Sometimes I wonder if my father ever came home drunk and smoky and sad, as I did when the boys were young; if he crept into our rooms to gaze at us with choked-up love. I think he might have, for he is a man of depths, but if he did that truth is now lost.
This is what I hope for today: that young fathers will not learn to hide their longing. That the ones I see in the sandbox at the park, the ones who pride themselves on being equal-opportunity parents, will not one day refuse a phone call because they are on deadline or turn away because a child has turned away; that they will not become their own fathers.
There is a consolation, after all, in being Number Two. And, at least for now, my boys do not allow me regret. On those occasional evenings when we're all sitting around and I'm three glasses into the merlot, I sometimes bring up my shortcomings. "You're not allowed to judge," my younger one told me the other night. "You're not the kid. I'm the kid and I say you're a great mom."
That's just it: I may be my father, but I'm also their mother. Just not a stellar one, their gallantry notwithstanding. I love them fiercely and fearfully and I know that is not enough, but, like their dad, I am doing the best that I can. Like all parents, I hope they will turn out fine despite us, that they will understand our choices, that they will forgive us.
From Between Interruptions: 30 Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, edited by Cori Howard. Published by arrangement with Key Porter Books.
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