When you get older, you look back at your life. Some of it causes you pain. Sometimes, you are blessed with redemption.
At twenty-five, I was divorced and raising a toddler alone. It was rough. I worked fulltime. We lived in a bad part of town — it was all I could afford. I was anxious, and frankly inadequate to the task of parenting alone.
My ex and I made our peace, and he helped where he could. (I have a picture of him building a swingset for Danny in my back yard.) My ex remarried, to a nice young woman who wanted to start a family someday. They moved into a house a few blocks away, and our son enjoyed the attention from all of us. When I enrolled in a two-week night class, they offered a 10-day sleepover so he would have less disruption. After the two weeks ended, we saw the truth. He was happier, less stressed. We agreed he should move in with them. He was four.
It killed me, but he thrived. Ann and Larry had two more children, so my son gained a brother and sister. He had a working dad and a stay-at-home mom. The family went camping and fishing. The three kids spent every other weekend with me. Although I was “Mama Lynne,” it was funny when we’d all be together, and a child would say “Mom,” and Ann and I would both answer.
We developed a style of co-parenting that still makes me proud. Ann was the one who had a hot dinner on the table in the evening, who made clothes for the kids, and helped them with schoolwork and crafts. I was the career mom. The two of us would appear together at school functions, causing the teachers to smile and shake their heads.
Over the thirty-plus years since then, our two families have endured some major challenges, but now Larry, Ann, and I are senior citizens. We love each other like family. I think more people should follow our example, and do what’s best for the kids.
But there is a dark place in my soul that sometimes feels grief over not being enough. Like I failed as a mother.
One day, my son, now an adult, heard me utter some form of guilt, and he said, “Mom, if you keep telling me what a rotten childhood I had, pretty soon I’m going to believe you.”
I shut my mouth and hugged him, absolved.