My oldest son's birthday is this weekend. Our home is filled with giggles and excitement as the three brothers count down the days in anticipation. Birthdays are a big deal around here. My husband and I do everything we can to make sure our boys have the most memorable birthday possible. We know these years are fleeting. We are all too aware at how precious every single day is. Taking a little extra time to celebrate these milestones is something we love to do.
A little back story...in case you're new here.
My oldest was 9 months old when I left my first marriage. I left because of him. I knew he deserved a loving home, and if that meant two separate homes then that was what I was going to give him. I may have given him the gift of life - but he gave me the gift of courage - courage that I did not have before he came along. Fear of a failed marriage, worry and anxiety over how I would make it on my own, angst over what people would say or how they would look at me paralyzed me for years. Contrary to what everyone thought, I did not have the perfect marriage. In fact, it was quite the opposite. This isn't the time to rehash all of that pain. I don't feel the need to rip scabs off of old wounds when those wounds have taken years to heal, but every once in a while, something happens that peels a tiny bit of the trauma back again.
I went to the mailbox and immediately saw the colored envelope in a sea of junk mail. Ooooh the birthday cards are going to start trickling in!! He is going to be SO excited!
And then, just like that, I saw it. And just like that the pain of the old wound hurt again. My heart sunk. My breath escaped me in the bitter cold.
Right next to my son's name was this:
|Addressee? RETURN TO SENDER?|
He has a different last name than us. Just a gentle poke to remind me of my hiccup. My mistake. My error. My divorce.
Our prior mail carrier was with us for years. Never before did my child see a big question mark next to his name doubting his place in our family. I went in to cover-up mode. Crisis intervention. Fire drill exercise. I quickly wondered if I had a sticker I could use to cover the remarks and the cruel symbol on the card next to his name so he wouldn't notice....so no one would notice.
And then I got angry.
I took out a pen and paper from my purse and scratched a note to the mail carrier.
M A I L C A R R I E R!
I noticed the large question mark next to my son's name along with your notes on the 'addressee.' For your information, he is OUR son. He has a different last name but he has lived here for 8 years in this home with us. How will I explain this insulting red mark on a card that should bring him nothing but joy on his birthday???
Please do NOT make that mistake again.
I stuffed it into our mailbox, shaking and holding back tears. How dare some stranger question why something mailed to our address was sent to someone without our last name. I rarely get upset over any of this anymore - I hardly ever get ruffled - but today, it hurt. By the time I got back in the house, I started to cry. I wept for all of the times people asked why he had a different last name. I sobbed for the times I had to explain to my two youngest why he had a different last name, and why he had to go to his dad's every other weekend. I cried at the memory of my youngest telling someone his mom had two husbands. Tears soaked my face for pain that I felt for him that maybe he never even knew he should or could feel.
And then that made me think.
He has NEVER, EVER been sad or confused or disappointed about his name. He has always been proud to be able to say he has two fathers that love him endlessly and without condition. He has only ever known both of our homes. He has only ever known his mother and his father to get along happily at every drop off and pick up. My ex and I gave him a gift by showing him through the years how kind we are to each other, how we can laugh with each other, and how sometimes we make decisions that are hard but in the long run are for the best. That is nothing to be sad about.
My husband loves him like he is his own son. He has never wavered. He has never blinked an eye. My husband has extended his hand to my ex. They are respectful and civil and have shown their son how to be the best young man he can be. My two youngest love him as a whole brother - there are no steps - there are no halves. In this home, we are complete - we are family in its entirety. End of story.
I immediately pulled out another piece of paper and grabbed a pen and wrote furiously:
Dear Mail Carrier,
What a winter it's been! I know this is a new route for you and hope you are finding your way!
I noticed on my son's birthday card you put a question mark and asked about the addressee. Don't worry! There is no mistake. Though he has a different last name, he is a part of our home, a part of our family! He has lots of family who love him, so be prepared for tons of birthday cards this week!
Thanks so much!
And I ran.
I ran to the end of the driveway, grabbed that piece of anger and replaced it with love. After all, my children are a reflection of ME. If they see me fall apart, they will wonder if they are supposed to as well. If they see me carry resentment and regret, they will question what they should be carrying. But if they see me overjoyed at the sight of birthday cards - they will be so excited to open it, they won't see the question mark.
I brought the mail into the kitchen where everyone could see it. I didn't need to hide it. I didn't need to cover it up with a sticker.
The first thing my middle child said when he saw the question mark was...
We must have a new mailman!
My heart flew away.
Until next time...remember there are many different recipes to make a family - all that matters is that love is the main ingredient.
On a lighter note..if you need a laugh, be sure to check out the new book I Just Want to Be Alone - a collection of essays by humor bloggers. Available on Amazon. xoxo