I really should have known, likely did know, but by the time it "was time" to have my first child, I went ahead and had one anyway. I'd always wanted children, always. Not unlike many other little girls, my plan was to have a baby without being married and my particular plan to accomplish that was to adopt. It only made sense. I didn't want to get married and I am adopted so, it was obvious.
When I decided boys weren't so bad, my plan changed. I still wanted a child but getting married was now appealing. I met my son's father, went out for 3 years, got married, and had my son 3 years after that. Before "settling down" I went out with
I admit I had concerns before I actually said my vows, but, went through with it anyway. When it came to baby making time, my son's dad started to hedge. He knew from day one I'd be wanting kids, he had insisted on getting married in the Catholic church for his parents, so I told him flat out if he wasn't willing to have kids now, I'd see what I could do about getting our marriage annulled. I still have no clue if that would be grounds or not, but no matter, it did the trick. We tried once, I was preggo, and I had my son. Simple. Yet not.
While I was pregnant, my son's dad enjoyed the thought of becoming a dad but wasn't having any of the responsibilities that went with it. I managed to convince a friend of ours to help with the nursery reno, nothing big, just something that would indicate we had a baby coming. It was also sweet for my husband to have a personal designated driver. When I had my son his dad tried to get away with not telling anyone he'd been born, no hospital visitors, not surprisingly my parents would have nothing to do with that. I remember my dad saying there was "no chance in hell" they'd not be coming to the hospital to see their daughter and first grandchild.
My son's dad clearly loved our son from the minute he was born. He was a very good baby dad, no problem feeding, changing, bathing, playing. Unfortunately at this time though, he wasn't a great husband. Good dad, crappy husband. Sucks to be me.
I'm a firm believer in not making adult's problems kid's problems. If things got out of hand between my husband and myself, I would remove my boy and I from the situation. When my son was very small, I tried to discuss ending our marriage with my ex but he managed to be remorseful enough and make just enough promises to change but it never happened.
I remember daydreaming about being out of the marriage. I'd look at new apartments being built in our neighborhood and ache to be gone, be done with the day to day angst and stress I lived with. But how could I? I had picked this man. Nobody had held a gun to my head to marry him, to have a baby with him. I had become extremely adept at protecting my boy from the fights, the anger, my pain. I attended everything I wanted to attend with only my son as my date, I played all my sports with my boy in tow, I worked opposite shifts to avoid daycare until he was in school full time. The good of an intact family still outweighed the bad.
And then he started to grow up. I had already made the decision to have no more children with this kind of father. It was clear to me what I'd done, the problem now was it was also becoming clear to my son what I'd done. What he was seeing wasn't yet what a poor father he had but rather what a poor husband his dad was to me, his mom. I could no longer hide Christmas being miserable or explain why daddy wouldn't help us with a flat tire. How do you explain waiting for hours on Easter to hunt for bunnies because dad is still in bed? How do you tell a child not to defend his mom when dad is screaming as he drives? When he's swearing and name calling because the door isn't unlocked as quickly as he'd like it to be?
It wasn't an easy decision. I remember the day I went to tell my parents I was leaving my marriage. I can honestly say I was very surprised when they told me that they were surprised I hadn't done it years prior. I remember the relief because I truly felt as if I'd failed, that they would be disappointed in me.
We made the decision to split when my son was 12. After deciding, I remember living as a couple for the few months until school was done for the year. I remember the day we told our son, how frightened I was, how sad he was initially, how quickly he appeared to get over his immediate reaction.
I got to work finding a place to live right away. I included my son in all of my apartment hunting. There was one place in particular that was going to be within my budget that he was very opposed to. He had his reasons, they were valid, I kept looking. I was determined to find a place within walking distance to our house, the one he'd grown up in, and I did.
I gave him the big bedroom so he'd have somewhere to be with his friends. I bought him a new bed so his room at his dad's would remain untouched. His cat came with us even though it was against the rules because his dad "wanted it out!" I took no formal child support, deciding to leave it up to his dad to step up to the plate and contribute to our child's well being. I didn't want any more fighting, and took much criticism from friends and family but I didn't care. He was my son and I could do it myself if I had to.
It wasn't easy, but it was so much better. I took the highest road I possibly could. No child support, very little in the way of furniture or household items. One lawyer to serve us both in a legal separation, I didn't get an official divorce until years later, when I had to, and again with one lawyer to represent us both. No court, no excess expense. Custody was joint with me being the main caregiver. That I wouldn't have any other way. We lived close enough that our son could walk between homes as he desired, although his dad did try to force my son to visit fifty percent of the time, in case I ever decided to take child support.
My son's dad never once put our son before himself. He spoke badly of me to our son. He did nothing to make his and our son's time together enjoyable, something our son could look forward to. Eventually the only time my son would be at his dad's, in the home he'd lived his first twelve years, is when his dad wasn't there.
Now, he doesn't even do that.
After we left my extended family last week, my son and I were discussing the tragedy of these women and their children that we care so much about. We talked about how important it is to realize when the good no longer outweighs the bad. How important it is to think about what kind of an example we're setting for kids. How one can only sympathize for so long and then it just becomes pity and disdain.
I will forever regret choosing a poor father for my son. It kills me to see the hurt in my boy's eyes but I listen, I encourage, I understand.
I take pride in not being selfish and having more kids with a poor father in a bad marriage. I take pride in how I handled myself through divorce. I take pride in knowing when it was time to stop the madness.
I take pride in watching my son treat his girlfriend with respect, kindness, patience, and in knowing my son will be an amazing father.