When I learned you were going to be part of my son's life, I couldn't breathe. I expected you to despise me, the ex-wife, in the way so many women do. And I worried you'd see my little boy as a nuisance, someone to be tolerated because he was a reminder of me. Would Connor annoy you when he had a tantrum or needed to be consoled? When he spilled juice, would you be angry?
Young children affect vacation plans, dinners, quiet time. Would you grow to resent him the way so many stepmoms do? And would my little boy end up broken and confused because he didn't feel loved?
When Connor was with you and his dad, I'd slip into his bedroom at my house and lay among his blankets, wondering where he was and what he was doing at that exact moment. How was I going to exist in a world where my child had a life without me? He still had so many firsts, so many pictures to draw, movies to see, pets to love, a bike to ride.
He was only three.
And, so, the hum of a prayer weaved through my thoughts, and I'll never forget the feeling that accompanied my plea with the entire universe: Please let her love my child. Please, please let her love my little boy.
And you did.
And in doing so, you showed me the greatest kindness of my life. You also ensured I wouldn't miss a thing.
You invited me to stay the night so I'd be near Connor after his tonsil surgery. You invited me over when the training wheels came off his bike. And, I'll never forget the time you led me through your house so I could see Connor's bedroom, which brought me comfort, so much comfort, to know where he slept when he wasn't with me. I looked around his room, at fluffy pillows, cozy blankets, books, toys, artwork... and framed pictures of me.
Over the years, we've raised Connor from toddler to teenager. We've consulted each other on everything, from what shoes to buy him to what summer program suited him best. We've celebrated his accomplishments and shared heartache at times of struggle. Of course, we've also been upset with each other and disagreed. Remember when you believed Connor was old enough to ride his bike to school, while I didn't? As it turns out, he was more than capable. And you knew this because you knew him. You paid attention to him, guided him, mothered him. You helped me let him spread his wings in the way he simply needed to.
Since the very beginning, you've loved him with the selflessness and intensity I prayed for, as if he were your own. And he is. You kissed bruises, bandaged skinned knees and wiped Connor's tears when he was little. You made sure he had extra blankets in the winter, was pool safe in the summer. You've made his birthday cakes, Valentine's Day cards and took snacks to school on his birthday. You remember every little detail.
Recently, you ensured Connor's safety on a family vacation to Mexico. You allayed my concerns when he took surf lessons and promised he'd always be within your line of vision. You even made sure Connor called me just so I could hear his voice.
As he grows, we may not be kissing bruised knees, but I know you'll console the inevitable moment his ego is bruised, when life's disappointment creeps into the fabric of his teenage life. He'll need me and he'll need you. Our son has the unique advantage of having opinions from two moms who may not always agree, but who share a concern for his well-being.
In this way, you've helped me guide him and influence the person he's become -- you've informed his perspective of the world, his sense of right and wrong, his respect for authority and women. You've encouraged him to be assertive, to listen to his own voice, to trust his heart. And what's more, you've respected and mirrored my thoughts on everything from bedtime routines to discipline, and in this way, you've honored me. Just as our son has grown, so have we.
I'm so proud to have attended mass, parent-teacher conferences, football and basketball games and hours-long swim meets with you. Together, we've met with school principals and deans, not because Connor was in trouble, but because we felt strongly about his education and safety. Together, we've shared so very much, from volunteering in the snack shack to a much-needed glass of wine.
I trust you with Connor's life, and in so doing, trust you with the most precious part of myself.
Our son is on the honor roll. He's polite, shows compassion for others, can laugh at himself, and is considered a joy by his teachers, coaches and the parents of his friends. I couldn't, and wouldn't, take full credit for any of our son's accomplishments. He is the sweet soul we've raised between two homes. So, thank you. Thank you, Jill, for being patient and tolerant as we navigated this life we didn't expect -- a life that included each other. Above all else, thank you for selflessly loving and mothering our son.