An open letter to the man that walked out of my life without any explanation, leaving me to raise our infant son alone.
Thank You Letter To The Man That Abandoned Us
I’ve been thinking about you lately, you know who you are. It’s not the random chats, my budding friendship with your other ex wife, or the fact you sent something to your son for first time in a decade- I’ve been thinking about you because, rather than disdain, I’m feeling grateful towards you. I know, right? Who would have thought?
I’m putting this out there for every other woman (or man) that has gone through something similar to what you put me through. I hope they know, whatever they may be feeling now, it does get better. The shattered remains of a life they thought they knew, the pieces of themselves that are left, can be picked up and put back together in a way that they can be proud of. Some day, looking back, they may even be grateful for the heartache. Just like I am now. By writing an open letter, to thank you, other parents in these shoes may feel a bit less alone.
I’m not certain that you recall the day you walked out of my life, out of our son’s life, and left a wake of destruction, depression and despondency in your absence. Our “departure anniversary” is coming up soon, in March, and the memory of that is a trauma unlike any other in my life. I will never bury, get over or forget it. I will never forget the date but, admittedly, I don’t always think of it each year now when it passes. When I do, I simply give our gorgeous boy a hug and a kiss, reminding him of how much he’s loved. This year, however, I wanted to finally thank you for everything you have done. And for everything you have given to me.
I’m sure you’re completely confused about why I’m thanking you. You left for groceries and never came home, right? Why would I be thankful for that? By abandoning me the way you did, by walking out on us, you have provided me with so very much. Let me explain.
Most 18 year olds got to have fun, finish their education, freely date, party and fraternise with friends. People my age, or even years older, were out drinking until they blacked out, hooked up with someone random or threw up in a field. My peers were getting their first car, meeting the person that they would marry, celebrating their first legal drink or studying for college exams. I used to be envious of their freedom, their silly social lives, those shining future prospects and their happiness. I longed for their kind of preoccupations- ones that didn’t include worrying about budgeting enough for groceries.
I used to sit in our tiny apartment, cradling the baby boy that you didn’t even kiss good-bye, and wondering what I could possibly give him all on my own. He had been using the potty and chattering up a storm before you left but completely regressed afterwards, leaving me to feel hopeless and halved. I would cry into his little back while we snuggled up before bed, praying every day that you would come home. I knew you were headed to the bars, as I would so often receive drunken phone calls from you. Worse was the knowledge that you were out sleeping with the “yellow-haired” women you had so mercilessly mocked before. There I was loving our beautiful child, while you were loving your bike, bimbos and bar hops.
After the years we spent together, the commitment we made, the fact I moved overseas for you (and you travelled frequently for me) or every battle we fought and won together, I learned to accept that the birth of our son was the catalyst to your departure. The finances were too straining, our relationship was never perfect and the pressures added by immigration and a child were just too much for the man who prided himself on strength. You were not who I thought you were. You were not my rock. You were not strong. You were not who you promised you would be… And I used to hate you for it.
After all of these years though, I want to thank you for the joy of raising our baby on my own.
By forcing me to compensate for your absence, I showered our precious child with double the affection and it has permanently, positively impacted both of us. I never even knew I was capable of such dedication, strength, endurance and all-encompassing love. It helped to repair a very damaged person, myself, and make me open up again. Without even realising it, I was being mended by baby snuggles, toddler wrangling and then the amusing antics of a growing, little boy. Thank you for that.
Thank you for his smile, with lips that mirror your own- one that you never get to cause, witness or revel in. Thank you for his craziness, his boisterous laugh that sounds just like yours and his never-ending energy that keeps me on my toes (some days I’m less thankful for that than others). Thank you for leaving when you did, because we both know one of us would have done so eventually; You can never be fulfilled in a relationship where someone cares more for money, or themselves, than their family. At least you leaving when you did meant that I got his tiny-armed hugs when I needed them most. If you left later, I would have been utterly lost without those small squeezes.
