting here hasn’t been an easy task. The road has been marred by obstacles; lack of significant male guidance, motivational challenges, and general lack of belief in himself. He has recently actually referred to himself as a child without a father figure. He was discussing goals for working with kids, namely boys, who had a lack of father figures in their lives and said it was because he could identify so closely with them. That comment in itself reinforced the feelings I have had originating so many years ago.
I lament the choice I made for a father of my children. I didn’t realize at the time that his feelings toward “family” (his own and in general) were as premonitious of the realities to come. I was young and naive. I had heard before that you should always look at how a man treats his mother…I just didn’t see the signs clearly enough. Or really give them enough credence.
Even now, my ex sees his mother as a chore. She is a blighted responsibility that he avoids or throws money at to assuage his own guilt of his true feelings of disdain. His latest comment about her was telling when he mentioned that she had again used money he sent for something less than worthy in his eyes and “what can you do, it’s that or let your mother live in a box I guess”. He and his sister have relentlessly “kicked the can” (in their own words) down the street a bit farther so as to not have to face any real problem head on regarding their mentally handicapped mother. As for his father, he has no real relationship with him at all, and hasn’t for much of his life. His father is a socially awkward sort and interpersonal skills are lacking to say the least. I feel that most of my ex’s life has been spent trying to overcome and prove himself to be better than his beginnings. It is sad and I have felt sad for him along the way.
I see now how coming from that place caused him to behave in a preservation of self mode, though I don’t really excuse his behavior.
While my son was growing up, my ex was spending his time trying to prove that he was worthy to the world. He was accepted into what he deemed an elite club of sorts, and turned his back on his family to show that he deserved to be there. He essentially left his family behind as he sought out his new adventures and promoted himself in his own mind. Whether he believed that we could take care of ourselves or not, he checked out. Long before the marriage was over. Luckily, I think I’m a pretty strong woman, and I was able to take care of us pretty well. Not always, and at some significant costs to myself and to the kids along the way, but nonetheless we managed pretty securely. I only know this because the divorce wasn’t really the break that some families experience. I think truly because ours had begun occurring a few years previously and was a slow steady decline.
The divorce was really just a break in me. A finality to something that I had known to be building for quite some time and the final marker of a dream that died. For me, the dream was a big deal. The dream entailed a legacy. A bond with a family that I hoped would start a new tradition for a lifetime. The family unit being myself, my spouse, and our children. To last generations. To break cycles.
I still have trouble to this day with the death of that dream. I don’t lament the loss of my ex, he isn’t worthy of my sorrow with his lies and deceit and selfish ways. But I do lament the lack of father for my children. I see the pain in them sometimes that I can’t erase and it breaks my heart. While my ex has attempted to become a better father figure in some regards, I don’t know that things will ever be as they should have been all along because it is difficult for a child to forget when they have been abandoned and betrayed. However I have seen the forgiveness and acceptance in them which is healthy and necessary, though heartbreaking that it is.
I still have hopes. Our new family unit is defined differently than I had hoped. But I still have hopes for our legacy.
I have endeavored to instill a love of and bond between siblings that I hope endures the tests of time and life getting in the way. I hope to be the “grandmother” that I desire for my children’s children and pass down the love and bond to their children to hopefully develop the extended family love I never knew, but always dreamed of. I just won’t be doing it with a spouse that shares all those same aspirations, life goals, or history.
As my son enters into this adult stage of life, I only hope the seeds I have planted in him for what a family can be will bloom and flourish. I can’t wait to see the wonders to come! I love this little boy, now turning man, more than life itself and I pray his future is full of love and hope.