Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Mother's Day Lesson - Being away from my son doesn't make me less of a mother

My son and I in 2006
"The mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother's side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother, and to become fully independent." ~ Erich Fromm

Mother's Day has developed an entirely new meaning for me since leaving the family I had known for 14 years in 2009 for the third and final time. I knew that when I left that life to start a new one it was going to be difficult but I no longer had a choice; I was doing what I needed to do in order to save my life and subsequently my son's life to some degree. Little did I know that the moment I made that decision the universe would begin to conspire to make the death of my former life absolute and complete.

The most challenging trial I have had to endure was not homelessness or losing any kind of income and going to bed hungry, the most challenging trial was losing time with my child. Although my decision to leave his father was a very necessary one I made sure to sever our ties as completely as possible which meant no financial support so when I lost my job in 2010 I lost everything and my teenage son began to see less and less of me.

For the past three years of being unemployed I have remained tormented with the pain of being forced away from my son by circumstance. Although I remain beyond grateful for his father taking such good care of our son I have beat myself up for what feels as though I was abandoning this little person I was once inseparable from. For 12 years my son and I did everything together when I wasn't at work and he wasn't at school, our bond was a very strong and close one and then, after a year in my own place and sharing equal parenting time with his father it was all ripped away from me and I was left devastated and feeling lost and alone.

Recently I got a phone call from my now 16 year old and as our conversation ended he thanked me and told me that he feels like he can come to me with any problem or concern, he trusts me with virtually anything. In that moment I was overcome with emotion and I realized that even though my physical presence with my son is limited my influence and value as a mother are not. I have a teenage boy who texts me, is comfortable expressing his affection for the people in his life he cares for, and has learned to reason and analyze the things in life that matter most in order to have a deeper understanding of himself and his place in the world around him. I have a son who, despite any personal struggle remembers how to love and communicate appropriately depending on the circumstance.

My son's father and I may not have been a healthy couple when we were married but we have always respected one another as parents and that never changed neither during or after the divorce. Our efforts show in the young man we are both so proud of and for that I'm grateful. With all my worries and concerns over the past few years I was still a mother and the lessons I have been learning he has been learning also. My experiences and how different they are from his father's experiences have given my child a depth of wisdom and I can only hope that his struggles don't have to be as extreme as mine have been because of it; but if they are, I have no doubt he will learn and become an even better person when faced with trials.

This has taught me that even when we aren't near our children and parenting them as closely as we would like, that doesn't mean our influence and very being isn't playing a role in our child's development. We are allowed to experience hardship for a reason and finding that reason may be a challenge but it's always there and sometimes it's less about us and our pain and suffering and more about someone close to us who's watching, like our children. I worked hard at being a good example and respecting my son's father even if we didn't work as a married couple. I took responsibility for my role when things didn't work out then and now, I take my lessons and I keep moving forward. Every decision I make every single day affects my son and just knowing that and holding it makes me a good mother and the validation is in the sweet messages and phone calls I get from him.

So to all of you parents out there who are missing your children and to those children who are missing a parent today I want to wish you a very special and happy Mother's Day. To the parent, don't believe for a second that your presence on this earth isn't valuable to your child, value isn't measured in the quantity of time you spend with your child but the quality and willingness to be there for them when they need you, even if it's just a phone call. And to those children missing a parent today, trust me, they miss you too, even if they have a not-so-funny way of showing it, your very existence is evidence of great love.

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