That was the question my five-year-old asked me as his brothers ate breakfast and I nursed the baby. The question took my breath away, and my mind raced. I was instantly angry. Angry that I was being blamed, that in his little mind, this was my fault, this was something I had control over. Angry with their dad, that I was the one who had to field the questions plaguing my little man’s heart, while he relished in a full night’s sleep and a leisurely hot shower.
In my mind I thought “Why don’t you ask your dad why he thinks it’s OK to cheat? To treat me like less of a person than himself? Ask him why he leaves me no choices other than to let him walk over me, or to walk away. Ask him why our family isn’t enough for him? Why I wasn’t enough for him?”
But he’s five, so I hug him, I tell him I’m sorry it’s so hard, that it’s OK to be sad, I am sad too. And that no matter what he is loved, and none of this is his fault. I tell him that, and I hug him and kiss him and think:
My dear, sweet boy. I love you so much. I love you with all of me, to a fault, I’d do anything for you, even stay.
I thought about staying. I thought that maybe it would be best for you if I swallowed my sadness, swallowed my pride, my needs, my whole self, and just stayed. Played the part, tucked you in every night, with the sweet bliss that comes with the ignorance of babyhood, toddlerhood, childhood. I thought that maybe if I stayed you could be happy.
But that’s wrong. Because, my sweet baby, you will grow up, and you will start to lose your naïve visors and start to see the world, you’ll start to see your mom and dad. And I have to make the choice now of who I want you to see. Do I want you to see the mom who throws aside all of her self worth to make life easier on her boys? Do I want to saddle you with the burden of somehow living up to being happy enough that it was worth it to stay?
Or do I want you to grow up and to see me. A woman who knows her worth. Who knows that, even though I will do everything in my power to make you happy, your happiness is your choice, not mine. A woman who is strong, but stays soft because she hasn’t had to harden her heart against the one who was supposed to love her, to protect her.
Today, all I am in your world is your mom. That is good, there is no one else I would rather be, but it is not all I am.
Babies, I want you to grow up and to see that I had to chose to love me in order to best love you. I had to choose to grab hold of my self-respect and cling to it like a life raft. To say, enough was enough. I want you to find a strong woman to love one day, and I cannot ask you to do that without first showing you who a strong woman is.
So, my sweet boys, please love me. Know that I am hopelessly flawed, unsure and scared, but that I know, in time, you will see that this was the best for all of us.