To My Ex: Someday You'll Wish You Had Chosen Your Children

by Rachael Boley
Originally Published: 
A single mother, wearing a midi dress, standing between two children holding hands, gazing at a suns...
Image via Shutterstock

To the father of my children, a stranger in familiar skin, I’m not mad at you. I’m sad for you.

You’re missing everything.

I looked at you as I dropped my heart into your apartment this past Friday, the first time you’d had the boys in over a month, and once again was reminded of your reality. I saw the emptiness in your eyes. The same emptiness I always saw. The same emptiness I tried to fill with me. With my love. With your sons.

I heard the rasp in your voice that came from smoking too many cigarettes the night before. I knew you’d slept all day long because you were too sick to move. I understood you felt like death and I knew you weren’t going to be able to follow through on your obligation to our sons.

I smelled your hangover. And I remembered seeing you like this every weekend for years. I felt my heart sink into my stomach as I pushed down the pain of both seeing you like this and having to leave my sons in your care. The pain of the memories it brought back like a flood.

I smiled at you and pretended everything was fine. I pretended not to notice the truth, only asking if you felt OK.

You told me you were fine, but I knew better.

You’re not fine.

And you’re missing everything.

You’re supposed to be a man. A man they look up to and admire. A man they want to be like when they grow up. A man that teaches them how to be men. A man they can rely on.

But you’re not.

Oh, they love you. And right now, they even look up to you. But you’re not teaching them how to be men, and they certainly can’t rely on you.

You texted me that same night, only a few hours after I left you, and I knew what you refused to admit.

“I know you’re not gonna want to hear this and you’re probably going to use it against me somehow, but I’m throwing up really bad and I can’t stop sweating. It’s kinda scaring me. And no, I haven’t drank.”

I knew you were in alcohol withdrawal. I could see it coming hours earlier. This wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last.

To be honest, I was relieved you texted. Even without your admission or recognition of the true source of your sickness, I was happy to bring my boys back home. My mama gut knew they needed me and that you were in no state to care for them. So thank you, for at least being smart enough to admit you couldn’t do it that night. Even if you can’t admit why.

I no longer feel anger toward you. At least, not in the same ways I did before. Now, it’s sadness that consumes me when I see you. I pity your situation and the people who fall for your lies and flattery. I wish it was different. But I’ve let you go.

I didn’t want to wish that you’d let the boys go, but the reality is, you already have.

While you’re drinking away your time with them, I’m drinking in every minute.

While you screw God knows who, I’m the one teaching them how to screw the nails into their plastic tool bench.

While you sleep, snuggling your hang over, I’m snuggling our children.

While you’re “dating” several people, well, so am I. 3 to be exact. But mine are loves that will last a lifetime, where yours will only last a night.

While you make excuses, I’m making memories.

And you’re missing everything.

When you do spend time with them, you waste time texting me funny things they’ve said, forgetting that I’m with them all the time.

I know they’re hilarious.

You get surprised by the things they know and tell me like it’s new news to us both.

I know they’re smart. I’m the one teaching them the things they know.

You get surprised when you see them hug and love on each other.

I know they’re sweet. They learned how to love from me.

While you selfishly live only for yourself, lost in this life you claim to love, you’re missing everything.

You don’t know that Ethan likes to be swung high on the swing, but only from the front so he can see my face. You don’t know that Connor likes to be swung too, but “only a tiny bit,” because going too high scares him. You don’t know that the boys have started dressing themselves but Ethan puts his arms in first and then his head, and Connor does the opposite. You don’t know their favorite foods or their favorite songs or their favorite games. You don’t know that they all love to dance. You don’t know that Luke is equal parts wild and strong and sweet. You don’t know that Connor hides when he’s embarrassed. You don’t know that they want to play soccer and t-ball and they’re going to be really good at it.

You likely won’t be there for their practices and games. It’ll be me cheering them on, and it’ll be my face they search for in the stands.

You don’t know how to teach them to be gentlemen because you’re still a lost little boy yourself.

You’re missing everything.

When they were born, my world changed. Yours stayed the same. You missed the beauty of what we created together and the depth of your role. You never really wanted that role. But you took it on. And now you’re missing everything.

I’m not mad at you anymore. I’m just sad for you. Because you are missing everything. And I’m not.

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