I didn’t know what I was doing when I made the decision to keep you, all I knew was that I had to do “it” right. I was young and knew I would spend the rest of my life proving that I could do the very thing that I had no idea how to do.
Nineteen is so young and I gave up so much. I don’t regret that, I am only telling you because I want you to understand that I sometimes felt like I wasn’t myself though I desperately wanted to be. Feeling that way impacted the way I parented you and for that I’m so very sorry. I know that for a long time I wasn’t even remotely present. I was like a Summer body going through the motions of daily life, driven by a little robot in my brain.
I spent so much time unable to listen to you or hug you or be the mom that you deserved.
When you were born, you looked like a football, short and stout with a beautiful red kiss on the right side of your face. I spent countless hours doing research on your birthmark and logged thousands of miles seeing specialists when I could barely afford the gas.
I toiled with decisions I’m still not sure I ever really made. I couldn’t, with good conscience, put you through a painful laser surgery as an infant in hopes that your birthmark would lighten some. There was no guarantee. I wanted to include you in that decision so when you were old enough to talk and understand, we talked about it.
Your response was, “I don’t want my birthmark off because then I won’t be Styles anymore!”
I explained that you would still be Styles but that you would look different, no more or less perfect, but different.
I got sludge from all sides.
I was told I was a terrible parent and that not making the executive decision to remove your birthmark was a form of child abuse. I was told you’d be made fun of and never have a girlfriend or get a job and I questioned myself so often.
I was painfully aware that I wasn’t a great mom to you, that you deserved a better life than the one I could give you. The thing is, I would have never made a decision about your life that would intentionally harm you.
I hope you know that.
I watched you do things in your own time so often that I just came to know it was who you were. You refused to crawl but walked early. You could identify primary and secondary colors at 18 months, but wouldn’t hold a conversation until you were three. You knew what was being said, but you sat pensively and waited until your vocabulary was completely full before you began to use it.
I had never known a child could go from speaking single words to being completely fluent in the english language literally over night.
You couldn’t read or write much going into first grade, but you were wise so your teachers urged me to send you on rather than have you repeat kindergarten. In true YOU-fashion, you were reading and comprehending at above a 4th grade level by the end of that year.
I worked a lot in those early years. Two jobs, actually. And I was in college full time. I remember days you would beg me to play with you and I couldn’t because I had homework to do and was running on fumes. I’ll never forget how much it stung when in Kindergarten you wrote on the Mother’s Day Questionnaire that my favorite thing to do was be on the computer. There’s no way you could have known at that age that what I was trying to do was build us a better life.
And I failed time and time again, but somehow always kept food in the refrigerator and a roof over our heads. Sometimes that was all I could offer.
You always wanted to please and you were the happiest child I’ve ever known. Please forgive me for the times I shooed you away in my own selfish need for a little space. You never deserved that, and now that you’re grown and leaving for college, I wish I had taken every nanosecond of time you wanted to give me.
I now live in fear that each of those seconds will come back to haunt me as empty moments I wish my son would call or reach out once he’s grown. My greatest fear is that I’ve raised you to leave me. And while I want you to grow up and be independent, I want you to always come back because baby boy, I want you more than you could possibly know.
There have been times in our journey together I have made bad choices in who I chose to spend my time with and they’ve hurt you and they’ve hurt me and somehow you just took that information and used it to learn how not to treat people. Don’t let that pain become the thing inside you that lets others treat you poorly. You deserve to be treated well, to be loved well, and to be treasured.
You are my greatest treasure.
I want you to know that every time I was mean or unfair or made a bad decision plays in a highlight reel in my head almost constantly. As you untether yourself from childhood and make the great leap into adulthood, I hope you forgive me all of those moments and understand that I always tried to make the best decisions for you. I always wanted the best for you and wish I could have done better.
Thank you for having grace with me as I fumbled through this life with you.
Please know that I did the very best that I could to give you the life you deserved, even though I hardly came close.
You may not remember the Sundays we had date days or the many days the two of us spent at Disney eating candy around the world at EPCOT, or munching on a homemade sandwich because I couldn’t afford to buy food in the park. Thank goodness for Papa getting those annual passes for us for so many years. The magic of Disney raised us both, and for that I am so grateful because without those dates, I’m not sure how much magic I could have given you as you grew up.
My pride for the human you’ve become is tangible. I feel my heart swell inside my chest when you’re around. The way you interact with adults, your work ethic, and your ability to make everyone in the room feel happy and important are some of your greatest gifts.
When I see you on stage, I cannot believe I put you on this earth. And then that pride is overshadowed by sorrow that I haven’t been able to help you hone your craft in the ways you deserve. With voice lessons and more time on stage, you truly could be great. You know I don’t offer accolades freely. I only say it when I truly mean it, and you, my son; you are going to be great.
I’m sorry I couldn’t come to each and every one of your performances. It always hurt me physically not to be there cheering you on. Please know I wanted to be there, and I made it to each night humanly possible.
Don’t stop being kind and believing the best in people. Don’t forget to go into every interaction with an open mind and a closed mouth so that when you do open your mouth, it delivers thoughtful responses.
Don’t stop acting. Ever.
Find a way to be involved in the theatre, even if it doesn’t become your career. Share your love of the stage with the world through written or spoken word, however you can share it.
Pursue your dreams.
Don’t let life get in the way of the things you want to do. Set a course for your future and follow it no matter what obstacles attempt to part you from it. You are capable and resilient and strong.
Be careful with the company you keep. Try to find people who sharpen your skills, who will help elevate you to the next level. Keep the company of people who are in pursuit of greatness and who never let themselves believe they are done with personal growth. We all have room for growth.
Believe in friendships and love. Build relationships with people who will take the journey called life with you. Long-time friendships are some of the most important things you will build in this life.
You are destined to do great things.
You impact every person you meet in some way, that is evident. Use that for good and do all of those great things.
I’ll be here cheering you on every step of the way, because of all the things I’ve done and accomplished in this life, you are the greatest.
I am so proud to be your mom and I look forward to watching you become the man you’re going to be.