Last night, something unexpected happened.
On my way to bed, I went to check on the twins, as I always do, and as I brushed the hair away from Xavier’s face, in the dim light, there was a glimpse of his father in his profile. It certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve noticed the similarity in the jawline, but for some reason, for the first time, it gave me pause and made me unspeakably sad.
I thought…Do you see this perfect boy? He is kind and affectionate and honest and generous and loving and horribly sweet. He gives his allowance to homeless people and sneaks cat food out of the house to feed the strays behind the baseball field. He speaks up for social justice and civil rights, and has gone toe-to-toe with bullies to protect others. His heart bleeds so much that I am both unspeakably proud of him, and I worry about the effect it will have on him that he cares so deeply. He is so damn smart and funny, and he works so hard. He’s respectful to both authority and peers. He loves his family with a crazy fervor, and he has no shame in showing it. He is a million wonderful things.
And he’s nothing like you. He might look a little like you, but he’s nothing like you.
And for the first time, I was struck that instead of being grateful that my son was nothing like his father, I was struck with sadness, because his father could have been all those things…but he wasn’t.
In that moment, I realized that my ex-husband was once a little boy, just like my little boy. He was healthy and handsome, and probably looked just like this when he slept, with his face still and his hair mussed. He had things my son will never have; he had a reserve of family money and societal advantages. He was never told they couldn’t afford something. He had educational opportunities, vacations, and social connections that boggle the mind.
But, what he didn’t have, was a sober parent. He didn’t get hugged or kissed or cuddled. He never had to struggle to earn something, or work very hard. He was never appropriately disciplined or told “no”. He was never bathed, fed, or tucked in by someone who wasn’t paid to put up with him. He never spent a night, on the couch with his mother and siblings, all under one blanket, watching movies, penniless but feeling like the luckiest, richest people alive, because they were together and warm.
Yes, this man has done terrible, terrible things to me and my children, but in that one quiet moment in the dark, my heart broke for him, because he could have been so much more than he became. He could have been like his son.