Today Jameson had a “Danish with Dad” at preschool.
Seems normal. Father’s Day is coming up. But this was a huge internal debate, a huge decision to make. Jameson hadn’t spent any time with his father in almost a year. The phone calls and Facetime came pretty regularly at first, but then they tapered off. Sometimes he’d go a week without hearing from him, sometimes two or three. But never any physical face-to-face, one-on-one time together.
For the first three years of my son’s life, it was hard for me to manage the anger I felt toward his father. When I first found out I was pregnant (his brother had re-heated hamburger meat and the smell made me vomit- I knew something was up), I was terrified. I was sick. I had just turned 21 and served tables at a Chinese bistro. I lived at home. I had stopped going to Community College a class away from my AA. But I crawled into his bed after I saw the positive test and he held me and rocked me and brought me orange juice and promised, promised he would make everything work. He would always be there. He wanted this more than I did.
Pregnancy was hard. I was violently ill all day every day. I finally took that math class to get my associate’s degree, and I still worked, running into the back to throw up in to-go bags in between tables. We opened a joint checking account and I put all my money into it to save up for a place of our own before the baby came. And then it was Opening Day for the Orioles, I was 9 months pregnant, and I was agitated because I couldn’t get ahold of Jordan for some reason. He promised he was working, but I just had that feeling. I went into the bathroom at work and pulled up our account activity on our phone, and threw up (for maybe the 100th time that day) when I saw that he had spent every single dollar that was in there on bar tabs over the last few weeks. He had spent $800 just that night, at Opening Day.
That was the foundation our child was born onto. When I went into labor, crying and writhing in our bed in the basement of his sister’s house, he took Advil PM to sleep through it. When I went to school all day to get my BA (Jamie was 4 weeks old), came home and nursed, and then went to work for the evening shift, he left the baby with his mother and went out to party. He’d swear he was working, too, but then our (my) money would be gone and I’d see pictures of him online. “I was just there getting you a cheesesteak and I guess someone took a picture of me walking behind the beer pong table.”
When Jameson was three months old, I left him. I moved into my newly single Dad’s one-bedroom apartment. I finished school. I kept working. Jordan had our son three nights a week, and then two, and then one, and then I finally took him to court for child support. And then he just stopped. He didn’t pay, he didn’t care, he didn’t try. Over this year I’ve learned a lot. One of his ex-girlfriends messaged me to tell me he would drop him off with her and then go out. If it wasn’t her it was his horrible mother (who died of a heart attack from being both morbidly obese and addicted to pain killers). The only reason he took him at all was because he knew it made me miserable. He knew I stayed up crying on the nights I didn’t have my baby, absolutely debilitated with fear that something was going to happen to him. I didn’t even know where he was. Who had him. If I said something, I was threatened with never seeing my child again. “Maybe I just won’t even bring him back to you.”
I finished my degree with honors, landed a coveted office job after my first interview, found an apartment, went on medication for my depression and anxiety, and demanded financial support from him. And suddenly, he had no control over me. And suddenly, he didn’t have any interest in his child.
This past year, with him gone from the picture, has been fantastic. I’ve focused on healing. I’ve focused on the most beautiful gift from the worst of situations. I have found the best man I could have ever dreamed up, the paragon of a male role model and father figure. He is kind, he is loving, he is selfless, he is remarkably smart, successful, and dedicated to his career and his family. He is a fantastic father to his own son, and he wants so badly for Jamie to love him the same way. But Jamie is still furiously devoted his dad.
Although he hardly talked about him much in the beginning, he’ll be four next month and the other fathers at his preschool have opened up these huge question for him. Where is my Dad? Why does he work so much? Why can’t he take a break to see me? Does my Daddy love me like Erick loves Noble?
How do I answer these questions? I constantly go back and forth between either saving Jamie the heartbreak that Jordan bestows upon every relationship he has with any human by keeping him from his father, or do I let him have the relationship with his dad that he wants, and let him make the decision for himself? I don’t want him to grow up resenting me. But I want to protect my child so badly from what I went through. And why the sudden interest in his child again? Because I just moved in with Erick and we have this amazing family, and he suddenly feels like he has to take action before his kid completely forgets about him?
Earlier this week, Jamie was telling my mom about the things they were making in school for their daddies. And he told her how sad he was that his daddy would never see what he made for him.
I decided to tell Jordan about their Father’s Day party this morning, and ask him if he would like to go. I was terrified that he wouldn’t show up, and I even had a back-up Dad to come to the rescue if his natural one didn’t show. But he came. Jameson was over-the-moon. He barely remembered to tell me goodbye as he gripped his dad around the neck with both arms and smushed his face against his beard, his little smile almost completely lost in his cheeks.
I don’t know what happens from here. I don’t know if my decision was right. There is so much I don’t know about being a mother still, and especially a mother navigating a traumatic relationship that ended with a child.
Other parents – help a girl out. Am I going to ruin my kid?