I had no clue what I was doing at 16 when my first child was born. I hadn’t even thought about how many kids I’d have let alone how I would raise them.
I tried to figure out motherhood as time dragged me forward. I had no choice; I couldn’t pause and figure out my parenting philosophy.
Instead, I practiced. I practiced reading my baby’s cues. I practiced dealing with tantrums. I practiced disciplining. I practiced being “mom.”
Until I wasn’t, at least not to him anymore. A different version of myself let him go. I feel disconnected from that person, from that time, but it was me. I have to live with it.
I like to tell people that I’m reconnecting with my son, but that’s not entirely true. It’s been thirteen years. We’ve both become different people. I will never reconnect with the boy I let go. He is no longer the boy who wanted me to tuck him in at night, nor is he the boy who played with dinosaurs at my feet. He was, but not anymore; that boy is gone.
He will never know the mom I used to be. I was different. I’m evolving. I used to yell more. I used to spend less time with my kids. I never would’ve made homemade playdough, or finger paint. I used to hate being domestic. I used to hate motherhood.
He will never live the circumstances that led to my choice. I used to be a working mom. I used to be too poor to afford birthday presents. I had a second child before I could handle my first. I trusted it was temporary and that I would have him back. I was in an abusive relationship and didn’t have the energy to fight for him. I have many reasons; back then it took everything in me just to stay alive.
It took almost thirteen years of missing him for him to come back. I am trying to connect with who he has become. Nothing from the past binds us, we are basically strangers.
It’s my fault we’re strangers.
Other people seem to desperately want me to forgive myself. They tell me to look ahead, to make up for the time my choices stole from us.
But it’s impossible.
I can’t make up for not sending him off to his first day of school. What’s lost in time stays lost. Time is steady—it passes us by even if we stay still. I’ve always been still, waiting for something that already past.
I was waiting for a chance to go back in time and make a different choice and keep that boy who loved dinosaurs with me, to tuck him again. I was standing still, back to the future with regret.
Oblivious to all in front of me, even linear beings can be stuck in the past. Most of the time I would pretend I was moving. I would tell people about all the goals I was working toward.
I would avoid talking about my son. I had coworkers who didn’t even know he existed and others I let believe he still lived with me. I didn’t want to explain. I knew if I looked back, I’d never actually start moving. We cannot move forward as we’re keeping what’s behind us in focus.
When he first moved back in with me last fall, the guilt and regret kept me turned away from connection. I just kept looking back, wishing for a different past. I had to eventually turn around with hope. It took thirteen years but I finally have both eyes looking forward to a future where I know him. We’re connecting, hopefully.
Navarre Overton is the founder of and editor at Raising Revolution. She is a stay-at-home mom, feminist, freelance writer, and student. You can reach her on Twitter, or email her at email@example.com.