When You Abandoned Our Son I lost the Right to Parent Autonomously

Photo by KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash

I don’t feel anger towards you. Not anymore that is. Time has healed my pain, though it has not been as merciful to our child. I was naive for certain when we decided to bring a child into the world. Nonetheless, the obstacles I experienced parenting him taught me life’s hardest lessons. While I wish I had been able to learn these lessons in a gentler way, ultimately learning how harsh this world can be has made me more resilient. Damaged to be sure. But resilient, nonetheless.

So it isn’t anger that comes to mind first when I think of you. Its sadness. Its an odd feeling. One I didn’t have the ability to fully feel for years while I was submersed in the thick of parenting alone. But now that our child is an adult. Now that I have had a little freedom to process my feelings … I’ve noticed that what lingers is sadness.

I mourn the young woman I could have been had I not become so jaded so early. I mourn having never had a chance to meet her — the 20-year-old with big dreams and no direction. I never got to be her. I could never afford to stumble. I wasn’t afforded anything.

I started a truly unhealthy pattern in the years after you abandoned our child. By then, I’d become well versed in how to clothe, feed and nurture him without you. But when you abandoned him, really abandoned him — not just disappeared for an extended period of time, but instead just disappeared — that’s when the intensely unhealthy patterns emerged for me. I started to compensate for you. I started parenting harder, much harder because I wanted to protect him from the pain of losing you.

It’s a really hard place to be — the parent of a child whose pain is so deep and you so helpless to assuage it. I entered a cycle of parenting, harder and harder all in the hopes that our child might eventually come to believe that he didn’t need you. That your abandonment was not his fault. That your abandonment did not make him a bad person.

My efforts were futile of course. There was never any hope that I would heal that pain for our child. There was never any hope that I would convince him that he did not need you. How could I have ever convinced him of this when it is just not true? He did need you. He wasn’t better off without you. He wasn’t okay. He isn’t ever going to be okay.

I think somewhere deep inside I knew this reality but still I couldn’t release myself of the cycle of overcompensation. It’s hard as a parent to accept that you cannot meet all of child’s needs. It’s harder when you know that the only other person in the world who can meet your child’s need — simply won’t.

I ran myself into the ground overcompensating for you. The toll it took on my health, my emotional stability, my relationship with our son, remain. I was harsher, sterner, more overprotective than he deserved. I loved him into codependency and made decisions about my life based on a need to replace you in his.

It is frustrating for me at some base level that you will never know exactly how much your actions shaped the course of my life. Now that our child is an adult, I am glad to see you make the effort to get to know him. He deserves that. But watching you stumble around building a relationship with him is frustrating for me in ways I didn’t anticipate. Frustrating because I keep thinking that you will never know, never really know how much your actions limited me. My growth, my healthy development and most importantly my right to parent our child from a place of freedom and authenticity. Your choices robed me of these irreplaceable opportunities and no one will ever really truly appreciate this fact but me.

Still it isn’t anger that I feel. All of the overcompensation, the frantic efforts at healing our child’s wounds, the desperate attempts to teach our child to survive in this harsh world in spite of your abandonment, all of it has left me a little emptier inside. I have no emotional reserves for anger. I have no emotional reserves for anything.

I am a queer, woman of color, scholar-activist. writing about parenting, loving, forgiving and struggle

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