That’s me at six years old, the same age that my son is now. Like him, I was raised by single parents. Up until a few weeks ago, I couldn’t relate to him much because my memories didn’t go back that far.
I don’t remember being a toddler.
I don’t remember my first ride on a carousel with my Dad.
I don’t remember feeding this goat.
I don’t remember sitting on my Mom’s lap at whatever family function this was.
You see, my childhood memories start at about five years old on the day that my mother took me and left my father.
I don’t remember the chain of events before then that set her off, but I’m sure she felt she had good reason to take me and flee. Maybe she’d planned it; I’ll never be sure. I’ve never asked.
I love both my mother and father dearly. What happened between them that led up to that day is their story and not a part of mine.
I remember her placing me in her car and locking me in so my father could not get to me, while they argued outside. I remember the police coming. I remember being terrified and not understanding why my parents were being so mean to each other. I remember driving away in the car with my mother that day and wondering if I’d ever see my father again.
Of course I did, and since that day I have dozens of happy memories that make up for the bad one that started them all.
Like this one when my father took me to Disney for the first time. How fab was my visor?!
A few weeks ago when I was tucking my son in to bed he started to cry, seemingly out of nowhere.
“What’s wrong buddy?” I asked as I wrapped my arms around him.
“I wish you and Daddy could live together again.”
I felt like a deer in headlights. I should’ve been more prepared with a speech. After all, I knew that someday I’d hear those words, I just didn’t think it would be so soon. I’d also thought that when I heard those words come out of his mouth that my heart would break into a million pieces for the family we had both lost when his father left me. Oddly enough it didn’t.
“That’s not going to happen bud. Daddy and I aren’t going to live together anymore. I live here with Grandma and Poppa now, and we’ll be getting our own place this summer. And Daddy lives with [his girlfriend].”
“But can’t you come live with me and Daddy and [his girlfriend]? We can all live together in one house.”
Somehow I managed to contain my laughter and a big “Hell to the motherfucking no.”
“No buddy, that’s not going to happen.” I replied.
“What if [his girlfriend] leaves? Then can you come back and live with me and Daddy?” he asked innocently.
“No buddy. Daddy and I not living together doesn’t have anything to do with [his girlfriend].”
“Well who does it have to do with?”
“It has to do with me and Daddy. Mommy is a better Mommy and a happier person not living with Daddy. And Daddy is a better Daddy and a happier person not living with Mommy. It has to do with Mommy and Daddy and nothing to do with [his girlfriend] or you. And it doesn’t mean we love you any less. There just came a point where Mommy and Daddy couldn’t live together anymore. If we all lived together Mommy and Daddy would fight a lot and you wouldn’t want to see Mommy and Daddy fighting right?”
“Right. So we are all much happier this way.”
“But I miss you when I’m at Daddy’s house and I miss Daddy when I am at your house.” he sobbed.
I wrapped my arms around him tighter and kissed his forehead.
“It’s OK to miss us buddy. And whenever you miss either of us we’re just a phone call away. You can call me anytime you miss me at Daddy’s and you can call Daddy anytime you miss him when you’re here.”
It was there in the darkness that I realized I had more in common with my six-year-old son than I thought. I’d felt what he was feeling when I was a child. I’d wondered if my parents not being together had something to do with me. I questioned at one time or another that if my stepfather were not in the picture if my parents would be together.
Perhaps being raised by single parents had trained me for this single mom moment.
“I’m going to tell you something. When I was your age Grandma and Grandpa didn’t live together either. I was just like you and had two houses. I would spend the week with Grandma and the weekends with Grandpa. Sometimes it felt weird going from one house to another and sometimes I missed Grandma when I was with Grandpa, but when I did I would close my eyes and think of something fun that Grandma and I did together and it would make me not miss her so much and I would smile. Do you think you can try that?”
“I think I can do that.” he said.
“Good. I love you very much buddy. We have so many fun years ahead. We’re going to do so many fun things. You and me. And you can always come talk to me when you’re feeling sad or confused about things that are going on. I am always here for you.”
“I love you too Mommy.”
And with that he snuggled down, wrapped his own arms around my neck and fell asleep; while I sighed with relief that I’d successfully jumped another hurdle along the track of single motherhood.
I’m not sure what my son will recall as his first memory when he’s my age. Hopefully it won’t be as traumatic as my own since his father and I split when he was young enough not to remember the fights we had.
All I can do now as a single mom is vow to create a ridiculous amount of happy memories for him along the way to even out the not so great ones that are bound to happen.