I’m a non-custodial mother of a teenager. When my son’s dad and I divorced 16 years ago I knew I was going back to college and I’d also have to work, so it was best for our son that he stay with his father who was already set in his career. It was the toughest decision I’ve ever made and most of the time I think it was the right one.
That’s because I see the man my son is growing into and I am proud. He’s kind. He’s positive. He’s open and loving and a bit of a smart ass and smart. He treats me with respect, gets good grades, does the dishes when he’s told, and even puts the seat down with a minimum of grumbling.
His step-mom sees a different side. She gets the back-talking teenager, the one my friends warned me I’d have to deal with once my kid hit those troublesome years. To her he says the things teenagers supposedly say. “You can’t tell me to get a job when you don’t have one.” “You can’t take the car away from me; it’s my dad’s.”
And if I am to be perfectly and completely honest, I’m in his corner.
Granted, I am bitter with a capital B. I got yelled at when he was 6 because he called her “stepmom” after a babysitter I’d hired used that term. I was told “we don’t use that word.” For my son that meant she was called mom and I was mommy until he was 15. I was OK with that.
When he was eight I moved to Chicago to be closer to him. I hired an attorney so I could see him on a regular basis. (Don’t ever accept “reasonable visitation” in divorce papers. Ever.) I sent a letter to his dad and step-mom via FedEx requesting visitation. She wrote on the envelope “return to sender” and then denied that they’d ever received it.
More drama ensued over the years, the most dramatic occurring the day after my 36th birthday. There was a knock on my door at 10am. Imagine my surprise when I opened the door to two police officers, there to arrest me for back child support. Never mind the fact that I wasn’t behind and I had proof. There was a warrant because my ex-husband had notified me of a court appearance at an address I’d moved from over a year before. Since I didn’t appear in court (go figure) a bench warrant was issued. The arresting officers were disgusted by his tactics, but there was nothing they could do besides advise me to take my cell phone so I could make calls on the way. They also declined to handcuff me, even though they were required to do so. I spent the next 15 hours in a cell eating questionable bologna on white bread with a woman next door screaming for medication.
You could say I’m a bit bitter.
There are oodles of stories. They’ve made it as difficult as they possibly could for me to have a relationship with my son. I was only allowed to call him every other day, and then we weren’t allowed to talk more than 15 minutes. We spent over 6 years and $20,000 in court (and they spent more) just so I could see him two weekends a month and two weeks during the summer. I had to get him a cell phone just so we could talk to each other and she’d threaten to take that away. B.S. like that. But you know what? It didn’t work. My son and I have a relationship that I only hoped was possible.
Tonight the stepmom – I mean MOM – got on the phone with me for the first time in over five years. It was because my son wanted me to pick him up tomorrow. She told me how troublesome he’d been and all the bad things he’d done. I let her go on and on about what a bad kid he is. I couldn’t believe, after all the years of actively keeping me out of his life, that she would actually want to talk to me about what was going on. So, when there was a break I said “I’m not sure what you want me to say. I don’t know what’s been going on. If we’d had an open line of communication…”
“I can’t believe you’re bringing this up NOW. I can’t talk to you.” and she handed the phone back to my son.
Do I want it to be different. YES. I may be bitter, but I am NOT vindictive. I want my son to be happy, more than anything else, and to be living in an environment of love and trust.
How is this a “happy” post? When my son was explaining why he was in trouble in the first place tonight, he said “I’d never do that to you.” We talked a little about that statement. Very little, actually, since the crux of it was that if he did talk to me that way I’d squash his 6 foot self like a tiny bug, but the important part was that he would never talk to me like that in the first place because he respects me too much.
And that is something you can’t buy, beg, borrow or steal.
When your teenage son decides that you are worthy of his respect, love, and admiration, that’s worth being happy.