As I lay in bed this morning, exhausted from working until 2 AM (and having to get up just four hours later), I find myself rubbing my eyes and trying to orient myself back into “wake” mode. And that’s when I realized what day it is.
Today marks four years since the day you walked out of our home, and never returned.
I think of you often, usually because I’m always tired and I know that I can chalk a lot of that up to the fact that you abandoned me with two kids; leaving me to pick up the slack on everything that you were supposed to be helping me with. But today the absence of you is weighing a little bit heavier on my heart, and I find myself opening my computer to do a little journaling before my day starts — something that helps me sort through everything that my heart is feeling, and my brain simply cannot process.
Why did you leave us? How can you not love your own children enough to stay? Do you ever think about them, wonder how they are, or who they are becoming? Do you ever regret the choices that you’ve made?
Four years seems like a lifetime ago, and I can’t help but hope that in those years, maybe you’ve come to realize everything that you lost. But the reality is, you’ve made no attempt to contact us; and chances are, you’ve just spent these four years building yourself a new life, while I’ve been salvaging our old one.
Your kids have grown — a lot. You wouldn’t even recognize your son anymore, since he was just a baby when you left. Now, he is a rambunctious 4-year-old that spends his days taking apart everything in my house. And your daughter? She has changed so much. No longer is she the toddler that used to stand at the window and wait for her daddy to get home from work. No; now she is a fast-talking, super silly, budding artist, who always wants to make sure she knows where I am.
I’m exactly where you left me; but I’m not sure that you would even recognize me anymore, either. You see, when you left, things changed beyond the obviousness of what outsiders could see going on.
Things changed in our house the day you left, and in this house, we all changed too.
We became different people starting down a brand new path, because it’s what we needed to do to survive, and I, I became a different mother, because suddenly I had to start being a father too.
And time went on, as time tends to do, and we pulled together; the three of us closer now than we would have ever been with you living here, an extra person crammed into the walls of our home, driving us all apart.
There is laughter where there was once only tears, and there is a sense of safety that my kids may never have known if they had seen the strike of your hand against my skin.
You left, but in doing so you saved me, and you allowed me to save our children from becoming the people that you would have likely driven them to be.
You saved them from a million little things that I don’t even want to think about, and it was only in your betrayal of me, your wife, have I finally been able to become the mother that I always wanted to be. Because looking back at how I was living and what you were doing to me, I was failing our kids.
I was failing them.
Then you left me … and I found myself. And I know that wasn’t your intention — and I give you no credit for that gift — but between me and God, thank you. Because in walking away, you allowed me to raise our children right.
And yes, I’m tired (my gosh am I tired). But it’s worth it; because I love them, and the people that they are becoming.
I love that when you left, you took with you all the parts of me that I never would have wanted to pass down to my children: low self-esteem, a broken spirit, shame, guilt, depression, and the psychology of being a domestic violence victim.
You left me so empty and destroyed that I had no choice but to fill in all the little cracks you created, with the sheer determination to survive.
And we did survive, all of us, without your help.
Our kids, they have learned more about life in the past four years than I could have ever hoped to teach them in a lifetime of mothering. They have watched, before their little eyes, a life become a future.
Responsibility, determination, pride, persistence … you forced me to teach all of these things to our children, as they’ve watched me work multiple jobs, run a household on my own, and juggle the responsibilities of single parenting.
So again, while I’m not sure that I should be thanking you for that … thank you.
Thank you for being nothing that I needed, so that I could become everything that our kids did. I see them these days, and I just marvel at who they have become. People often tell me that they are old souls, but between you and I, I know the truth. They are wise beyond their years, because they have lived through things that children should never have to learn.
They never give up, no matter how frustrated they get, and I’d like to think that it’s something they’ve learned from watching how many times I’ve tried, failed, and gotten back up to try again. They aren’t afraid of hard work, because in our family, we all pitch in. We apologize when we are wrong (because Lord knows I’m often wrong), and we graciously accept that not everyone is perfect. We cheer for each other, feeling pride in not only our accomplishments, but also in those around us, and we feel not just bad, but true empathy for people who are struggling. We have learned, all three of us, not to judge others, because we know how that feels. And excuses? There are none of those here, because it’s OK to not always succeed, but it’s never OK not to try.
In this family, we work. We work hard at loving, trying, forgiving, humbling, accepting, praising, and dreaming.
This isn’t the life I was expecting to lead, but you know what? These kids are turning out better than I could have ever imagined.
So four years ago today, it felt like my life had just ended; but now I’m seeing that it was never really the end. It was the beginning of something new. Four years ago today was the first day that I truly learned how to be a mom.
And I won’t lie and say that it doesn’t still hurt us, because it does. But it didn’t break us and it won’t destroy us. It just changed us — for the better.
So cheers to our 4-year anniversary, it’s amazing how far we have come.
The wife you left behind, and the mother that I became.More On