Giving Him Wings

Big K circa 2000 (Age 5)

“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk.” ~Doug Larson

December 10 – Wisdom
What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? (Author:
Susannah Conway) [The #reverb10 project.]

I can be a rather forceful personality. NO WAY! I know. Shocking. That being said, I tend to interject my opinion in every situation regardless of how insignificant the topic or if my opinion was solicited in the first place. This is the mother with whom my children live.

My wisest decision of 2010 was to not make a decision… or to not make a decision on behalf of my children… to let the assertiveness that was manifesting itself in my teenage son to have a voice… without interjecting my opinion. And, then, I sat back for the longest and most painful 72 hours of my life and waited for the consequences.

I filed for divorce four years ago this past Thanksgiving week and it was finalized the following March. My ex-husband and I live in the same town and it is my opinion that boys need their father. And, so, our divorce agreement gave me 51% physical custody of our two boys and their father received 49%. Basically, they bounced back and forth between our homes every other week for 3.5 years… and I thought it worked well. For them. I hated it, but if they were happy then I was happy.

One Sunday this past August, the first weekend after school started, the teenager and I had a wee bit of heated moment. It happens. That was when he unleashed on me. I didn’t know how much stress he was under. I had no idea what it felt like to bounce back and forth between two different homes and to never feel like I was allowed to have stability. He went on… and on… and on. This is my sweet I-don’t-want-to-hurt-anyone’s-feelings child. He internalizes everything. That night he exploded.

For two hours we talked. We cried. We laughed. We cried some more. He asked a lot of very, very, very difficult questions about me… about his father… about his brother… about the divorce and about the legal system. It was thought out. This had been weighing on his soul. He was so tortured and I… well… I. Had. No. Clue.

I chose that night to answer each and every one of his questions with 100% honesty. Not all of those answers painted me in a positive light. I also held back from interjecting my opinion. I gave him facts. Only facts.

I made the most painful decision of my life that night: I set him free.

I gave my fifteen year old son the power of choice. Live with Dad. Live with Mom. Leave the arrangement the way it was. Whatever. I told him to do what was right for him. He asked about his brother. I told him that his father and I had decided four years earlier that they were to never be separated. Where he went… his brother would follow. I did all I could to alleviate any guilt he felt. I would love him. Forever. Regardless of decision. Then I waited. The next day he told his father… who, thank God, gave him the same freedom I did. He solicited advice from friends and from family. He weighed his options. Tuesday he met with a counselor alone. My ex-husband and I then met with him. He told us it was clear Big K had already made his decision. We were to give him a deadline.

He chose that night… and I am now a full-time single mother.

It was the longest, most excruciatingly agonizing three days of my life. Not only was I afraid that he would choose his far-less strict father; I was also bloody well terrified that he would choose to live with me and I wouldn’t be able to handle it all completely alone.

It’s been three months. We’re still adjusting. The teen is still a teen and I am still his mother. We don’t always agree but I am happier. I think we are happier. The teenager comes to me with just about every concern now. We talk. You have to give honesty to get honesty.

I gave him wings that night... setting him free. He came back and our relationship is stronger than ever.

My little boy is becoming a man.


  1. Gawd we've recently (summer 2009) been through almost an identical scenario. The difference was the other parent agreed to let 'teen' choose - until he discovered what the choice was. Ultimately the children chose to get their own lawyer and fight for what they wanted - we remained silent and basically couldn't discuss it with the boys. Well you know how gut wrenching it all is. Ultimately the kids won and we're working on living happily ever after...

    Congrats for surviving it and it speaks volumes about you as a person and as a mom that it worked out the way it did.

  2. Great post. Your honesty and strength shine through. Glad everything worked out for you and thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for sharing...It's really moving and beautiful!

  4. i hear you. this scenarion is my biggest fear as i have a similar situation here, but my son is " only" 10. it sounds corny, but there`s this coldplay song " and the hardest part/ was letting go/ not taking part..." it`s so true. and you are such a great mum. i`m in awe.

  5. @Brad ~ This is not a process I would wish on anyone. :( Thanks! I did survive. Whew!

    @Megan ~ This time. ;)

    @Paige ~ No... thank you!

    @Jason ~ Thank you. Honesty I have in spades. My friends tell me I have the strength too but I don't always feel strong.

    @queencake and titangirl ~ 1) FREAKING LOVE your blog name. 2) Love Coldplay and I know that song. I wish I had thought of it while writing. 3) Awe? I am humbled. Thank you.

  6. You've articulated a struggle that so many divorced parents have faced! Congratulations on allowing your son's autonomy and being so brave.

  7. Beth!! You are an amazing and courageous woman and mother! Thank you for sharing your "wisdom".

  8. @juliana, Tracy & Stereo ~ In retrospect, yes, bravery and courage played their part. I definitely didn't feel it then. ;) Bless you, ladies, for stopping to read and for leaving such encouraging words!

  9. now that is an act of pure unadulterated wisdom. and love. you know, i always told my children that if they are ever struggling with what's the right thing to do, go with the most difficult cause usually the right things are the hardest. i stand in awe and applaud.

  10. @wholly jeanne ~ I didn't feel wise at the time; but Love? Yes. That I have in spades. Thank you.

  11. Beautiful. Brave. Eloquent.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  12. What a huge gift you and your son gave each other that night. Wow. I have goosebumps and tears in my eyes.

  13. Wow- as a mom of a teenager (and a former single mother) I can relate. I whole-heartedly commend you for your actions. I don't think I'd have the strength to do what you did. No, I KNOW I wouldn't. But fortunately, I was never put in that situation. I've raised my 16-year old without her biological father since she was 3. Given a choice over the years, she would probably choose her "Disneyland" dad but ultimately I would never let that happen (for safety reasons more than pride).

    Thank you for sharing.

  14. Thanks for this.
    I am the mother of a 15 year old and we are having our own challenges. It was good to read this.

  15. An amazing post - what a journey you and your family are on. Thank you for your honesty above all.

  16. I've walked in your shoes. For the first year of my separation my daughters spent one weekend with me - I saw them regularly, they just didn't want to be with me and that was because I was never less than honest with them. I wore all of the blame for the marriage breakdown and it took that first year for them to adjust and maybe begin to forgive. You made the right choice - kids get torn but need to know that both parents will be there for them no matter what.

  17. amazing - in both the personal growth aspect and being an awesome parent.

  18. Sounds like you set yourself free, too - in many ways. And now you are on a journey to find freedom together with your son. Beautiful. I'm moved.

  19. I have run out of ways to say THANK YOU and I am humbled. Blessings to you all.


"Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?" ~Walt Whitman


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