Our oldest son, Derek, was 10 years old when I started filling the mom role for him. Dave and his first wife had been divorced for over a year and apart for nearly two, and Dave had full-time physical custody of the kids. The kids rarely saw their “real” mom. I filled a gap in their lives…and without me even realizing there was a gap in my life, they filled it completely.
When I met my husband, it was because I had offered to baby-sit for him. He was a single dad with three kids, and it was obvious from our conversations that he needed a break. I thought he was a great person and wanted to help him out somehow…so I offered to baby-sit for him and we arranged a time for me to come over and meet the kids. I never ended up babysitting, although I did help find a good one so that Dave and I could go out.
I tell people my three oldest kids came as a package deal when I married their dad. It was never even a question in my mind whether or not I wanted to be a part of the kids’ lives… they were as much a part of Dave as his love of music (our first date was an REO Speedwagon concert). At the time, I had no children, no experience. No one told me how painfully wonderful motherhood would be, or how fulfilling I would find it.
But most moms get 18 years to get used to the idea of their child leaving home. I only had eight years with Derek. When Derek graduated from high school, he had enlisted in the Army and left two weeks after graduation. I’ve missed him every day since, and feel like I was cheated out of having more time with him because I entered his life so late.
Derek was away from home for 23 weeks at basic training and tech school with the Army. He was able to come home for Christmas and spent three weeks with us. He spent 18 months in Iraq but managed to take a transport home for two weeks at Christmas in the middle of his tour. He is now stationed in Japan, but flew 24 hours to come home at Christmas last year. Taking him to the airport that last day and having to say goodbye all over again was even harder than the first time, but I realized that our relationship has not ended just because he moved away…and that I wasn’t cheated out of time, but given a lifetime of moments with this young man, my son.