My son Ethan spent his spring break with his Dad. Two weeks he was away. It’s the longest period of time I have ever spent apart from my boy. I won’t lie, I enjoyed it. Sure I missed him, but until you understand the constant stress of being a single parent of an autistic child, you’ll never fully comprehend the sense of relief when you don’t have to worry and care for them 24/7.
I personally didn’t do much. I went out with friends on a few occasions. Caught up on films I have wanted to see. Read books without feeling guilty that I should be taking my son out and entertaining him. Cooked and ate when I felt like it. Basically I just decompressed for two weeks, and it was the mental break I so desperately needed.
Yesterday, Ethan came home. My ex and I don’t really feign the pleasantries too much. It’s no secret, he’s not exactly my favourite person. So A. brought Ethan to the end of our lane and I walked up to meet him halfway.
Ethan was so excited when he got home. He had so much to show me. All these new DVDs that Dad had bought him. Not to mention the new jackets, and trainers. He enthusiastically dug out his phone to show me the photos from his trip to London with Dad. It was difficult not to get caught up in his energy. I couldn’t recall if he was ever this animated after our holidays together. Was I not as fun as Dad? It made me wonder.
But after Ethan went to bed, I had time to ponder over his time away. Of course he was excited. He loves his Dad. He so desperately wants every encounter with his father to be special. He has this incredible ability to only ever focus on the good in everyone. He forgets all the pain his father has caused him. So why couldn’t I forgive and forget.
This isn’t about my ex cheating on me multiple times, or the various women he’s had relationships with. I am well over that part. He’s a serial cheater, always has been. Always will be. His brothers told me I should have known this about him before we married. Perhaps that’s true. But anyway that aspect of A.’s life is no longer my problem. I forgive him being unfaithful, because I know it’s who he is.
But I just can’t get past the hurt he’s caused my son. I still remember that newly teenaged boy, asking me every night for weeks, if his Dad was dead. I spent sleepless nights for what seemed like an eternity, wondering how to navigate my son through this hole his father had left. There was actually a time I had wished A. was dead, if only for the ability of my son to be able to grieve. Instead of the constant not knowing.
And then when A. did finally appear, he would demand to see Ethan as if nothing had happened. For years, Ethan always agreed, because like I said, he loved his Dad. He wanted to please him.
But as Ethan has gotten older his attitude has started to change. You see, A. has gone a year at a time (on two separate occasions) without any contact with his son. This has had a negative impact on my son, and he has in the past refused to see his father. I don’t even begin to comprehend how a parent can do that. It’s certainly not normal. But unlike many Dads who just completely disappear, A. eventually returns.
So fast forward to spring 2018, and A. agrees to take Ethan for his spring break. It was my idea, because my health hasn’t been great and I needed a break as well. Ethan was lukewarm to the concept at first, but eventually he became excited at the prospect. Especially as Dad would be taking him to London. We lived in London for a bit, and Ethan had a long list of places he wanted to go back and visit. Great. I was happy for him.
Now Dad is back in the good books. Ethan has put him back on that pedestal and he’s definitely a very happy boy today. But Mom is worried. A text from Dad confirms he has no idea how much longer he’ll be in Edinburgh. And as usual I am given no further information of when exactly he’ll leave, or how long he’ll be gone this time.
Last night, Ethan went to bed full of stories about his adventures with Dad. This morning I am not sure when he’ll actually see his Dad again.
Changeovers are hard.