It is my son’s birthday, so despite the fact that I am so tired my eyes ache, I am sitting here writing. I always try to write something on my children’s birthdays, not only to mark the milestone in way I can look back and smile on, but so that I remember to continue to celebrate all that they have taught me, shown me, and most especially, all that they have given me.
My life this last year has been marked with radical change and incredible sorrow. I have found little peace and even less comfort in even the smallest things surrounding me. I have been wracked with guilt, questioned everything that I am, and found myself so much less than what I thought I really was. I like to think there were highlights somewhere in those days, but if they were, I know they could have only been given by the two gifts God designed just for me; my children.
Some might consider it strange that on my children’s birthdays I reflect so much on myself, but the truth is their passage of time has become my only time. Their moments of glory and their moments of pure happiness, that I have come to realize only children can feel, mark my days with so many highs not matter how low I succumb. I wish that I could find succor for the pain in my life in my child’s smiles, but I have also come to realize that while those smiles give so much, they can’t fully erase the darkness.
Life is a mixture of darkness and light; however, what most of us somehow have to learn is that the darkness is much more powerful than that single blade of hope. It is the darkness that brings us the unhappiness and the sorrow, the death, and the guilt; the worry, the pain, the failure, even the lost success. Darkness drives so much of life that we are forced to question everything that we do and everything that we are striving for. Is it worth it? Was it right? Did I do the best?
For my children, I question everything. I question what time they go to bed to what they eat for breakfast. I wonder if the move I made across many states was truly the best for them, or what I selfishly wanted for myself. I look at my debt and my dwindling checking account and I wonder if I am working hard enough, am I doing all that I can? And when I lose my temper I am forced to question if it isn’t simply my own exhaustion that makes my child look different tonight.
And I have found a different kind of exhaustion these days. There have been thousands of moments in my life when I looked around and realized that my soul was tired. I realized that I didn’t have the energy or the wherewithal to find within myself a reason. There have been times when the covers seemed warmer, safer, and more comforting than the sweetest memory. There have been times when the act of even breathing took more concentration than those final exams I once feared.
These days, these evenings, I no longer have my husband by my side. To follow his own dream, which I want to state for him and everyone else, I fully support, he had to begin working evenings. This wasn’t his first choice and certainly not something he set out to find; for no matter how difficult our marriage comes, he loves being a father more than any man I have ever seen. But those dreams mean lonely nights for me, and times when there is no one to turn to, no one to lean on, especially when it comes to those we both adore.
My children are normal, healthy children. They whine, they play, they make mistakes, they find answers in unlucky places. They are perfect for the ages that they are. However this also means that they can’t do for themselves most of the basic tasks we all take for granted. Want a glass of milk? Mom has to pour it. Want to do homework? Mom doesn’t either. Want to wear clean clothes? Wait for it, mom has to do it. This is not the fault of my children, nor the fault of their parents, it is their age.
I have come to realize that single parents have a level of simple strength that those who have never been there, can’t possibly know. No matter how many times us married ladies complain about what our husband does or even doesn’t do, until you have spent hours and even days knowing that you are completely on your own, you can’t possibly appreciate all that a partner gives you. I move each and every day until I fall exhausted into bed.
Yet, there are those smiles of my children. There are the strange, and sometimes rather rude sayings that my children come up with or learn from their friends. There is the curiosity, the absolute lack of fear and belief in the goodness of their parents. There is the ease of sleep, and the forgiveness of a kiss on the cheek. There is the adventure, the imagination, the laughter, the giggles. There is the moments of pure joy.
It is these small things that not only hold back the darkness for brief moments, but where the darkness can find its greatest source of energy. The darkness that we have doesn’t often come from our own lives, but surrounds the lives of those we love most; as if the were auras. The price of the pure joy is the guilt that they will cry silent tears. The price of our strength, is the loss of our confidence. The price of that curiosity is the fear for their innocence.
On my son’s birthday this year, I don’t find myself reflecting on all that he has accomplished or how he has grown, but all the things that are on the precipice of being unforgivable. It is hard for me to concentrate of the smile, when the darkness has become so dense. I think on the last year and what I loss, what I destroyed, and even what will never be the same.
And I hate that for my son. I hate that rather than easily celebrating all that he is and all that he has become; these days the gray mist of my future blocks all light from those beautiful candles I lit.