There was never a time during my childhood when I thought of my parents as being in love. I don’t remember a time when they shared a bed or engaged in PDA. When I was seven, my Mom took my sister and I to Disney World by herself because my Dad didn’t want to come. My parents didn’t have a horrible marriage, they just didn’t really have a marriage. I was raised by two people who happened to cohabitate.
It should come to no surprise that this kind of marital relationship was unsustainable, so when I was ten, my Mom sat my sister and I down to tell us they were getting a divorce. I’m sure I was sad, but I don’t really remember it happening. Probably because it was small peanuts compared to what was to come. Just a couple months later, my Dad suffered a massive stroke. It was a combination of his existing diabetes, his smoking and, most likely triggered by the stress of the divorce. He lost full functioning of the right side of his body and gave up on both physical and speech therapy early on. He became essentially nonverbal, save for a few expletives. Although that stroke didn’t kill my Dad, it left him a shell of the man he once was. After that, he was never really a strong parental figure in my life. Just someone I loved and tried to visit when I could.
My Mom had started dating prior to the stroke and not long after, she married Husband #2. Husband #2 was younger and more fun than my Dad had ever been, so it was understandable why my Mom was attracted to him. However, I never felt right about him. It was barely a year into their marriage when the violence started. Five years later, we eventually escaped from him with our souls barely intact. He was an alcoholic who was physically and verbally abusive to my Mom, sister and I. Once I hit puberty, his eye wandered a bit too much and I am thankful we left when we did because I can’t say with 100% certainty what may or may not have happened had we stuck around.
As it turns out, third time was the charm when my Mom married again in 2008 and I am happy to report that nine years later, I still adore my step-dad. However, by the time he came along, the damage was done.
For most of my adolescence and young adult life, I have been wholly distrusting and wary of men. When I would visit a friend’s house for dinner, I would hug her Mom and then awkwardly greet her Dad from five feet away. I put myself in less-than-ideal situations with boys in college because I simply assumed that disgusting, disrespectful, and manipulative was the nature of all men and there was no alternative.
I won’t say my husband was the magic elixir that fixed all my woes. I will say, the night we met, I knew within 30 minutes of talking to him that he was someone trustworthy. I didn’t fall in love with him at first sight, but it was his authenticity, trustworthiness and his straight-forwardness that led me to our first date the next day, and to the altar nearly two years later.
When we found out we were pregnant with our first baby, I assumed it would be a girl. I was raised with a sister and had little to no interaction with young boys in my life. I went with what I knew. Surprise, surprise- at our 20-week ultrasound, we saw Charlie for the first time and I began to wrap my mind around the fact that I was about to become a boy mom. Admittedly, it took a little while to sink in. But the next day, as I drove an hour to work, I began to cry. The enormity of what being a boy mom meant hit me like a ton of bricks.
I was always supposed to be a boy mom because I know how important it is to bring kind, compassionate, and respectful gentleman into the world. I was always supposed to be a boy mom because my son will learn from the amazing example set by his father that I never got to experience firsthand. I was always supposed to be a boy mom because that little boy was going to heal my heart and erase all the scars men before him had left behind. Sure enough, the instant that boy joined us earth-side, my heart grew more than I knew was possible. And every day since then, he has filled my life with love, joy, and laughter.
This past Fall, I gave birth to our second baby. After much speculation that I was having a girl (holy morning sickness!), Crosby surprised everyone. Bouncing baby boy #2 entered our lives and since then, it has been filled with more cuddles, kisses, and love than I could have imagined. I never thought I would have a baby who was as sweet, if not sweeter, than Charlie, but somehow Crosby continues to surpass all of my expectations.
My childhood wasn’t rainbows and butterflies. I wouldn’t wish what a young, sensitive, and naive me had to go through upon anyone. But as it turns out, even the darkest storm clouds bring about new and beautiful life. It is undoubtedly because of my lack of a father figure, my experience as a domestic violence survivor, and later as a victim of sexual assault, that I am a better mother. I don’t know if my sons’ future spouses have been born yet, but if they have, I pray that they will one day come to know how lucky they are. Their husbands are going to be the sweetest, silliest, and most trustworthy men around. And all because their mother-in-law had some serious Daddy issues 😉