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“You need to talk to your son!” I figured something big must have happened because my ex only refers to our kid as my son under those circumstances.

“What’s he done now?” I asked

She proceeded to give me all the gory details of a heated exchange between the two of them. It did, in fact, sound terrible but I wasn’t there so I wasn’t going to take sides.

“Let me talk to him” I told her.

I hung up, and immediately called my son. “Hey, man. What’s going on?” I asked him.

Silence on the other end…

“I heard that you and your mom got into it. Do you want to talk about it?” I offered.

I could hear him breathing. I know my kid so well that I could tell what his mood was, what his facial expression looked like, and even read his body language sight unseen.

“I hate Mom!” He growled. “She’s such a witch! Why can’t she be more like you?!”

Ugh… I’d been preparing for what I was about to say for years. In a way, I was relieved that he was finally old enough to understand. On the other hand, I was dreading how he might react. At 18 years old, he’s not always easy to predict.

“Son, you really don’t want her to be like me.” I began.

I had some big things to own up to that day. Some terrible, shameful, things…

When he was 3 1/2 years old, I left him and his mom. It wasn’t because of anything within the marriage that couldn’t be fixed — it was because I had a girlfriend that I found more interesting than my wife or my parental obligations.

When my wife wanted me to spend time with my little boy, I went to the beach with my girlfriend instead.

When my wife wanted to work things out, I declined. I then coldly told her that my girlfriend was pregnant, and that I intended to stay with her. I even pressured her to rush our divorce so that I could marry my girlfriend.

When my second child was born, I poured myself into him. I was father of the year to that little guy. When my older son told me that he wished his mother and I could be together, I told him that if we did that, his baby brother would be sad.

My older son got to spectate while his little brother got everything he didn’t from me.

When I wasn’t in the mood for my older son, I didn’t see him. When he wasn’t in the mood, same. All of our interactions have been fairly good because I was never there for the hard stuff.

Meanwhile, my ex wife was there for everything. She was there when he got sick. She was there when he needed to see the doctor. She was there to clean up after him. She was there for everything.

The downside to always being there is that she had to deal even when she was drained. She was there when she was tired, sick, preoccupied, grieving the loss of her parents, or just not in the mood. She was there when I was not. She didn’t get to choose only the best moments. She was there for all of them.

I had to own up to all of this with my kid.

“Son, it’s not fair of you to be so hard on your mom. Instead of wishing that she was more like me, you should be thankful that she’s not. She’s the better parent.”

In all the years, she never once told him the facts about me. She took the heat for my absence. She let him think that it was her fault that I left. She’s one in a million, and he’s extremely fortunate to have her as a mother. I needed him to know that.

All of us make mistakes. All of us learn from them, I think. That said, I think it’s better to do the right things than to learn from doing the wrong things.

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