I was going to write a blog about Halloween and the way these holidays sneak up on me and trigger immense fear and anxiety regarding living up to expectations as a mother, my own expectations and that of others. After all, my own mother hand sewed our Halloween costumes. Need I say more? But then I logged into my Facebook and received a message from my oldest child, my son, who is in China on a mission trip while teaching English as a second language. Right then and there, I knew had to write about something else, something far more significant and far reaching in my life. Something that may affect, either indirectly or directly, other mothers (and fathers) out there, and that is the topic of non-custodial parents.
My son, who will be 23 this month, and I have had a rough time. I did not raise him. As my first marriage to his father was ending, I slowly let him slip out of my hands, while I was out “finding myself”. His father was left “finding himself” being responsible (Thank God). Eventually, I woke up to the fact that my son was living across the country and I had signed away my custodial rights to his father as custodial parent. Somehow, I thought I could handle it, joining the exclusive club of a “mother without custody”. This process of letting go of and living without my firstborn son, has been probably the single most significant event in shaping the painful emotional journey, which I have been on. The pain of this loss has been exponentially compounded by the fact that not only did I not have him, but he ended up growing up in Colorado while I lived in Massachusetts. As well, I gave up custody by choice, not court ordered, not taken by DCF, just me handing him to his Dad.
I have several mothers as friends who do not have custody of their children, but merely visitation. I also know several fathers that also gave full custody to their ex-spouses. I can tell you that every one of these friends is in pain. To not be physically in the presence of your child, able to enjoy the moments of childhood that can never be gotten back, even with pictures, phone calls, visits, etc. affects us, wears us down, breaks us. I went inward and was deeply wounded by a pervasive sense of failure for many years, long after I had established a friendly relationship with my son’s stepmom (not easy, but she’s wonderful) and his dad. The pain and loss stay and I suppose, always will.
What I have learned, and am learning is that the only way I can live with this situation is to accept it. I don’t have to like it, but in order to begin to heal, I must accept it. And, look beyond myself and my own pain to my son and his pain, and ask for forgiveness. I have been able to do this but the path to getting to this place has been rocky and filled with detours down avenues which will not be written about in this family blog.
So when I got the email today, I felt deep, soul rocking, gratitude. A few weeks back I wrote a blog for my personal blog website that he read and was triggered to reach out to me. In addition, I gave him my 2 year sobriety chip, on a whim, as part of my wedding present to him and his bride. I hadn’t given it much thought, but it turned out to be the ice breaker. We had, of course, kept in touch, I was at his wedding this past summer, and he had visited growing up but there were walls, mine and his. What he said in the first email I received a few weeks ago, left me weeping and subsequent emails have been equally as moving. My son, who I did not raise, has the depth, intuition and perception that I certainly did not possess at his age. While he continues his work in China, we continue an ongoing deepening of the truths we are able to tell each other as we make up for lost time. All the suffering over the years on both our parts has been, in the flash of an eye, turned to pure grace. It was unexpected and wonderful and I’ll take it and accept it as a gift from the universe.
Finally, Halloween will come and go, yet the important memories with my children from my second marriage, will last as will the new found treat of a new beginning with my son.