I had been too enamoured back then, too starry-eyed to see you for what you were, and it would have ripped us apart far worse later on. I wasted less time because you couldn’t invest yours. As a result, I have to thank you for my youth not being stolen by a man who wouldn’t know it’s worth. Instead, I provided it all to a little one that was far more deserving.
I want to thank you for providing me with life lessons that I harshly learned and can, from first-hand experience, reiterate to our son in the future. He learned some of his own, growing up with a single mother. Due to your departure from his life, I firmly believe he will always make certain to never walk the same path you did. He will always, always be there for his children and has mentioned goals he has already set for himself, as a future parent. I know that he will prioritise his relationship, striking the necessary balance between work and his family. As a result of your teachings, he also knows the value of money but knows that things that are truly valuable can not be purchased with it.
At least, in a way, you will have helped shape him into a man we can be proud of.
Most of all though, thank you for forcing me to truly grow up.
I was so cocky and arrogant, thinking I had all of the answers. I thought I was living the dream, marrying “the one” and starting the perfect family. I was confident that I knew everything I ever wanted out of life. Leaving my education behind, putting you first, and making sure you fulfilled your post secondary dreams before mine were even considered definitely ended up backfiring. You helped me shed the rosey-coloured glasses of youth and love, which sounds sad but has made me more successful and self-assured. Struggling to make ends meet, having to go back to school a few years older than my peers, or attempting to juggle an online education with work, raising a child, running a home and trying to form an adult social life (so I didn’t fall back into depression) was definitely not easy. I wouldn’t trade those experiences though, wouldn’t erase the hardships if I could. I can talk to our son about both sides of the coin as a result. I provided an example to our child about perseverance and focusing on the most important thing in the world (family), while also busting your butt to make a living. Life wasn’t just handed to me and, although I will make 100% certain he never has to go through what I did, we both know that it can always get better from the bottom.
Being a single mother is one of my proudest achievements because tearing myself in two, in order to be a Mum and Dad for him, made me go to bed every day with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Thank you for that. Your shoes weren’t too big to fill if I did it on my own, which helped me to see that maybe there could be someone else out there for me after all. By leaving us, you allowed me to reconnect with a man that came from the same kind of background, a person that didn’t expect things to be easy and didn’t run when they weren’t. You allowed me to find someone I can be genuinely proud of, who is a wonderful father and who readily stepped up to the plate that you had left on the table. Thank you for making me set firm priorities, for causing me to never lose focus and take his love for granted. That is such a valuable lesson that too many people never learn, or learn only when it’s too late. You taught that lesson to me early in life and your current situation reminds me of it regularly.
Thank you for the lesson that teaching your son to swim, or skate, or ride a bike will always trump any experience with booze, buddies or the freedom of a single life. Thank you for teaching me that sleepless nights, nursing fevers, breakdowns over behaviour or the scares of watching your child go into surgery are, a million times over, worth just one of the biggest hugs from the smallest arms.
Our boy makes me a better person, gives me a purpose and goals by simply existing. And he reminds me to never feel sorry for myself because he certainly doesn’t spend any time wallowing.
I used to miss our life so much- the passion, the experiences and the relationship that I shared with you. The past few years, I had been slapped hard by reality and you cutting off any and all contact with our child helped harden me a great deal. Instead of getting rid of the “problem” when times got tough, instead of prioritising myself over the needs of a child who never asked to be here, I stood strong for him. Unlike you, I never ran away. I never made him feel like he wasn’t important, like he wasn’t a miracle. And I’ve since done the same for a second little boy, not of my own blood, who was in a similar situation.
I will never let him feel like he isn’t enough.
Thank you for your selfishness, your coldness, your preoccupation with money and material before marriage…and for our little boy. Our relationship was no fairy tale but I still got the Prince Charming that saved me. He’s just a bit younger and shorter than you would typically expect but, that’s okay, he’s got a very tall “Dad” here to look up to and aspire to. I will forever be indebted to you for that.