I have three sons. My two youngest sons I birthed, I gained an additional son via marriage. Of my three sons, my middle son was the most challenging to deal with. Almost from the time he was born he just seemed to require more. From having an excessively long colic spell to during his first year, to being a lot of trouble in high school, I stayed on guard protecting my middle child from himself. He seemed to never be satisfied. He never had enough. He was always into something or needing something. It was exhausting. I couldn’t wait until he turned 18 so he could leave our home.
My ex-husband and I sought counseling, for which he refused to cooperate. We enrolled him in many extra-curricular activities to ensure he didn’t have extra spare time to get into trouble. We took him to college, and he wouldn’t stay. We spent so much time focusing on the troubled kid; I neglected my baby, my youngest son.
My youngest was the nicest, kindest, smartest little boy. From the time he could walk, he was always offering to help me. He was never any problem. I remember him as a baby he never cried, not even when his diaper was soiled. After having one that cried morning, noon, and night, my youngest showed me how different children’s personalities could be. My baby boy was always so thoughtful. From bringing in groceries to sharing his snacks with me before he took a bite, he was always so considerate with his mother. His teachers loved him. His friends thought he was the best. Other parents always complimented me on how well behaved he was. He was so easy to raise; he made parenting him a pleasure. I raised him, like all the other sons to be self-sufficient.
But some things happened along the way neither of us planned on. He grew up. He began to reflect on his childhood. My son felt neglected. Our views of my parenting methods differed vastly. My baby boy feels my ex-husband and I poured too much into our problem child and not enough into him. He learned what not to do because of the actions of the middle-child. He’s twenty-seven years old now. Those days are long gone.
People have complimented me on how much effort I put into raising sons, especially our problem child. If it weren’t for all the time, money, and effort we poured into him, he’d probably be in prison or dead by now. Some people have kids with minds and wills that go against the grain. Sometimes those kids make like hard for other kids, even their own siblings.
What those people watching didn’t realize is how much the other two children, in particular my youngest son missed out on quality parenting because his brother sucked every waking moment of attention away from him. My youngest feels like he’s raised himself. As a result, he’s more distant. We don’t see each other often. We speak infrequently, and when we do, we have very casual conversations. He used to call and ask me for advice, but he doesn’t need or want my input much anymore. We raised my youngest son to be a free range, independent, self-sufficient, respectful young man, and he has exceeded my wildest dreams. But I miss the adult relationship mothers have with sons sometimes.
I don’t want a mama’s boy, but I would like a son who is more connected and concerned about my well-being. But like most sons with mothers of steel, they think their mothers are still super women. We aren’t. Sometimes, sometimes, we want to be acknowledged, respected, cherished, and loved by our children. We need it.
In a world that disrespects our being on the daily, our families should be a refuge. For some mothers, there is no refuge.
I never dreamed I’d have a son who feels neglected, has regrets about his childhood, sees inequity in my parenting-style, and blames me for not doing more. I thought we did a good job. I thought I was doing everything within my power to not make the same mistakes my parents did. What I’m learning is my best wasn’t good enough for him. I feel terrible about it; I have lost sleep over it. I have even tried to explain our parenting rationale, but I can’t wash away his pain. I hope one day when my baby boy has kids he’ll understand how different some children are, and how some children require more time and energy than others, even into adulthood.
I can’t go back in time, and I can’t redo my life. There are no do overs. What’s done is done. I must live with this regret for the rest of my life. All I can do is say, I’m sorry.
I’m sorry for taking away from my grateful child to give to an ungrateful one.
I’m sorry for giving you all I thought you needed, for not being a mind reader, and for not recognizing you my lovely son needed more from me as a mother.
I’m sorry for neglecting you and not seeing you.
I’m sorry for not fighting for you more.
I’m sorry for not loving you enough.
I’m sorry for not appreciating your goodness and kindness as much as I should have.
I’m sorry for punishing you for being the good kid.
I’m sorry that you’re sorry.
I don’t want a lifetime to pass without acknowledging your pain and apologizing for my actions. Just know I’m sorry and I love you dearly. I can’t take any of it back, but I promise to be a better mother. I hope you can forgive me some day, but if you don’t, I’ll understand.
©2019 Marley K. All rights reserved.
I wrote this essay in response to discussions with my children on parenting. Missing or ignoring a person’s feelings only makes sores fester. Kids don’t come with parenting manuals, and sometimes, parents have one too many children to give them what they need to survive and thrive.