How is that possible you ask? I know-I don’t look a day over 40 myself. I certainly don’t feel old enough to have a son turning 40 tomorrow. It was devastating when I turned 40, but this seems even bigger. His birthday gives me reason to stop and reflect.
I remember finding out I was pregnant. I was 20 years old and had been married for 2 years. My husband was very excited about having a new tax deduction. I was excited and TERRIFIED! I had no idea how to be a good mother. I certainly had fine examples of what not to do.
I had a list of things I would never do. I was not going to be like the people who raised me. I hesitated to call any of them parents. I lived through abuse of every kind as a child, two sets of alcoholic parents, abandonment, fear, and almost always felt alone in the world. I wanted to provide my children with love, encourage them to be individuals, support their hopes and dreams, and give them a safe and loving home.
I went to the library and read every book I could find on parenting. I read about everything from breast-feeding to disciple. I read about physical care and emotional well-being. I even had to read about the birthing process. The only thing I really knew was how to get pregnant.
My son was the most amazing baby. He slept through the night at 6 weeks. He wasn’t fussy or colicky. He was usually happy. He said his first words at 6 months and could sing all of “Take Me Home Country Roads” at 18 months. He would sneak away from me at the store and head to front desk area. He would tell the clerk that his parents were missing and ask for candy while he waited for them to find us. He was outgoing and everyone loved him.
When he was 4 years old, his little sister joined the family. He has always loved his little sister. He nick named her “Coochie.” I have no idea how he decided on that name. He loved to carry her around and dote on her.
Life didn’t turn out the way I planned. The effects of my childhood, undiagnosed PTSD, anxiety disorders, and clinical depression took a toll. My marriage was not a good one and that added to the problems. I started drinking as a way of escape and trying to find a sense of normalcy.
My children never saw me drink nor saw me drunk. I hid it well. I started to make poor choices for my life. At the end of my marriage I was sleeping on the couch. My kids came to me and said that my daughter was moving into the room with my son (and his bunk beds) so I could have her room and sleep on a bed. It broke my heart. I knew I had to make changes. However, I made the wrong changes. I moved out of the house and tried to be a good mother living apart from them.
I don’t need to share all the details of that time, but my husband filed for divorce and asked for physical custody of the kids. I was allowed to have them every other weekend and one night a week. The pain was too much to bear and I used drinking more as a way to escape. I made another bad choice to move to another state and try to start my life again. You can run away but you always take yourself and your problems with you. Eventually I found my way into therapy and recovery.
The next years would be very difficult. Living so far away from my children made healing the relationship a daily struggle. My daughter did return to live with me but my son did not. He was in high school and stayed to finish. We would have highs and lows in our relationship over the next few years. I know he felt abandoned just as I had so many years before.
In 12 step programs of recovery, we are taught not to regret the past nor shut the door on it. We are taught that our past made us who we are today. My past created a path for my way to a relationship with God that I never had before. I understand those things in my head; My heart is another story. Tears still come from time to time when I remember the days of missing my children. I still carry shame and hurt from that time.
My son turns 40 tomorrow and I couldn’t ask for a better relationship with him. He is an amazing husband and father. He has a strong faith and we share our thoughts and ideas about that. We are able to talk about the past with understanding. He has an amazing wife and is father two of my grandchildren. They are both a joy in my life.
A few years ago, he gave me the best birthday present I could ever imagined. He bought tickets for us to go to Charlotte, NC and see the Panthers and Redskins football game. Of course, he was wearing his Panther’s blue shirt and I was wearing my Redskins’ burgundy and gold shirt. We stayed overnight and enjoyed the time talking, laughing, and enjoying each other.
This summer we took a day trip to Charlotte to see the movie premier of “Blue Like Jazz.” The movie is based on a book by Donald Miller. We both love the author and book. These rare moments give us time to talk and continue to grow our relationship.
My son turns 40 tomorrow. I still call him Teddy. His big boy friends call him Ted. I am his Mom and I am allowed to call him anything I want. He is still that precious baby boy, inquisitive toddler, and bright/gifted little boy to me. He always will be.
Happy Birthday, Teddy! I love you with all my heart.