Today is one of the few days that I didn’t have to look up at the calendar to check the date, because today is the day that my son turns nineteen. It’s a strange milestone; I’m filled with pride and also a little grief because there is no longer any disputing it – my son has grown up.
I never anticipated being a parent. Through my teens and early twenties, I assumed that children were off the table. Partly because I’m egg-challenged and partly because I couldn’t do the relationship thing – men were too hard and too scary, and I didn’t know how to deal.
But I got pregnant and from the moment the stick showed the plus sign, I was all in. I wanted my son – because I knew in my bones it was a boy – from the moment I confirmed the pregnancy.
I spent most of his life as a single parent. That was hard.
I spent most of his life struggling with mental illness. That was hard too. What kept me going was him. He kept me here, and kept me mostly stable because above everything else, I didn’t want to break him. I wanted to do right by him. I wanted him to have the kind of childhood I didn’t have. I wanted him to be happy. I wanted him to be brave. I wanted him to believe he had value.
God, I hope I succeeded.
I am full of memories today. They’re helped along by the presence of my year-old grandson. Watching him grow throws me back in time to when my son was little. I’m full of memories of a little boy with smiles and laughter who raced to me and leapt into my arms whenI’d pick him up from daycare.
I remember soccer games and swimming and ball.
I remember birthday parties and sitting with him and holding him when he was sick.
I remember school plays and concerts, sitting proudly as he sang, or played the drums or trumpet.
I remember camping trips and mini-golf and watching him grow and develop his own personality.
I remember teaching him to ride a bike and play cards.
I couldn’t be prouder of him.
He’s not perfect. He forgets things. He watches too many online videos. He doesn’t always clean up after himself. But he’s kind and smart, and thoughtful, and loyal, and has incredibly good boundaries.
He saved my life.
That’s not the kind of thing you necessarily tell your children. It has a weight and a responsibility to it that isn’t theirs to bear. But he did.
I continued to try because of him. I went to counselling because of him. I stopped myself from committing suicide because of him. I went to inpatient treatment because of him. Because to not do so would have caused him pain and everything I’ve done since the moment he was born has been about trying to keep him safe from that.
I’m not perfect, I’ve failed as a parent a million times and every one of those errors is etched into my soul. I wish I’d been better. I wish I’d been the perfect parent he deserved. But I love him more than I thought I could love anything in this world and that is his gift to me.
With him, I can step outside myself. I can pull away from the demons for a time. I can live outside my head.
We’re told we must do for ourselves. We need to want to get better for ourselves, to live for ourselves.I’ve never been able to get to that point; I still don’t really think that way. I try at life because to not do so would harm those around me. He keeps me in the game.
It’s my love for my son that has got me this far. He’s amazing. And every day that I wake up, I’m thankful that I was given the gift of having this miracle in my life.