Raising a boy when you’re not married to his mother is difficult, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do.
My son just turned 21. Did I do a good job?
That’s the question we all ask as parents. Even more so when we aren’t part of a “normal” mom and dad family. A less-than-amicable split from my son’s mother when he was only three years old. I left. I had been in a very toxic relationship with her since he was born. It wasn’t the right relationship. We shouldn’t have been there, but we were. I was 21 years old. I made some mistakes. He was never one of them. I knew, at one point, that leaving was the right thing to do because it wasn’t right for him to grow up in an environment where his mother and I constantly were arguing and unhappy. He turned 21, and I wonder, did I do the right things? Was I the best father I could possibly be?
In the beginning, it was very hard. As we had separated, there was no real custody agreement because his mother and I were not married, so I’d take him every Friday evening when he was young, and I’d bring him home on Sunday night. I loved it because he spent two nights with me. I just enjoyed the company from the time he was four, right up through his young teenage years. He got to experience his step-mother and I being married, the birth of his two sisters, who absolutely adore him, and we gave him a different view on life. I think that was very important.
Having a separated household gave him an opportunity to see more than one place to be, more than one lifestyle. But I still wonder if I was the best father I could possibly be, being separated. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t think I ever will. As he’s grown, and as he was going through his teenage years, he had some difficulties. I helped him. His mother helped him. The family stood behind him. Now, I look at him, now being 21 years old. He’s going to college. He’s holding down a job or two, has a beautiful young girlfriend, who’s he’s been with for a couple of years. He’s making the right decisions.
I think the answer to my question, was I the best father I could be, is yes. As I look at that young man right now, I think that there’s probably nothing in my heart I’m more proud of than knowing that I see some of the traits that our family embodied, and that carried through to him today.
It’s funny. In his teenage years, he stopped coming over less and less as he wanted to be with friends. He became his own person, and that’s all part of growing up. I wonder if I was enough of an influence to him during those years, and I hope I was.
Like the Harry Chapin song, “Cat in the Cradle,” I don’t talk to him as much right now as I used to, and I miss that. But I still talk to him. We still keep the lines of communication open. For his birthday just the two of us are going to a concert, dinner, and we’re going to spend a great day together. I’m going to cherish that moment because as I look at this, I become more sure that the answer to my question is yes. I did help to raise a wonderful young man, and I was the best father to him at that time that I could possibly be, and those experiences helped me to be a better father overall, not just to him, but to his sisters. Thank you, Richard. I love you with all my heart. Thank you for making me a father.
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Photo: Flickr/Kelly Sikkema